Creating a Strategy for Centers of Influence (COI) as an Advisor

Financial advisors are increasingly familiar with the strategy “Centers of Influence” (COI) when it comes to networking strategies. It goes beyond the normal power of networking though. By focusing on specific gatekeepers, you can multiply the ROI on your time and resources.

Today, we’re taking a step beyond talking about COI’s. We’re focusing on intentional strategies you can implement to build more and stronger relationships with COI’s.

Defining “Center of Influence” (or COI)

You may have heard the term Center of Influence before. You might have also heard it called by other names, such as “gatekeeper marketing”. Regardless of what you call it, the strategy has several common components:

  1. Identify professionals in adjacent industries who…
  2. Have trust-based networks with your ideal prospects…
  3. And have a natural opportunity to introduce them to you.

These COI’s may have a client list you’d love to meet. They may have an audience you’d want to speak to. Whatever the case is, they have the ability to introduce you to your ideal client on a larger scale.

Ideally, you should be in the network of several centers of influence to enhance your marketing outreach. These relationships take time to cultivate, so be intentional to identify and nurture valuable COI’s.

What Kinds of COI’s Should You Target as an Advisor?

The best way to identify strong COI’s for your marketing strategy is to start with your ideal client persona. In order to make the most of your efforts, you want to make sure the audience you’re trying to gain access to is an audience that aligns with your business.

Here are a few common COI personas for you to consider as a financial advisor:

  • CPA’s
  • Attorneys (Wills and estates especially)
  • Insurance Agents
  • Real Estate Agents
  • Bankers
  • School Counselors
  • Social Media Influencers
  • Topically-relevant Podcast Hosts

These are just a few common examples, but the common thread is clear. They have trust-rich access to households you’d like to work with.

Crafting a COI Marketing Strategy

To fully leverage the networking power of COI marketing, intentionality is the best key to unlocking the reward. This is going a few steps further than the occasional coffee shop. There are a few key principles that can help you get the most out of COI relationships.

COI Principle 1: Become a COI Yourself

The strongest COI relationships are not one-sided. If you want another person or organization to keep you on their referral speed dial, find ways to make yourself valuable to their organization. The simplest angle is to align yourself with people to whom you can refer business as well. If there’s not a fit in that regard, look for ways that you can help provide their business with value like visibility.

If you can build a reputation as a COI, introductions are much warmer and much easier to capitalize on.

COI Principle 2: Leverage Digital Connections

Breaking the ice can be challenging when it comes to nurturing genuine, strong relationships with COI’s. You don’t want to come across as a cold call, but so how do you establish contact naturally?

One way we recommend is to leverage social media as a sort of digital handshake. Many COI’s are active on social media, either as a brand or as a personal account. Connecting with COI’s on platforms like LinkedIn gives you an opportunity to engage with their content and show support for the work they’re doing. It helps to build familiarity without aiming for a pitch out of the gate.

Additionally, as you begin popping up on their radar with some consistency, COI’s generally will do a little bit of research of their own to learn more about who you are. Make sure your own digital footprint is not dormant to make a good first impression!

COI Principle 3: Look For Mutual Connections

To help improve your ability to connect with new COI’s, identify people who know both of you. If you’re looking for a way into an influential person’s crowded inbox, a known name is a great way to do it. This is especially helpful if there is a genuine, trust-based relationship that stands between you and the COI you’d like to nurture.

Making Your Connections Last with Centers of Influence

Once you have established contact and uncovered areas of alignment, what can you do next to help strengthen your COI relationships? Like your average friendship, relationships are built on shared experiences. COI’s are not much different!

It’s not just about referral relationships where you send each other one relationship at a time if there’s a fit. You can multiply each side’s reach by co-hosting events together – in person or digital! Here are a few examples:

  1. How Tax Strategies Guide Your Investment Strategy (CPA + Advisor co-webinar)
  2. Passing On Your Money and Your Values with a Living Trust (attorney + advisor co-lead magnet)
  3. 3 Simple Steps to Financial Peace (life coach + advisor podcast episode)
  4. How to Make a College Savings Plan (school principal + advisor parents’ night)

The process of creating a mutually beneficial focal point that can help both sides is a great way to materialize your professional relationship. By cross-promoting to each other’s audiences, you both gain access to valuable households. In the examples of the podcast host and the school principal, you may not be driving new business, but you’re providing valuable information that’s uniquely relevant to their audiences. You’re building their authority by being a value-added introduction.

And even in the digital age, it helps to take intentional steps offline to thank your COI connections. From handwritten notes to quick phone calls to small symbolic gifts, find creative ways to show your appreciation for their willingness to partner with your vision.

Ready to Join a Growth-Focused Advisor Community?

At WealthPlan Group, we are committed to helping advisors grow their businesses through innovative, yet practical, strategies. We provide one of the most robust advisor ecosystems available, complete with an integrated tech stack as well as supporting resources like our Outsourced Trading team as well as our 401k planning team.

If you’re ready to experience an RIA dedicated to your growth, reach out to our team and we’ll start the conversation.

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