Organizing Your Local Council Team around Reciprocal and Collaborative Marketing
Reciprocal marketing is a unique form of networking. With typical networking you and someone else will share referrals, but you and the referrer don’t expect anything in return other than more referrals between both of you. With reciprocal marketing you will work with the clients of certain professionals to help those clients obtain services that the professionals either don’t understand, don’t have the time to understand or simply don’t want to even know about.
These services that you provide are sometimes extremely important for helping those clients of the professionals and the professionals recognize this. For example, very few professionals with senior clients are interested in knowing how to obtain veterans benefits for these clients. If you are specializing in this area, you can obtain additional income and other benefits for these clients. Another area that you specialize in or your council specializes in might be care management where advice is necessary, but the professional referring his or her client to you has no expertise in this area. Another area might be Medicaid planning which many professionals do not understand but this sort of planning might be necessary for their clients.
With this type of marketing, these professionals usually require something more than your helping them with your expertise. Perhaps they may ask you to participate in their marketing costs. Perhaps you may have to participate in some of their promotional campaigns by doing presentations. Or perhaps if you sell insurance products as a result of your intervention for clients, the professional may require your sharing some of that commission.
The key to this type of marketing is that the professionals will be on the lookout on behalf of their clients for the services you offer. Because you reward these professionals in some way, you will be the first choice for any referrals. Without the incentive of a reciprocal arrangement, the professional might just simply tell the client that they need to do something about the services that the professional doesn’t offer, but not worry about making sure the client gets those services. There is a stronger referral relationship and a more productive lead for you when a professional has an incentive in getting you together with his or her client.
So the question is who are these professionals that you might want to develop a relationship with? They might include financial planners or insurance agents of various kinds such as property and casualty agents, long-term care insurance agents, health insurance agents and so on. They might include the financial advising arms of credit unions or banks who need assistance with some of their customers. Your expertise in this case would flow through the financial planning or investment planning units that most credit unions or banks now offer their customers. Other professionals might include attorneys, CPAs and associations of professionals such as nurses, psychologists, social workers, human resource managers and so on.
In most of these reciprocal marketing arrangements, you will have to have some sort of formal agreement whether signed or otherwise and in many cases you will pay part of your commission or pay marketing dollars for the privilege of getting introduced to clients.
Certain members of your local planning council may rely on planning fees for their income. This might include your attorney who charges a package price for estate or Medicaid planning services. It may include the financial advisor who is doing fee-based planning. And it may include a geriatric care specialist or care manager who charges an initial assessment fee. We have found that there is a tremendous advantage for these individuals and any others who are involved in a planning approach to form a business partnership and to provide their services conjointly through that partnership.
For example, let's take a hypothetical elder planning council in Florida. The council calls itself the Central Florida Elder Planning Council. Members of the group include an attorney specializing in elder law who does estate and Medicaid planning, a financial advisor who does fee-based planning as well as offering very specific insurance solutions for aging seniors. The group includes a skilled and dedicated care manager. The group also consists of several non-medical home care providers, a reverse mortgage specialist and additional support members which include a downsizing and moving specialist, a home maintenance and repair person, a home health and hospice agency, a medical alert and home monitoring company, a tax planner/CPA and a seniors real estate specialist.
Because of their mutual business practice of charging planning fees, the attorney, the financial advisor and the care manager form a business partnership which is called "Senior Planning Associates." Why would they go to the trouble to form this partnership? This arrangement allows them to work more closely together as fee-based planners and more importantly it allows them to charge a combined fee when all of their services come into play. The presence of the attorney in the partnership signals to the public that a fairly large fee will be charged. People are used to paying attorneys for large fees. This acceptance of the role of an attorney allows the fee-based planner and the care manager to get a larger portion when their services are involved as opposed to what they can get only working individually.
The financial advisor representing "Senior Planning Associates," will sit down with an interested family and assist them with a life resource plan. After going through the initial checklist and the questionnaire with the person who is needing the planning, the financial advisor will be able to determine that there is a need for an initial assessment from the care manager. In addition, there will be the need for a trust and other legal work and finally there will be the need for a formal fee-based plan. Based on predetermined package pricing agreed to by the partnership, the financial advisor quotes a fee of $7,000. Because of the amount of service involved from 3 different individuals and the anticipation that legal work is costly, the person signing an agreement for this planning approach will readily agree to pay the fee.
If the care manager had tried to sell her services individually or the financial advisor had tried to sell his services individually, it would have been a harder sell and the size of the fees eventually accruing to these people would have been much smaller. If the attorney had been working independently, it is very unlikely – without the formal planning approach – that the attorney would have actually met with the new client and uncovered the need for the attorney's services. Members of the partnership rely on the financial advisor to uncover the need for their services through the formal planning approach. There is definitely a synergistic advantage to a collaborative planning approach.