3 Ways to Increase Your 401k Referrals

What does the data say?

401k marketing, referrals, brandMarketing expert Hourihan makes the case.

It’s no secret—the retirement plan business is relationship-based. Most of us intuitively know this. However, what does the data say?

recent survey found that plan-sponsor introductions came from these primary sources:

  1. Business professional (29 percent)
  2. Existing professional relationship (23percent)
  3. Existing personal relationship (13 percent)
  4. Attorney or CPA referral (6 percent)

This means that seven out of 10 plan sponsors were introduced through a trusted relationship.[1] Therefore, by strengthening your “relationship muscles,” you can boost your 401k referrals and favorable introductions. Let’s examine some tested methods more closely.

1) Newsletters

You’re busy, right? We all are. So here’s the tip—print and mail your newsletter. Sometimes we have the best intention of reading the article, but it sits unopened in our inbox for months. You might even print it out to read later when you are on a plane, waiting at soccer practice, or sunning at the beach. Then, you finally have that (ah) moment to read it. We all do that.

Therefore, by you taking the initiative to print and mail the newsletter to clients, prospects, and centers of influence, you are providing a quality reading experience relevant to their profession. It’s easily accessible, at their fingertips and should well-written and designed.

It places you as the thought leader who provides consistent, high-quality, and relevant information to keep clients informed, educate your referral sources (centers of influence), and works to build a retirement plan expert reputation with prospects.

2) Networking

Block off an hour to ask influential community members to take a meeting. You could suggest coffee, beer, wine, or pick your poison. Keep the meeting to an hour. Be courteous of their time. Ask them questions about their business, listen to their responses, and always ask, “How can I help you?”

Watch as they return the question and ask you, “How can I support your business?” Be ready and prepared and don’t give an elevator pitch. Instead, share a powerful story about a recent plan sponsor client and the great work you did. Remind them that you are a “Retirement Plan 401k Specialist Advisor” who works with [insert your ideal prospect’s business size] business owners.

Remember, relationships take time. At the end of the hour, don’t expect immediate referrals. Rather, ask another question, “Would you mind in the future if we met again to continue our conversation and learn more about each other?” This opens a window of opportunity to contact them again while continuing to build your relationship.

Sidenote: After the fi360 conference breakout session, an advisor came up to me and laughingly confessed, “I’ve blocked off ‘networking’ on my calendar for three years and, honestly, I’ve never formally done it once. Sure, I do networking, but it’s here and there, not scheduled. And for three years, I’ve been staring at that same calendar pop-up. Thanks for the info on how relationship-based this business is.  Now, I’m going to act next time I see that calendar invite.”

Chances are you, too, have networking on your calendar. Take the time to reach out (email, phone, LinkedIn) to business professionals and set up meaningful conversations.

3) Social Media

Want to reach a lot of people immediately and have it go viral? Post LinkedIn information, articles, and content relevant to the plan sponsor community. Right now, there is an endless amount of material about which you can write a short snippet. Some ideas include the Conflict of Interest rule, retirement readiness infographics, and fiduciary best practices, to name a few.

Strive to have your content go viral. Yes, it’s possible.  Think of your centers of influence and send them a quick email saying, “Hi, I just posted a blog on LinkedIn. Would you mind liking, sharing, and/or commenting? It would mean a lot to me. Here is the link for easy viewing. [Insert link.]  Also, if you think of a plan sponsor 401k retirement plan topic that you feel I should write about, let me know.  I appreciate your insights and ideas. Thanks!”

This should give your article(s) the boost they need to multiply on social media and get lots of second, third and possibly fourth-degree views, likes, and continued sharing.

Follow these three tips to increase your retirement plan expertise reputation and, in turn, increase your business. The more people who know what you do, the more they can refer the right prospects your way.

About 401(k) Marketing

We believe the retirement plan industry can do better. Our clients are the best professional retirement plan advisors and TPAs in the business. They care deeply about saving America’s retirement future. We are proud to share their voice through industry writings, professionally-designed marketing materials (including websites), and expert content collateral. We support in promoting their businesses through on-going awareness campaigns. 401(k) Marketing is based in San Diego, CA.

Check us out at www.401k-marketing.com.


[1] Fidelity. Plan Sponsor Attitudes 2015. Sixth Edition.

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