How to make referrals more meaningful

New software ensures that reciprocity is built into the process

Jan 14, 2008 @ 12:01 am

If there's such a thing as referral management technology, Referral Key Inc. of Boston is one of its leaders.

The company has created what it believes to be the first web-based system to manage and track referrals. Targeted to investment advisers and other service professionals and small businesses, the product is designed to help users keep track of referrals they make and receive, and to ensure that referrals remain two-way and mutually advantageous.

It is the "referral reciprocity" function that most differentiates from professional-networking sites such as Mountain View, Calif.-based LinkedIn Corp.'s (InvestmentNews, Aug. 27) or services such as The Advisors Forum (InvestmentNews, Sept. 24) of Bend, Ore.

Launched last August by Lewis Weinstein, an accountant and entrepreneur who founded and sold San Antonio-based TaxLogic Corp.'s online tax preparation service in the 1990s, Referral Key helps ensure reciprocity through a quarterly report.

The report is sent to members following their completion of a brief online questionnaire that displays a list of members with whom they have exchanged referrals over the previous quarter.

"Members then take a few seconds to rate their relationship with each person as balanced, receive more or send more," Mr. Weinstein said.

The methodology springs from a group project by students at the Harvard Business School in Boston, who as part of a class were told to answer this question: What would the ultimate referral system look like?

With no active marketing, Mr. Weinstein's latest venture already has almost 3,000 registered users.

The cost is free for a basic set of features, including sending unlimited referrals and invitations, and receiving three free qualified referrals.

It also permits automated up-loading of contacts from Micro-soft Outlook and Outlook Express, as well as online services such as America Online, Gmail and Yahoo!

For $9.95 a month, Silver Key members also receive referral tracking reports, unlimited referrals and the ability to allow consumers to post a rating.

For $19.95 a month, Gold Key members can access the networks of referral contacts and can view ratings provided by other professionals and consumers.

Steve Wintermeier, a managing principal at Fenway Financial Advisors, a Boston-based investment advisory firm, said that accountant colleagues had introduced him to the service by sending him one of the system's invitations.

That was soon followed by a few referrals. Mr. Wintermeier, in turn, plans to pass along referrals to fellow advisers and financial planners.

"I don't do a lot of estate work in my practice, and since I'm researching partners who specialize in that area, it's a good tool for finding other professionals, especially as I like being able to search for folks in a particular geographic radius," he said.

After becoming familiar with Referral Key, Mr. Wintermeier up-graded his account in order to access advanced search and referral-tracking features.

All users can post a profile describing their expertise which can be searched by registered members and by consumers using major search engines.

Davis Janowski can be reached at


What do you think?

View comments

Recommended for you

Sponsored financial news

Featured video


3 themes shaping your business now

If there are three overriding themes for advisers right now its succession planning, acquisition and hiring millennials. Financial adviser James Loftin discusses how his firm is tackling all three.

Video Spotlight

The Search for Income

Sponsored by PGIM Investments

Recommended Video

Path to growth

Latest news & opinion

Trump rejects idea of new caps on 401(k) savings in tax plan

GOP reportedly had been considering reducing the cap on the annual amount workers can set aside for 401(k)s.

Finra's stats reveal an industry in decline

The broker-dealer regulator reports fewer entities under its watchful eye.

T. Rowe Price steps up its game to serve financial advisers

The Baltimore-based mutual fund giant is more aggressively targeting financial advisers with a beefed-up wholesale crew and placement on custodial platforms.

The most important tax changes for 2018

The Internal Revenue Service issued inflation adjustments to more than 50 tax provisions for 2018.

Shift to Roth 401(k)s 'highly likely' part of tax reform: former Treasury official Mark Iwry

Mandated contributions to Roth accounts would likely only be partial, as opposed to having a full repeal of pre-tax accounts.


Subscribe and Save 60%

Premium Access
Print + Digital

Learn more
Subscribe to Print