Marketing Corner – 6 Key Challenges Advisors Face Today

Marketing Corner – Wednesday June 29th, 2016

6 Key Challenges Advisors Face Today

Advisors and Agents face many challenges throughout their career. From establishing a practice, building a client base, marketing, and dealing with downturns, the zigs and zags of an agent’s career can be erratic. Here are six key challenges advisors face today.

Shifting Demographics and Client Bases

America is on the cusp of the largest transfer of generational wealth, ever. Over the next 30 years, some $30 trillion will be transferred from Boomers to Gen-Xers and Millennials. That’s a pretty good opportunity for advisors, except for two things:

Nearly 66% of children release their parent’s advisor
Most advisors only focus on a particular age segment

Retaining clients across familial generations requires skill. Although there is no such thing as “easy money,” focusing only on Boomers does simplify your practice. You are able to understand the key needs of this population segment and positions to continually enhance your expertise. But doing this cuts you off from the next wave, which is going to arrive sooner than you think. Some demarcations put the outer edge of Gen-Xers around 1960, which means that in five-ten years, these will be the new Boomers. Plus many Gen-Xers and Millennials (yes, Millennials) represent planning opportunities now. Take some time understand the key issues facing each generation and expand your target market.

marketingMarketing and Prospecting

Marketing and prospecting will always be a challenge in any business. Financial advisors are in especially prone position, however, when it comes to generating leads and converting new clients, since the service they provide is not a tangible object and often involves long time-frames. As generations shift, so too does the effective means to reach new clients. This is where having an array of marketing solutions is helpful. While you may have one core marketing activity (seminars, social media, referrals, etc.) having many different marketing tools will help you adapt to changing target markets. It’s not digital versus traditional or push versus pull marketing. It’s digital and traditional, push and pull marketing.

Regulation

One immediate challenge facing the financial service industry at large is the DOL fiduciary rule. While advisors can expound endlessly on the potential impact of this rule, it does raise some concerns about regulation in general and the changing perceptions of what it is financial professionals actually do. We’ll see how this change plays out before full implementation (already there are many lawsuits set to argue against the rule) but it points to the importance of staying abreast of industry-wide changes and being diversified in your offerings.

Balancing Being A Good Advisor and A Good Businessperson

A good advisor provides custom-tailored service and excellent care. A good businessperson understands the true cost of profit and has a vision for the company on several different time scales. The challenge many advisors have is that they have to be both a good advisor and a good businessperson. Independent advisors may pull enough in production to hire a support staff, but the responsibilities of dealing with consumers and protecting the business’s growth fall squarely on their shoulders. Time spent as an advisor can take away time needed to ensure business needs are met. Time focused on the numbers takes away from time that could be spent with consumers, which at the end of the day, helps support the vision of the business.

How do you balance this? It may help to establish a distinct marketing and business plan periodically. You may also wish to align with another producer or agency. Or you might seek out a FMO to handle marketing and back office tasks, as well as help shape the scope of your business. However you do it, never forget that you are a business owner and need time to focus on business needs as much as client needs.

marketvolatileMarket Volatility

The market is unpredictable. While there are best practices, solutions, and strategies that work within and outside the market, the market still casts a large shadow over financial services. Market volatility presents a challenge to advisors in a few interesting ways. Advisors need to have some idea of how products and solutions will perform in the ecosystem of the stock market. Consumers, watching key stock figures and measurements, come armed with their own perceptions, fears, and concerns. This can lead to behavioral finance biases. While you can’t control the market, you can help people address their specific needs. Having a good understanding of consumers’ biases and issues can go a long way to selling your market-tough solutions.

Generalization v. Specialization

The problem many professionals face is to generalize or specialize. This is true of doctors, lawyers, and certainly financial advisors. If you are too generalized, you may miss opportunities to land advance-market, high net-worth clients. If you are too specialized, you may be vulnerable to changes with your specialty and target market. One possible approach for success is similar to the point we made about marketing: have one core offering, with an array of other offerings. This will allow you to go after niche clients, with a sustaining set of services.

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Marketing Corner – 15 Ways To Ruin A First Appointment

An advisor’s first face-to-face meeting with a prospect is, like all first impressions, very important. Your prospect gains a sense of you as a professional and service provider. If they leave the appointment confused or with a bad taste, they probably won’t park their retirement with you, no matter your years of experience or credentials. While some advisors are naturally proficient at nailing initial meetings with prospects, there are many easy ways advisors—even the best—can tank first appointments. Such as:

selYou Are Too Eager To Sell

One of the easiest ways to ruin a first appointment is to sell right away or sell too hard. First appointments are really about getting to know each other and focusing on products will make you more of a salesperson, rather than a financial professional. Instead of focusing on products, focus on solutions and results. Products are just tools that solve problems.

You Talk About Yourself Too Much

It’s good to build rapport and explain your background/qualifications, but going on about yourself will make you seem egotistical, narcissistic, and take away time that your prospect can use to voice their specific concerns.

You Don’t Engage The Consumer

Even with a two-way conversation, it’s possible for you to not engage with your consumer properly. Ask them questions and relate information back to their specific goals or vision for retirement.

clockYou Don’t Give The Consumer Time To Process Information

In the course of the appointment, you may delve into complex financial topics or discuss important options. Give the consumer time to process this information and ask clarifying questions. Guide them through their options and help them piece together for themselves the ideal solution.

You Don’t Ask Probing Questions

There may be other factors outside of a fact-finder sheet that determine if a product or solution is appropriate. Ask probing questions to get a better sense of your prospect and the full picture of their unique situation.

You Ignore Key Details And Goals

The prospect will likely outline their needs and retirement goals. Pay attention to this information. Discussing solutions that ignore these goals will alienate the consumer, leaving them with an impression that you aren’t listening.

You Don’t Take Notes

Taking notes throughout the appointment not only helps you keep track of important details, it also demonstrates your care and professionalism to the consumer.

handshakYou Fail To Demonstrate Empathy

One of that main reasons people seek financial advisors, over say, a robo-advisor, is the sense of care and connection they get working with a real human being. This really comes down to being an empathetic professional, meaning that you demonstrate your awareness of how important the consumer’s goals are. Being able to read and respond to emotions, such as confusion, fear, and frustration, is very helpful as you work through the appointment. Remember that for most consumers money is only as good as the security and protection it provides. You may also deal with consumers who recently lost spouses or parents.

You Over Explain

Key financial concepts and solutions can require detailed explanations. However, using too much technical jargon or bringing in unnecessary information outside the topic at hand can overwhelm the consumer.

You Under Explain

On the other hand, not providing a clear, full explanation of a process or product inhibits the consumer’s ability to see how it might be appropriate for them.

confusedpaperworkYou Are Boring

Financial services involve numbers, processes, and details that may not be the most exciting, even if they serve to illustrate exactly what the consumer needs. Most people don’t care about the internal mechanisms or economic theory behind a solution; they care about a secure retirement. So what is exciting or compelling to you, a person who lives and breathes in the financial world, may not be to the consumer. Always bring solutions to the consumer’s level and make it come to life through relatable metaphors. Break up long instances of speech with questions or checks for knowledge. Use visuals.

You Dominate The Conversation

While you are the expert and will likely have a lot to say regarding a consumer’s situation, dominating the conversation makes the consumer feel invalidated. Allow your consumer time to interject. Make them feel comfortable to ask questions.

Your Lose Control Of The Session

You certainly shouldn’t dominate the conversation, but you should also not lose control of the session by letting a prospect go on and on. Keep the conversation focused on a specific need or goal. This goal, may involve many individual concerns or considerations, but having an ultimate goal that they all move toward can help keep the session focused and help you maintain control over the appointment.

goodadviceYour Explanations And Solutions Are All Over The Place

Your explanations and solutions should move in a structured manner. Approaching solutions from all angles at once causes the consumer to withdraw.

You Don’t Relate Information Back To The Needs or Goals

What does your prospect ultimately need or want? A secure retirement? Upside potential? College funding? All three? Every solution is going to involve detailed processes and specific considerations. Bring your prospect in closer by relating the solution back to their goal. For example, after explaining an overfunding IUL strategy, say, “This allows you to retire safely and send little Jenna to college.”

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Marketing Corner – Six Ways to Be More Personal in Your Practice

Marketing Corner – Thursday, June 9th, 2016


Six Ways To Be More Personal In Your Practice

The best advisors know they don’t sell products—they sell themselves. With the rise of robo-advisors and increasingly competitive markets, one of the easiest ways to gain a foothold with your consumer base is to be a personable professional. For some advisors, this is common sense and natural. Others may not be aware of the ways they could sell themselves better. Here are six simple ways to put your best foot forward.

Professional Headshots

Too many times we see advisors that have decent looking websites with poorly shot profile photos, if they have photos of themselves at all. A well-shot photograph allows consumers to put a face to the services or bio they are reading about. Using your image on other marketing materials like fliers or mailers can also serve to make a personal connection.

video13Video

Statistics show that video can increase linger time and conversions for websites. You might find that some advisor websites have explainer videos on every concept or product line. This is great, however you can bring video to your website without huge expense by providing a short introduction clip on your home page. In this clip you should address the consumer, give your mission statement and a summary of your skills/experience. This allows the consumer to see and hear you, further connecting your practice to a real person.

Community/Charity Events

Sponsoring community events can be a great way to get your name out in your area. But to get the most out of this strategy you should actually attend the event and meet members of your community. Consider also creating regular charity events that tie the community together, such as a food or clothing drive, charity sports tournament, or volunteer blitz. This aligns with your passions outside of work and helps you to become a known quantity in your local area.

leadgeneration1Track Details

When you meet a new prospect, you likely have casual small talk before delving into products and solutions. Conversation topics like family, goals, experiences, etc. This information is
helpful to provide a personal touch later on as you drip on an unconverted lead and to reinforce your relationship once they become a client. Within your CRM capture this information and use as you interact with the consumer.

Personalize Marketing

We’ve discussed the importance (and ease) of personalizing emails/subject lines before, but it’s worth repeating here. This is such a simple, low-effort way to provide a personal touch with something that is somewhat impersonal. If possible, personalize mailers and form letters as well.

Tastefully Demonstrate Your Personality In Your Collateral

Striking the right balance between personality and professionalism is a skill. Done well, it demonstrates that you are a human being with a family and interests, not a suit trying to sell
insurance. There are many ways to do this. For example, in the copy on your website or newsletters, use language that has a bit of your voice, while still providing professional and compliant details. You can also consider a hobby or passion and use this as imagery or metaphor in your marketing collateral. Again the key is balance. A little bit of personality makes you relatable and distinguished; too much turns you into a clown.

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Marketing Corner – Email Practices

Ten Best Practices to Boost Your Email Marketing Activity

Whether used for communication with current clients or to prospect for new leads, email is a still a powerful and efficient tool for advisors. As a piece of your overall marketing mix, email is essential; as important as direct mail, social media marketing, and digital adverting. However, many advisors miss opportunities to get the most out of their email. Here are ten best practices for email marketing.

pipelineBuild An Email Pipeline

Let’s say you have a batch of email addresses in your CRM that you’ve collected from seminars, digital gives, and other marketing activities. What you really have is the beginning of an email pipeline. This collection of email addresses is an unused resource, a marketing opportunity that is already sitting within your practice. Take some time to sift through the email addresses and place them into your email service provider. You now have a large potential audience to send general marketing communications and drip messages.

Segment

The most basic way you can segment emails is between current clients and opt-in leads. Obviously the kind of bulk emails you send to a current valued client will be different than what you send to prospects, but it’s important that you have an easy way to distinguish and send relevant batch messages to these two basic types of lists. Also important: to easily drop new email addresses into their appropriate list. Most email service providers make this fairly simple–you will just need to make some initial time investment to comb through your email addresses.

As you build out further, you should be able to create segments within your main segments. These other segments should reflect where a lead is at within your marketing funnel (or marketing circuit), allowing you to match your message to their level of familiarity with you and your services.

Automate

We’ve mentioned automated drip marketing before, but we mention it here again because it’s an effective method to touch many prospects with a low time investment. The drip can be initiated manually after a prospect states they aren’t ready for your services or can be initiated automatically after a form submittal on your website.macbook

Personalize

It will almost always be in your advantage to personalize marketing whenever possible. Fortunately this is very easy in email. For one-on-one emails, it’s as simple as you addressing the lead or client. For batch emails—depending on how much corresponding information you have—it may be a function within your email service provider.

Include Images

Images can enhance your marketing messages and break up chunks of text. The imagery you use in your email templates might be branding or items that support/correspond to your message. This will help your emails stand out from others and establish personality with your brand.

There is a potential trade-off however. Too many images may impact the deliverability of your emails and trigger spam filters, so be sure to use images carefully and test large batch messages.

Use CTAs (Calls to Action) Buttons

Call-To-Action buttons are very useful at engaging leads and directing them toward specific actions. This might be to read more about a subject that you tease in the email, to watch a video, or fill out a form.

Measure Results Closely

graphWhile you likely only care about one ultimate result—whether or not a lead converts—you should be aware of the important email stats related to your campaign. What was the deliverability rate of a batch message? How many people opened it? How many people clicked a CTA or visited your website as a result of the email. These stats are not only important to understanding the effectiveness of your campaign, but can be used to further segment your lists.

Make Your Messages Short and Sweet

Long blocks of texts, especially with marketing messages, strain on the eye. Plus if you can’t tell a lead in a few hundred words why they should click on your CTA or call in for more information, you don’t have your value proposition whittled to the essentials.

Use Good Subject Lines

Crafting good subject lines is an art. You can easily find lists of the most successful subject lines online. Some swear by using “FREE” or using numbers and lists. What works for you will depend on the content of your email and your target list. The best practice, however, is to be straightforward and clear, less spammy and sales-y. For instance, the subject line of this piece is “Here Are Ten Best Practices to Boost Your Email Marketing Activity.” Give a sense of what the recipient will see when they open the email and how the information can help them.

More examples:

• Worried about Social Security Changes? Here are 5 Things You Need to Know
• Find Out If You Can Retire Safely
• Five Reasons Why A Life Insurance Policy Is Right For You
• Planning For Retirement Can Be Confusing—We Can Help
• Our Free Retirement Analyzer Report Helps You Know When You Can Retire
• Retirement Plan Take A Beating in the Markets? Fight Back With Our Tailored Solutions

With most email platforms you will have the option for A/B testing. This allows you to test two subject lines and gives you a better picture over time of your email marketing success.

Use Signature Line for Contact Info and Links

Your signature line should be clear and updated (no old phone numbers, outdated fax numbers etc.) Provide necessary information about how to contact you, your title and affiliations, and business website. Avoid clogging your signature line with unnecessary quotes and inspirational messages. You should use icon links to you or your company’s social media profiles, so that clients and prospects can find you in all the places you are located online.

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Marketing Corner – The New Marketing Funnel

Marketing Corner – Wednesday May 18th, 2016

The New Marketing Funnel

A common way of thinking about your prospect flow is a funnel. This is a tried-and-true way of organizing lead flow as prospects move through your marketing channels. It helps you understand where leads are in your marketing process, allowing you to match marketing efforts appropriately to prospect interest and growing familiarity with your services.

At the top of the funnel, you have a pool of clients, with sections of the funnel corresponding to levels of touch, interest, or activity, until they drip out of the funnel and become a client.

This visual metaphor may work to explain the overall direction a lead travels before converting into a client. However, because of how digitally-driven marketing is now—even for financial advisors—the funnel is no longer an appropriate way to describe lead flow. Lead flow is less a downward path and more a non-linear process.

A prospect may find you because of a SEM campaign or they may recognize your real-world ads like fliers and posters. The prospect may become aware of you because of direct mail and visit your base website. They may respond to a digital ad and recognize you as the company that sponsored a community summer concert series. They may respond to your social media activity and sign-up for your newsletter. All of your marketing components may be involved before they give you call or respond to your offer. The point is there is not always a direct line from the first engagement to conversion and this path can involve many different portals of engagement.

Why is this important? Prospects expect to find you in multiple places and will seek you out in various marketing verticals. While it can be difficult to track the true path a prospect follows, you do have opportunities to enhance this new marketing flow. For instance:

Remarketing

Remarketing as concept essentially means marketing again to someone who showed interest or engaged with you. In this sense, it is very similar to drip marketing. But in digital advertising, remarketing refers to showing ads to respondents or visitors to your website. A little piece of code (known as a pixel) signals back to the base campaign and issues further advertising or offers. This can be implemented on your base website as leads travel through various pages. It can also be implemented through AdWords or Facebook campaigns, greatly enhancing brand awareness and increasingly the possibility of prospect action.

Drip Campaigns

There are many ways to develop a drip campaign. Drip campaigns can be easily automated through email. The act of you regularly following-up with a lead (like say through phone and email) is a form of a drip campaign. While your marketing overall may be non-linear, drip campaigns do provide a little bit of a linear lead flow. With the help of a good CRM you can schedule and track the drips in your campaign. However, your other verticals may complicate this direct positioning.

Regular Social Media Engagement

The key to maximizing your social media profiles is to provide regular and consistent content. Posts should demonstrate your expertise and value, while discussing topics relevant to your target market.

Being successful with the new non-linear marketing model means providing reasons for prospects to keep engaging with you. If it seems overwhelming, confusing, or too diffuse, use metrics to measure responsiveness of each portal of engagement and create circuits that connect the individual marketing portals.

A marketing circuit charts the path(s) a prospect can take toward conversion. You’ll notice that while there is a linear pull from first engagement to conversion, a lead may take a roundabout way of getting there. The purpose of a diagram like this is to understand how your marketing channels can work with each other and feed back toward the ultimate goal of conversion.

In this example, the first portal of engagement is a digital ad, but the pieces (or portals) can be structured in any number of ways. A well-designed marketing circuit helps you to retain and enhance your leads, maximizing your marketing activity.

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Marketing Corner – 5 More Behavioral Finance Biases You May Face From Clients and Prospects

5 More Behavioral Finance Biases You May
Face From Clients and Prospects

Why do your clients balk at logical solutions? Why do prospects shoot down options that accomplish what they need? Why do you sometimes get panicked calls in the middle of the night to undo a sturdy financial plan? The sub-field of economics called behavioral finance seeks to explain the underpinnings behind individuals’ irrational actions. These biases aren’t just cute pieces of trivia; they can have a dramatic impact on the client or prospect’s overall financial plan and prevent you from clearing business. At play within these biases—psychology, broader social science, and deeply held evolutionary tactics.

Many times these biases involve placing an illogical value on money and numbers, but they also point to how people view money beyond it’s numerical valence. After all, the value of money in retirement is not the amount, but what kind of life it buys you. With high stakes, it’s understandable that individuals might not make the most rational decisions.

We’ve previously discussed five common behavioral finance biases you may encounter. Here are five more.

Confirmation Bias

Confirmation bias can be found in many different fields, like science, journalism, politics, and criminal justice. The central premise of this bias is that an individual ignores or reframes contradictory information to support their predetermined conclusion and exaggerates information that seems to support this conclusion. Confirmation bias can lead to overconfidence, which when applied in the financial world, can have dramatic consequences. A prospect or client exhibiting confirmation bias may discount your advice, even if you can back your recommendations with recent research and relevant news information.

Combating Confirmation Bias: One way to combat this particular bias is to reduce a scenario to its simplest hypothetical expression. Frame options with “just for the sake of argument…” or“ let’s play Devil’s Advocate…”. Use metaphors outside the world of finance to highlight distinctions between irrational and rational choices.

Recency Bias

This bias describes the tendency of an individual to use recent performance as an indicator for the overall performance. For example, someone with money invested in a hot stock that has seen spectacular two-month gains may want to invest more into the stock. The investor may ignore the bigger picture and other relevant information. If the investor is lucky, the stock keeps rising. If not, the investor may experience a historical dip that its evident looking at the stocks’ performance on a larger timeframe.

Combating Recency Bias: Present a wide-array of data, recent and over longer timeframes.

Illusion of Control Bias

As the name suggests, the Illusion of Control bias describes an individual’s tendency to assume more control than actually is available, often in very irrational situations. This can lead to ascribing control and influence to a positive result that is logically uncontrollable and random. This then affects future decision-making, which can have drastically negative results.

Combating Illusion of Control bias: Provide examples of when individual’s actions did not lead to a positive result.

Overreaction Bias

If you listen to daily market reports you may be familiar with the effects of the overreaction bias. When new information about a company, commodity, or market segment is released, some investors may overreact, causing a dramatic pull away from the item’s true value. This can be particularly impactful at the individual level, where a client ignores your recommendations and best practices as a result of new information.

Combating Overreaction Bias: Give contrasting information or research, identify alternatives and options, provide historical data or context.

Framing Bias

Presenting products and interacting with consumers, you likely know how you say what you say is just as important as what you say. The framing bias describes individuals’ tendency to choose a positively framed option over a negatively framed one, even when the net result of the choices are the same. A slim negative overwhelms the positive probable. The mechanics behind this bias are similar to the loss aversion bias.

Overcoming the Framing Bias: Present the positives while acknowledging the negatives.

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Marketing Corner – Maintaining Your Digital Presence

Maintaining Your Digital Presence

While there are many components of a good digital presence, many advisors simply build a decent looking website or claim their social media profiles and leave it at that. This is like buying a new sports car and leaving it in the driveway. To really get the most out of your company’s digital persona, you need to put a little time in. You might not be the most tech-focused agency, but investing a little bit of time on your digital presence can draw new consumers and have a positive impact to your overall business plan. Here are seven simple ways to stitch up your digital presence.

Complete Profiles and Update as Necessary

In a previous post, we discussed how you should claim your profiles on social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn. Building a profile goes beyond claiming your business name and slapping a company logo. For instance, within a business Facebook page, you have the opportunity to provide a business bio/mission statement, hours of operation, website links, directions, and calls-to-actions. There is also the ability to “verify” your business. Take a little bit of time to make your profile a complete as possible. As things change; maybe your business moves or has different hours of operation, update accordingly. Other platforms, may have more or may have less opportunities to provide supporting information about your business. Twitter for example, limits the details you can provide, while LinkedIn allows you to provide a great deal of information within your profile.

Completing your profiles also means that you should size and format supporting branding appropriately. Most platforms will tell you recommended sizes. A profile picture, even a good one, will not inspire confidence if it looks pixilated or overblown. Same goes for banner photos, backgrounds, avatars, etc.

Update Branding And Visual Collateral

Is it time for new headshots? Has your office been renovated? Are your logos and branding out-of-date? Updating your visual collateral can make your digital presence really shine. Just as you wouldn’t want to pass around a business card that follows the design ethos of the 1980s, you don’t want to have visual collateral that is outdated or otherwise skirts principles of good design.

Commit To A Regular Content Strategy

Content marketing is an effective way to engage with your clients and new prospects. (This article is itself is a piece of content marketing, meta!) Often agents will pursue this activity and then give up. There two important things to keep in mind with a content marketing strategy: create relevant content and commit to a regular schedule. Most agents can do the former but struggle with the latter. Fresh content is beneficial to you in many ways—it helps with ranking, allows you to address the various concerns and pain points your consumer base has, and demonstrates your expertise. Get in at the level that is appropriate for you, but stick with it.

Have A Process For Cross-Platform Coordination

Don’t just hide updates, links, or good content on your website’s blog or maroon it on a solo LinkedIn or Facebook post. Disseminate amongst your various platforms and profiles. This means having a process for shepherding content or updates through your digital portals. This can be as simple as using the cross-platform utility inherent in many of these platforms (the Tweet/FB share buttons on a LinkedIn post for instance). Or you may adjust the settings within a platform to automatically post on your other profiles. Or you may even use third-party software that helps you manage your social media.

Recognize The Limits, Styles, Purpose, and Functions of Each Platform

A long blog post is not a Tweet. A Tweet is not an in-depth breakdown of new social security changes. A casual Facebook post may not be appropriate for a LinkedIn status. Each digital platform, whether it’s your own website or a social media tool, will have its own unique features, style, and “visual grammar” and utility. You can coordinate pieces through your various digital portals (see point above), but consider how the post or update will mesh within the particular “language” of the platform.

Promote and Share Updates/Content Multiple Times

If you have a piece of content or an update you might share it through your digital platforms as discussed in point 4. However, you can push the same piece multiple times over a relevant timeframe. What’s a good frequency? That’s up to you. You certainly don’t want to overshare, and you especially don’t want to overshare the same status, update, or content. However, if the piece is still relevant and you feel there are portions of your audience that may have missed your news, it’s probably okay to share again to keep it floating in the feeds.

Boost Good Content And Events

Let’s say you have a great piece of content you are proud of. Or let’s say you have an upcoming seminar event that you are excited about. In addition to posting about it through your digital channels, put a little adspend together and promote it. Sponsored content can help you grow your audience reach and promoted events can help with attendance.

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Marketing Corner – Five Ways to Deal With The Summer Slump

Five Ways to Deal With The Summer Slump

The summer months are often a down period for many advisors and agents. Reaching prospects, booking appointments, and clearing production can be difficult when large segments of your target market are on vacation or are otherwise disposed. Maybe this isn’t a problem for you; maybe you enjoy a little R+R in the summermiddle of the year. For many advisors this summer slowdown is what separates the business year into two distinct halves. Summer essentially serves as halftime, and who wouldn’t want a little breather between two busy periods, especially when prospecting is much harder at this time of the year?

You can beat the summer slump, however, and roll up new opportunities. Through alternative marketing strategies and a little refocusing, you can effectively engage your target market, boost production, and rejuvenate your practice during this down period. Here are five ways to do so.

Off-Holiday Marketing

americanWhen you think of holiday marketing, you probably think of the big three–Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s. These are certainly prime opportunities to engage with prospects. However, many advisors forget about off-holiday marketing opportunities, holidays and occasions that don’t have quite the visibility of something like Christmas. The summer period is full of these off-holidays—Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Memorial Day, Fourth of July, and so forth. These give you something to market around, an excuse to engage consumers, and a way to stand out against your competitors, since many advisors don’t off-holiday marketing.

Supplement Marketing With Digital Components

Many advisors rely on direct mail for marketing, and with good reason—direct mail still works. However, you can enhance your physical marketing efforts with digital advertising, often with a minimal uptick in budget. This can be particularly effective at dealing with the lower response rates and decreased seminar attendance you may experience during the summer.

Online Lead-Gen

onlineDirect lead-gen programs have become a big part of financial marketing. While you should not solely rely on online lead-gen programs for your prospecting, they can be a great boost in a down period. We advocate “eat later” marketing strategies because they pay off more in the long run, but to get through a short-term dry spell, a lead-gen program may give you some of the immediate results you desire.

Community Events

One of the reasons there’s a slump in the summer is because your target market is more active and focused on other things. The summer often brings a wide array of public/community events, some aimed at keeping the kids busy, some designed to take advantage of nice weather. This gives you many opportunities to engage directly with your target market. This could be through sponsorship of a regular event in your area, participation in an event, or even just attending and striking up a conversation.

Evaluate Your Marketing Plan/Create a Marketing Plan

Halfway through the year is a good time to evaluate your marketing plan. Consider your successes, your failures, and what you can improve immediately. Hopefully you took time in December to make a marketing plan; if not, the downturn of the summer is a good time to create one. A good marketing plan outlines your vision for the year (and beyond) and holds you and your team accountable. This does not mean, however, that it is a static document. Rather it is a living process, hence why the summer is good time to make appropriate adjustments.

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Marketing Corner – April 14th, 2016

Five Low-Cost, Simple, and Obvious Marketing Solutions

There’s a wide world of marketing out there for advisors and agents. Some solutions can be pretty sophisticated, using technology for advanced targeting and prospect tracking. We’ve certainly advocated for (and currently provide) many progressive digital marketing solutions. These solutions—like email segmentation, advanced display network advertising, website optimization, and so forth, help you stay in front of your consumers and ahead of your competition.

However, there are many low-cost, simple, and obvious marketing solutions that advisors often overlook when chasing new marketing platforms. It is definitely important to have one foot in the future, but that does not mean you should forget about these simple marketing methods.

Fliers

Whether you have an upcoming event or are just looking to keep your name alive in your business community, fliers are still a worthy means of branding yourself. Maybe putting up fliers will give you flashbacks of promoting DIY shows back when you were a punk rocker, but for promoting your business you really have nothing to lose.

Many might object to this method because it has an air of cheapness and grunginess about it. This is why you target community boards in high-traffic areas—your coffeeshops, breakfast bistros, library events boards–places where your ideal prospects visit routinely. Make sure your fliers have a clear message, are well-designed, and feature prominently your business branding.

How cheap is this option? To give you perspective, B+W 8X11 sheets from FedEx Kinko’s run about 12 cents a page, 59 cents for color, maybe a little more for glossier paper options.

Libraries and Hospitals

hospitalLast week we discussed best practices for running a workshop, mentioning libraries and community centers as good potential venues for holding your seminars. An expensive dinner at a restaurant or country club can certainly appeal to higher-end prospects, but at a high budget to you. Libraries and hospitals often have meeting rooms available for use—especially if your workshop is more educational than sales pitch.

We’ve found that in many cases staff members at a library or hospital will be very supportive of your event, since it is providing a service to their base community. This means that you can organize a workshop for the cost of base marketing, supporting documents, coffee and doughnuts, and a box of fresh pens.

Social Media

This entry is not so much about how you should be using social media to engage consumers (although you absolutely should), but more about how you should at least claim your business profile across social platforms. Again, we absolutely advocate the use of LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook to publish content and build a consumer following, but some advisors lack even a static corporate profile page.

We get it—for some advisors it might not make sense to be enmeshed in the sometimes twisted world of social media. But generally, having a corporate Facebook page or company page on LinkedIn is not going to cost you anything. It will make your business more visible to consumers and provide a base to begin content marketing from.

It’s cheap (or free), takes little time, and sets you on a path toward digital content marketing.

Ambient Marketing

Financial advisors often build marketing campaigns around time-sensitive events like a seminar. This is because seminars, for all the work that goes into them, can pay off huge with new clients. So an advisor may use a direct mail vendor, involve an RSVP service, and put some adspend in digital campaigns to promote his or her event. While these strategies work (and in the long-run are cost-effective), they have a very specific focus and goal—meat in the seats.

However, what kind of marketing do you do when you don’t have an upcoming event? Some advisors, looking to keep marketing costs as trim as possible, don’t do any kind of marketing—instead relying on word-of-mouth and referrals.

emailIn between events and promotions, drop some digital adspend in a display network campaign. Keep the budget where you want. It could be a huge marketing budget, or it could be a small daily amount. The point is, you have an opportunity to keep your name and branding cycling online in your community for a very low cost. There’s no specific goal, other than to build brand awareness and maybe draw people to your website, but this ambient marketing gives you a constant presence that might pay off hugely.

Cost? You could appropriate $100-$200 a month for this type of marketing. More if you’ve got the budget. Plus, with AdWords and Facebook you can specifically target your ideal clients. $1200-$2400 is not a bad price for a year’s baseline marketing, especially if it gets you clients. With this budget you should not anticipate direct leads (though it can happen) but rather a constant brand awareness that enhances other marketing activities.

Email Pipeline Marketing

Over periods of prospecting, you’ve likely gathered a list of emails. Many advisors, because they focus on new clients and new marketing activities, ignore the value of their email lists. With most email platforms, you are charged by subscribers rather than the individual number of emails you send. This allows you to build pipelines, often with no more expense than your current cost of the service. So take some time, comb through your current lists and build drip campaigns.

Cost? Maybe nothing more than your time. Maybe a little more to upgrade to a higher subscriber level with your email service provider.

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Marketing Corner – 6 Best Practices For Running a Successful Workshop

Marketing Corner – Tuesday 5th, 2016

6 Best Practices for Running  A Successful Workshop

Workshops and seminars are powerful marketing activities for advisors. Even in our digitally driven world, nothing will replace the value of an experienced advisor presenting relevant information to a live audience. It should be no surprise that many advisors and agents rely heavily on this method to prospect for new clients. A well-run and informative seminar simply works. However, new and old advisors alike miss many opportunities to maximize their workshops. New advisors may overlook small details that can derail their presentations. Experienced advisors may become too rote in running their seminars, ignoring possible blindspots that can inhibit the effectiveness of their event. To help advisors and agents everywhere, here are six best practices for running a successful workshop.

Choose Your Topic Carefully

Advisors may want to try workshops/seminars but struggle with topic selection. This is also a problem that experienced advisors may face, after exhausting a set of topics. The topic you present is the most important part of your workshop. A good topic will be relevant and provide opportunities for elaboration. A good topic will relate to things that affect your client base, whether they know it or not. You must also have some knowledge or expertise with the topic you choose so that you can present it with confidence.

So here’s how to choose your topic:

1: Find a topic or focus that is relevant to your consumers.

2: Address current trends related to this topic.

3: Provide research and stats with your topic presentation. This will lend your presentation credibility and support your main arguments

For example, let’s say you want to run a Social Security workshop. You know that this topic is very relevant for a significant portion of your consumer base. Prepare a presentation that outlines Social Security basics, then discusses specific maximization strategies. Interlace your presentation with credible stats. Focus on new changes that may impact consumers. Social Security is subject to many changes this year, with the removal of “file and suspend.”

You may struggle with topic development not because a topic is bad, but it is too broad. Social Security and retirement income planning are both important areas of financial planning, but they are broad. So if you are struggling with a topic, think about a specific focus that you can present. If you are trying to reach pre-retirees and retirees, you may want to discuss things that Medicare will and won’t cover, with the angle that a good financial plan and an LTC policy may help to protect an individual’s finances. This has a good broad topic that will appeal to many of your target consumers (Medicare), a specific focus that educates consumers, and imparts the urgency of proper financial protection (solutions you can provide).

Involve An Assistant

During your workshops, your time should be spent presenting to and engaging with consumers. Collecting forms, managing the session, handing out pens, etc. can take away time you could spend educating consumers and interrupt the flow of your presentation. Having an assistant that handles the grunt work of running the workshop can make your presentation run smoother. From the time attendees arrive to the collection of follow-up forms, your attention needs to be on the consumers. An assistant that handles much of the operational aspects of the seminar frees you to build rapport and make a strong connection with your audience.

Be Thoroughly Prepared and Organized

The more prepared and organized you are, the more time you have to spend educating your consumers. Anticipate issues, rather than react to them in moment. This means:

  • establishing an itinerary for the session
  • arriving early
  • communicating with wait staff (if say you are doing a dinner seminar)
  • having extra copies of relevant forms and pens
  • testing any tech (such as microphones and projectors)
  • running through the event with your assistant to make sure you are both on the same page
  • allocating a buffer window for issues that may occur or Q &A portions that run long
  • creating take home sheets and evaluations

Your seminar could have many more components. The important thing is that you are prepared at every moment–before, during, and after the presentation. Not only will this reflect on you as a professional and ensure a smooth workshop, it will make things like follow-up and appointment setting easier.

Choose an Appropriate Location 

Where you hold your seminar can have an impact on how well it runs. Ideally you’ll want to choose a venue that is supportive and located in a central area to your target market. You should also consider issues like road construction that may make it difficult for your target market to travel. A high-end or well-suited venue can give your workshop more credibility, causing consumers to associate their positive feelings of the location with your presentation. For dinner seminars, find higher-end restaurants or event halls that have brand recognition in your local area. For more of an educational workshop, a library or community center may suffice, especially if staff is supportive of your seminar as community event.

Advertise Your Workshop Through Multiple Marketing Channels

Direct mail is the most common way advisors market a workshop or seminar. Certainly direct mail is an effective means to get the word out and get responses. However, there are other means that can enhance the marketing of your seminar, often at a minimal cost. Don’t discount the power of a local newspaper ad placement—in many communities physical newspapers still reach a large audience, especially older consumers. Digital ad placements can also greatly improve registration responses. Even something like a boosted Facebook post can help you reach your audience. These marketing pieces, all operating at the same time, also mean that a large segment of your audience sees your workshop ads in multiple places, through multiple channels. And of course, don’t forget the power of a simple flier at the venue to reach consumers.

Follow Up

Although you are educating your consumer base with a seminar, the bottom line is that you are trying to set appointments and capture new clients. Follow-up is crucial for these things to happen. This means that you need to have some form of an information-gathering sheet where a consumer can provide their concerns and other valuable information you can use to tailor a pitch to them. If you don’t already have emails from the workshop registration process, this is your opportunity to get them. After the workshop, issue a thank you message that also summarizes what you discussed. If you plan on doing a workshop on a different topic, invite the consumer to the next one. You can also use the list to build a drip marketing campaign.

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