Marketing Corner – February 10th, 2016

Marketing to Generation X: What Advisors Should Know

There will be many dramatic demographic shifts over the next decade. In fact, we’ve already seen huge shifts in population vectors over the last few years, with a growing (and increasingly relevant) Millennial population, squeezed Gen-Xers, and a large Boomer/Senior market facing challenges other retirees never had to face.

Reaching each segment of the population will require understanding and skill. You may only focus on Boomer/Seniors for retirement planning services; however in ten years you will be dealing with digitally savvy Gen-Xers. You may feel that Millennials aren’t worth the chase, but in short time they will present a huge opportunity.

A truly successful agent or advisor will need to be able to sashay between the generations, which means having a good grasp of the issues each segment faces and marketing in a manner that best reaches them. We’ve already discussed in detail what will impact boomers in the next year. In this two-part series we’ll discuss what Gen-Xers are Millennials are facing, and how advisors can reach them. Part I, Generation X, is below.

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Generation X is generally considered to be individuals born between 1965 and 1981, although other demarcations may be used. What that means, however, is that some Gen-Xers are turning 50. Yes, the generation that saw the rise of MTV, hip-hop, and heavy metal, is now AARP eligible.

So how do Gen-Xers feel about retirement? Generally, they are pessimistic. Gen-Xers were the hardest hit by the Great Recession, losing nearly half of their wealth. They have less money saved for retirement, and the amounts they do have is not enough. Gen-Xers have a high lack of confidence when it comes to retirement, with 42% of respondents in an Insured Retirement Institute survey stating they feel they won’t have enough retirement funds to live comfortably.

Gen-Xers are also getting squeezed by Boomers and Millennials, both of which are larger in size than their generation. In many ways, the longer life expectancy of their parent’s generation is hurting Generation X. Throw in their adult Millennial children with limited earning power, and you can see how the former x-treme generation is facing a great deal of financial pressure.

This is not to say that Gen-Xers don’t have assets or good retirement planning instincts. A recent PNC survey found indications that many Gen-Xers have overcome some of the challenges associated with the Great Recession, even if they still express fears of outliving their money in retirement. However, other things like consumer debt and risk aversion continue to drag on many Gen-Xers’ ability to build a robust retirement portfolio. Time horizon may also be a factor in Gen-Xers retirement thinking; according to the PNC survey, this generation expects to retire at the average age of 63.6, more than two years earlier than Boomers.

In short we have a generation that:

  • is squeezed by other generations
  • took a critical hit just as they were reaching their peak earning power
  • may have significant consumer debt
  • may have more familial obligations
  • may have unrealistic time horizons for retirement
  • is worried about outliving their money
  • is taking steps to save for retirement
  • has some investable assets

How to Reach Gen Xers

Although Gen-Xers face challenges from many financial angles, they still have time to make up for retirement saving deficits. With a mix of assets and earning power, it is possible for a troubled Gen-Xer to have a retirement plan that, while perhaps not wholly ideal, is robust.

One problem is that they may be too suspicious of financial advisors. A 2014 report from the Insured Retirement Institute found that 77% of Gen-Xers are not consulting with a financial advisor. Yet the same report found that only a third of Gen-Xers rate themselves as highly knowledgeable on financial matters.

Reaching Generation X

According to the Allianz Generations Apart Study, 64% of Gen-Xers would consult with a financial professional “who’s empathetic and nonjudgmental.” The same study suggests that there are some contradictory feelings about retirement within Generation X: 72% are unable to pin down their retirement expenses, while 55% envision retirement as being relaxed and easy. So there is a real need for practical solutions, yet Gen-Xers are clouded by their own confusing ideas of retirement.

Vanderbilt suggests being transparent and straightforward with Gen-Xers, which is certainly good advice for any business, but especially important with this segment of the population. The more studies you read about Generation X and their financial concerns, the more you get a sense of a group a people gun-shy and battered by the economic storms they’ve had to weather. It makes sense that this generation would be confused and protective of their money, even at the detriment to their asset building potential.

Marketing and Media

While Gen-Xers are very active online, their usage, segmented by digital platforms and devices, often falls between Millennials and Boomers.

While Gen-Xers use many different devices to access information, they prefer laptops for “high-attention/high complexity” tasks.

According to a study by Fractl and BuzzStream, the top five most consumed content types for Generation X are in order:

  • Blog Articles
  • Images
  • Comments
  • eBooks
  • Case Studies

While the most favored type of content for all generations is entertainment, when compared to the Boomers and Millennials, Generation X is the segment that most prefers content on personal finance.

Generation X uses Facebook and Twitter more to share content, when compared with other platforms, according to the study by Fractl and BuzzStream.

Smart Hustle suggests avoiding hard sales pitches and a blended marketing (traditional and digital) approach when trying to reach Generation X.

According to the DMA Statistical Fact Book, as summarized by eleventy group:

  • 8% of heads of households age 35-44 respond to direct mail
  • 1% of those in the 45-54 age group respond (most likely to respond)

Basic suggestions:

Since Gen Xers are skeptical of financial advisors, you should consider a drip campaign to successfully bring a lead to appointment or conversion. Provide clear solutions with no hard sales pitches. Create blogs, eBooks, and case studies that speak to Generation X concerns. While this generation is engages digitally, it is also receptive to direct mail, so do ignore direct mail as a marketing platform.

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It’s important to remember that within every population segment, there will be variation. Not every marketing approach will work, which is why it’s crucial to have an adaptive marketing strategy, even with target market segments. However, Gen-Xers, broadly speaking, are very concerned about their retirement prospects. They need financial advisors, whether they know it or not.
Stay Tuned For Part II: Millennials.

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Marketing Corner – February 5th, 2016

25 Marketing Stats Every Financial Advisor Needs To Know

Financial advisors often state that marketing and prospecting are the main challenges they face in their practice. This is certainly understandable; marketing is a rapidly evolving process and reaching consumers can be difficult. However, it is possible to position yourself for success in our digitally-driven world. The important thing to remember is that there is not one process that will give you the edge, but rather a collection of approaches that work in concert with each other. That said, here are 25 important marketing stats you need to know.

Email

Organizations using email to nurture leads result in 50% sales-ready prospects.
Forrester Research via Hubspot

These nurtured leads see a 20% increase in sales opportunities when compared to non-nurtured prospects.
Hubspot

Personalized messages are more effective than non-personalized messages. According to an Experian study, personalized messages received 29% higher open rates and 41% more unique clicks.
Experian

According to Campaign Monitor, personalized subject lines saw a 26% increase in open rates.
Campaign Monitor

Email is more effective for client acquisition than social media. McKinsey found that it was almost 40 times more effective than Twitter and Facebook combined.
McKinsey

 

Main Takeaway: Advisors should be utilizing email as a marketing tool and as a way to nurture leads passing through their marketing funnel. The more personalized you are, the better your open and click-through rates will be.

Direct Mail

Direct mail is nearly seven times more effective than email, mobile, social media, internet display, and paid search—combined. This is according the Direct Marketing Association Response Rate Report 2015.
DMA via PremierIMS

Over forty percent of people that receive direct mail items read or scan them.
DMA Statistical Fact Book via eleventy marketing group

A survey conducted by DMA found that seventy-nine percent of consumers would act on direct mail immediately versus 45% who said they would act on email immediately.
DMA via The Drum

A neurological study conducted by Temple University, and sponsored by the Postal Service Inspector General’s Office, found that:

  • While digital ads draw attention quicker, direct mail has more review time
  • Direct mail is more easily remembered than digital ads
  • Direct mail elicits more of an “emotional reaction” than digital ads

DM News

 

Main Takeaway: Even in a digital driven marketplace, direct mail is still a very effective marketing platform.

Mobile

70% of mobile searches result in website action with an hour
IAcquire

A little over 80% of consumers surveyed stated they would delete a mobile email if it didn’t render properly.
Blue Hornet

65% of all email is opened on a mobile device, such as a smartphone or tablet.
Venture Beat

Almost half of consumers will abandon a website if it renders poorly on a mobile device.
The Social Media Hat

40% of mobile searches are focused on local services
Think With Google

 

Main Takeaway: Consumers increasingly use their mobile devices to access the internet and interact with pieces of marketing. Your website and your emails should be designed for the mobile experience.

Video

Consumers spend an extra two minutes on websites with video, versus sites that don’t
Merchant Marketing Group

More than half of all mobile traffic is online video
Merchant Marketing Group

Video on landing pages leads to an increase in conversion, in one test case as much as 86% conversion.
EyeView

Main Takeaway: Video can be a powerful way to enhance your website and marketing materials.

Website

A one second delay in loading time can reduce conversions by 7%
Kissmetrics

A loading time of more than three seconds causes 40% of shoppers to abandon the website.
Kissmetrics

Not really a stat, but very important. In April of 2015, Google began using mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal in search results. This means if your website does not smoothly translate to mobile, it may not rank higher in search results when a consumer searches from a mobile device.

Main Takeaway: Make sure your website loads quickly and incorporates responsive design.

Social Media

Social media is now an important research tool for investors. According to a report from LinkedIn and Cogent Research, 5 million investors with assets $100,000 or more use social media to investigate their financial decisions.

LinkedIn/Cogent ResearchSocial Media’s Growing In­fluence Among High Net Worth Investors”

Most high-net-worth investors use social media (over 90%).

LinkedIn/Cogent Research

Social Media’s Growing Infl­uence Among High Net Worth Investors”

Over 60% of advisors who used LinkedIn for prospecting acquired new clients.
LinkedIn and FTI Consulting

According to a recent American Century Investments report, about 43% financial professionals identify a positive ROI to their social media use.
American Century Investments

The same ACI report found that LinkedIn helped advisors surveyed by:

  • Enhancing profile with clients (48%)
  • Enhancing business knowledge (28%)
  • Improving on referrals (28%)
  • Sharing insights with clients/prospects (24%)American Century Investments 

A recent Putnam survey of over 800 advisors, found that 79% had found new clients via various social media.
Putnam Investments

Main takeaway: Social media, especially LinkedIn, can be extremely useful to connect with new clients. These clients include high-net-worth individuals and others many advisors would identify as their target market.

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Marketing Corner – Go Deep on Ideal Retirement

Go Deep on Ideal Retirement

“What does your ideal retirement look like?”

This is an important question, often posed by advisors and agents to potential clients during an initial appointment. The question helps to gauge what matters most in retirement for the consumer and to plot financial planning strategies. However, consumers likely offer up general answers (i.e. “I’d like to travel, or I want to spend more time with family”), which the advisor uses to roughly outline a plan. The truth is that many consumers have yet to fully consider what retirement means for them and also that advisors don’t spend enough time going deeper into retirement specifics.

Deeper probing can help prospects identify their retirement goals and target the solutions needed to the achieve them. For the advisor it helps build rapport and makes you seem more empathetic. More importantly, once you have delved deep into retirement lifestyle specifics, consumers connect strongly with you and your expertise. They now have a more tangible picture of what retirement means and have more “buy in” to your solutions. You may identify other planning needs.

This is somewhat related to the behavioral concept of mental accounting. This particular bias describes how individuals attach irrational value to money (or accounts) based on it’s origination or intended purpose. So a $10 windfall from a lotto scratcher is likely seen as “free money” to use on entertainment, even if you owe a friend $20. Or money saved for a vacation may get treated differently than other sources of income, even when it comes covering unexpected bills. Financial planning can work the same way and turn mental accounting into a positive that ultimately helps the prospect actualize their retirement goals. Going deep in ideal retirement discussions allows consumers to attach more value to a hypothetical source of funds that will become real with your expert solutions.

So how do you go deep? Here are some questions that help you probe further.

The prospect wants to travel more-

  • “Do you know where you wish to travel once you are retired?”
  • “How much will your travel cost? How have you saved for this retirement goal?”
  • “Will there be a central base for your travels?”
  • “How often will you travel?”

The prospect wants to spend more time with family-

  • “Will you move to be closer with family?”
  • “Will someone move to be closer to you?”
  • “Do you plan on helping family members financially, for instance helping to pay education for a child or grandchild?”

The prospect wants to start a new business-

  • “Is this business designed to be a main source of income, or a passion you will follow?”
  • “How have you saved for this retirement goal? How much will it cost to establish your new business venture?”
  • “Will you need further education to pursue this goal?”
  • “If this business is unsuccessful, will you be able to maintain acceptable retirement income?”

The prospect wants to focus more on hobbies, leisure, or passions-

  • “What types of hobbies do you plan focusing on?”
  • “What kinds of costs are associated with these hobbies?”
  • “What types of leisure activities will you engage in during your retirement?”
  • “Do you plan on purchasing a recreation vehicle or boat to pursue your interests?”
  • “Will you be spending time volunteering or performing charity work?”
  • “Will you need extra sources of income for your volunteer or charity work?”

Other questions:

  • “Will you downsize to a smaller house?”
  • “Are you thinking about moving to a new place?”
  • “What’s still left on your bucket list?”
  • “Will a spouse be dependent on your resources?”
  • “Will you retire much earlier than your spouse?”

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Marketing Corner – January 21st, 2016

Energize the New Year with a Short-Term Marketing Plan

It’s finally 2016. While you may be finally getting over the hangover of the holidays and slowly settling in for a new year of business, there’s one thing you may have overlooked—your marketing plan. This is important, as the first couple of months for many advisors can be a down period. Although having a long-term marketing plan is going to be best, here are five best practices for creating a short-term solution to get you through the slump.

Identify Your Target Market

Any good marketing plan, whether short-term or long-term, will begin with identifying your ideal target market. However, your short-term target may be different than your long-term target, since you are likely looking for quantity as much as quality in the short-term. Leads that while not yielding higher production, are easier to convert.

Have Specific Goals

Just because you are looking for quick short-term growth does not mean you can’t be specific with your ideal results. If this year, as it is for many advisors, is starting in a slump, identify specific goals you hope to achieve. This could be a revenue target, or number of appointments set, or a number of leads in a set timeframe, or it could be a mix of all of these. The point is that having ill-defined objectives will get you ill-defined results.

Consider Marketing Platforms That Offer Efficient and Immediate Results

Once you have figured out your target market and specific goals, consider the means of your marketing. While the central question in evaluating your marketing options is what’s going to give the most bang for your buck, in a short-term plan, you will want to focus on things that give you immediate results. This can include methods and programs such as live lead transfer systems, direct mail, presets, e-blasts, online leads and networking events. When compared to more involved means such as seminars, the leads may not be as qualified in your short-term marketing strategy, but they should get you in front of more potential clients. Some of these options may ultimately cost more on a per-lead basis, but they can dramatically shorten the time to convert. Some of them, such as e-blasts and digital marketing, are relatively inexpensive and things you should be doing already.

Budget

As with any marketing plan, you will need to establish a reasonable (and practical) budget. Since you will be working on a shorter time frame, and are starting at the beginning of the year when cash flow may be weakened, the budget you can set for your short-term marketing may be limited. This is actually okay, as you probably don’t want to use large portions of your overall yearly marketing budget in the first six weeks of the year. Choose smart marketing options that balance your immediate need for qualified leads with your need to keep operational costs low.

Develop Your Long-Term Marketing Plan

The points above can help you survive a slump or jumpstart a down period, but they do not make for a sustainable marketing plan. Relying only on these short-term solutions may deplete your budgets and exhaust your target market. You may find that your marketing solutions are not worth the return on investment. As you implement your short-term marketing plan, make sure that you also spend time developing your long-term marketing plan. Consider goals on longer timeframes, i.e. where do you want you business to be at the end of the year, where do you want it to be in five years, what new client types will you pursue. For more information about how to develop a long-term marketing plan, check out our earlier Marketing Corner post, “Your Insurance Marketing Plan.”

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Marketing Corner – January 14th, 2015

Supercharge Your Leads!

According to Aberdeen, it can take an average of 10 “touches” to draw a lead through your marketing funnel before a sale occurs. Although the actual amount of marketing touches will vary across industries and target markets, it’s generally true that the best leads take nurturing. Rarely do you snag a sale on the first go; rather it takes serial contact, sometimes months, even years.

What this means is that while playing the long game can pay off hugely, the first stages of contact are especially critical. Many advisors (wisely) have a drip marketing system in place, but how do you supercharge leads before they enter the drip? How do you make it more likely that a lead will convert (and convert early) in your pipeline?

This is where efficient lead nurturing comes in to play. There are many different ideas about what exactly lead nurturing is and various methods to perform it. For our purposes, lead nurturing is any serial contact with a prospect. Your methods can include emails, phone calls, direct mail, social media—really anything you already have in your tool kit to communicate with prospects. It’s the how that’s the secret to efficient nurturing and supercharging your leads.

What methods you use will be specific to you and your target market. You likely will use a variety of methods as you communicate with a prospect, especially if you identify early on they are a type of client you want to work with. That said, this guide is going to focus on phone and email, since that’s what you will use most when you begin to talk with a prospect. We’ve also found, through the advisors we work with, that thirty days is a good timeframe for actively nurturing leads before placing them in a more passive drip campaign. It’s in this thirty day period you should learn enough about your prospect to place them on a targeted track, and they should be able to learn enough about you and your value proposition.

Here’s the how:

Follow Up As Soon As Possible, Be Persistent
Whenever you identify a lead, don’t waste anytime in reaching out to them. Multiple marketing studies have confirmed that the likelihood of contacting a prospect, and their value as a lead, decreases significantly over time. Even a lapse of a few hours can dramatically make connecting with the lead more difficult.

However, the chance of making contact rises with every attempt. One study found that the chance of contact rose to 90% by the sixth call attempt.


Be Succinct and Clear
Unless follow-up emails warrant lengthy explanations, be as succinct and clear as possible, while still having a friendly, professional tone. The financial world can be overwhelming to those without their feet in it, so avoid unnecessary jargon and overexplanation. This does not mean, however, you shouldn’t try to educate—you absolutely should—just be aware of the limitations that come with engaging with someone who may not be familiar with financial concepts through email.

Probe
It sounds simple enough, but it can’t be overstated. Use probing skills to find out the specific needs or inquiry of the prospect. Once a prospect has explained their situation and identified that they aren’t ready to buy, many advisors focus their probing on reasons why the client isn’t ready to purchase. Certainly hesitations and concerns need to be addressed, but asking a lead “what’s preventing you from purchasing today” only goes so far and came across as aggressive.

Balance this question with further probing into the prospect’s specific situation. Use soft skills to build rapport and take the edge off pointed pitches. If you have good interactions and demonstrate you care, the lead will be receptive to further marketing touches.

Personalize
While you should take every effort to personalize every piece of communication with a lead (and certain email systems make this possible to do on drip emails), having an active hand and high personal touch in initial interactions can go a long way to fostering a good relationship and increasing the likelihood of purchase at some point. Lead nurturing emails can get 4-10 times the response rate as compared to regular email blasts. According to Aberdeen, personalized emails increase conversion rates by 10% and click through rates by 14%.


Draw on Relevant Content and Articles
As you go back and forth with a lead, make sure to take note of the areas that concern them. This could be held in your CRM or some other detailed note taking process. When you come across articles that speak to the concerns of your prospect, share them. Better yet, you could create content based on your conversation and interactions. Say a prospect is concerned with Social Security changes—if you had some pieces ready to go, plus a current news article that delves into this topic, plus maybe an infographic, you would a have a bundled package that not only educates them on their concerns, but demonstrates your expertise and specific interest with the prospect.

Don’t Stop Nurturing a Lead
In our marketing funnel framework, we’ve outlined that the first thirty days are a critical period to engage with a lead. This is when you apply your most direct, active, and personal marketing touches with the aim to convert the prospect or leave them with a good impression by the time you drop them into your passive drip marketing process. This structure allows you to provide the most personal marketing touches when it matters most.

However, just because a lead is in your drip funnel, doesn’t mean that you can’t (or shouldn’t) make more direct marketing touches every now and then. Touch base with phone calls, issue targeted offers, and send personalized emails. This will allow you to “rake the coals,” so to speak, and potentially leverage a prospect that is further down your marketing pipeline.

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Marketing Corner – January 7th, 2016

Jump Start the New Year

After an eventful 2015, the New Year is finally here. While you reflect on how you did last year and consider what 2016 holds, you may be searching for new strategies for growth. Certainly the beginning of the new year is a good time to reevaluate your business and set goals. We’ve already discussed how to properly evaluate your year, what things will affect boomers and advisors in 2016, and what marketing platforms you should consider this year. Long story short, there are many changes you should be aware of that will impact your business and your potential clients.

If you are looking to try new things this year (and why shouldn’t you be) Legacy Financial Partners has created a 16 Tips for 2016 sales guide that can help you jump start 2016. This exclusive guide provides quick and handy tips to achieving your growth objectives. Click here to download.

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Marketing Corner – December 22nd, 2015

Four Things That Will Impact Financial Advisors in 2016

Across the board, 2015 has been an especially eventful year. This is certainly true for the financial world, with many regulatory changes, legislative initiatives, and deeper signs of economic recovery. While we can’t say for sure the next year will be as eventful, we do know there are some things in 2016 that may affect the way financial advisors and agents do business. Here are four things that may impact you next year.

A-G 49

Although it sounds like a Star Wars droid, AG-49 actually stands for Actuarial Guideline XLIX. This a life insurance illustration regulation established by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC). When the NAIC initially adopted illustration regulations in 1995, indexed universal life insurance had yet to really exist. So in the past half-decade, as IUL became a popular life insurance solution, the NAIC took steps to incorporate it into their regulations. This is where we get AG-49.

The purpose of these changes proposed by AG-49 is to make IUL illustrations more consistent and to ensure that consumers understand how IUL policies credit growth. The first phase of AG-49 was implemented in September of 2015. This changed the way the crediting elements of IUL policies can be illustrated, applying benchmark standards for illustrated scales and discipline current scales.

In March of 2016, phase two of AG-49 will roll out. The main change from this second part relates to how policy loans can be illustrated. In an illustration that includes a policy loan—often a huge selling point for cash value life insurance contracts—the difference between the loan rate and illustrated yield cannot exceed 100 basis points, or 1%. These changes may inhibit the flexibility you have when illustrating these products to your clients.

Dept. of Labor Fiduciary Standard

Despite attempts, legislators opposed to the Dept. of Labor’s new, controversial fiduciary standard rule failed to attach a repeal or defunding rider to the must-pass omnibus bill. This means that the rule is going to push forward, and with President Obama expressing his support for it, the rule will likely weather further opposition.

The main crux of the rule is to hold advisors and agents to a fiduciary standard, similar to the SEC standard. This means that agents will have to disclose compensation and attest to acting in the client’s best interest. While this is good in theory, it may have an impact on how advisors can sell, reduce compensation, and change the way insurance carriers transact business.

Updated Mortality Tables

Beginning in 2016 all annuity carriers will update their mortality rate tables to reflect current life expectancies. This can have an impact for the consumer and you. While insurance companies shore up their liability to meet growing minimums due to longevity, the consumer will see a decrease in lower projected lower monthly benefit payments on income riders.

Federal Interest Rate Increase

After a long period of speculation, anticipation, and worry, the Fed finally raised rates earlier this month. This is the first raise in nearly seven years; a quarter point increase from historic lows. While this small hike can be taken as a sign the economy is ready to shake off some of it’s wounds, the increase can have a wide-ranging impact across many sectors, including the banking and finance industry. And what’s more important than this specific increase, are the other raises that will be coming in the future. Some, like The Street’s James Langford, suggest that interest rates will increase quicker than many are anticipating in 2016.

rofessionalism, and friendliness. The more you see these as opportunities, rather than duties of running a modern business, the more value you will get out of them.

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Marketing Corner – December 16th, 2015

What Will Impact Boomers in 2016?

2016 Presents Many Challenges For Boomers, But Opportunities for Advisors

Most demographers consider the Boomer generation as being born between 1946 and 1964. Within this range, there is a wide variety of individuals. Those who came of age in the 1980s will certainly have a different range of experiences than those who came of age in the 1960s. But this generation is facing a shared general concern—longer life expectancies which imperil old modes of retirement planning. As an advisor, you probably already know this, but it’s important to keep in mind as you deal with this type of client. They may not know that they should be concerned or they may not know there are strategies that can help them.

Life expectancy for a 65-year-old American is three-to-four more years longer than the previous generation at the same age. This is a significant amount, and many can expect to live longer, which drains on retirement resources. This is especially true in a long-term care situation, where funds are depleted by a medical condition that a generation ago may have resulted in death. An Insured Retirement Institute survey, released in April of 2015, found that only 27% of boomers expressed confidence they will have enough money to last throughout retirement. The same survey found that only 6 out of 10 boomers had retirement money saved.

There are 10,000 people turning 65 everyday, a staggering number that is projected to maintain until 2030 or so. According to Pew Research, there are roughly 75 million boomers as of 2015. Although this number will naturally decrease as we approach the middle of the century, for the next thirty, thirty-five years, we have a huge swath of people that are facing a retirement crisis. Part of this may be because retiring at 65 may not make sense when life expectancy is extended by nearly a half-decade for today’s swath of boomers. Certainly many advisors will advocate delayed retirement and many boomers transition into retirement by working part-time. It is important to also consider that aging parents and adult children may burden many boomers, especially those born later in the range.

In addition to the background anxiety of securing retirement, boomers will likely be concerned with the following in 2016:

Social Security

There are two aspects of social security that are likely to worry boomers in 2016.

The first is that there will be no Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA). Not only is this going to impact boomers/seniors on a very fixed income, this will also affect some Medicare beneficiaries—about 30%–who will see an increase in their Part B premiums. Although a flat COLA and rise in Medicare premiums will most directly impact fixed income retirees, higher net worth clients may see the changes (or lack of changes) in the programs as turbulence. Either way, it’s a good door opener topic for advisors and agents in 2016.

The second aspect of social security that may trouble boomers is the loss of the file and suspend strategy, which ends May 1. This has been a key strategy of social security maximization, and seniors likely need a better sense of how it will impact their specific retirement plan, especially if they are pre-retirement. Again, for the advisor, this presents a good door opener.

Medicare

The 30% of Medicare beneficiaries who will see an increase in the Part B premiums includes those not receiving social security benefits, those that pay an additional income related premium (i.e. IRMAA), and new Part B beneficiaries. While the premium increase is not the 52 percent hike that Medicare Trustees Report predicted, the increase is a significant 16%, from $104.90 to $121.80. In addition to the raised premium, deductibles have increased.

Long-Term Care

A report released by the CDC in 2015 demonstrates the impact of living longer. While overall deaths are down for boomers (identified in the study as aged 55-64 years old), chronic conditions such as obesity, high cholesterol, and diabetes, have risen compared to the previous decade for the age group. These conditions may lead to other long-term care incidents and conditions. As such, long-term care may (and should) be a big concern for pre-retirees.

Market Exposure

Obviously, we can’t predict what the stock market will do, but given the inherent risk of investing and the last few years of volatility, we know that it can be unpredictable. Not only do boomers have a significant amount of their retirement funds allocated in stocks, as many as 35% are overexposed, according to a Fidelity study released in 2015. Ten percent of boomers aged 51-69 have their entire 401(k)s allocated in stocks.

What we do know is that there are things that have have far-reaching impacts, such as the fed rate, oil prices, and global market influence. Because boomers are either pre-retirement or in retirement, they have no time margin to make up any deficits. So 2016 is a good year to discuss asset reallocation and risk exposure.

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Marketing Corner – December 10th, 2015

Four Marketing Platforms That Will Be Relevant in 2016

There’s no question that the financial services industry has changed over the last few years and will continue to change. We are, after all, in the age of robo-advisors, financial social media, digital optimization, fin-tech, and increased regulation. This is all set against the backdrop of market volatility, shifting demographics, and a larger sense of uncertainty amongst consumers. So how are you supposed to effectively market to new clients when it seems like everything is changing in all directions?

The answer will not come from one whiz-bang marketing platform or activity, but rather a collection of techniques. Technology will certainly be a factor, but so will the core things that make a financial advisor especially helpful to a consumer. In the last few years we’ve seen content and social media marketing mature, with consumers seeking out brands that can impart humanness through their digital platforms. With that said, here are four marketing mediums that will be relevant in 2016.

Video

Over the years, we’ve seen the rise of video, from both a social angle and from a marketing angle, and in the realm where social and marketing intersect. In 2016, we expect video to continue it’s rise as a powerful marketing medium. According to ICE Portal, rich media, such as videos or interactive visual tools, “increase conversion rates by 64%.” In late 2014, eMarketer found the average engagement rate for rich media ads, including video, was 16.85%, vastly out-performing banners (2.14%) and mobile (1.62%). Obviously actual effectiveness may vary across industries, but the takeaway for advisors is that video is a tool that should not be ignored. Video can be implemented in (and enhance) almost all digital marketing activities. It can also be relatively inexpensive, whether it is produced in-house or through a vendor.

 Some tips:

  • Make your videos short, with the best production quality possible.
  • Use video on your homepage
  • Use video in your email marketing activities (not only can video increase open rates, it can help reduce email opt-outs)
  • Be personable and educate 

Video Conferencing and Personalized Video

Although the use of robo-advisors has increased, the reality is that nothing is going to replace the value a human expert can provide. Certainly there have been many articles written about robo-advisors and the potential threat they pose to agents and advisors, as well as to the consumer. Be aware, but don’t be scared. Instead embrace technology but retain the interpersonal essence that makes one-on-one advising so valuable to consumers. This is where we think video conferencing, as both a marketing tool and a service add, can enhance your value proposition while still engaging with an increasingly tech-savvy consumer base.

Some tips:

  • Many video conferencing tools allow you to share (and even sign) documents. This can be great as you onboard a new, busy client
  • Use video conferencing to engage with your client, with follow-ups, or even record a personalized video message

Direct Mail

Did we say direct mail? Direct mail? Yes. Even as society becomes so dependent on the digital realm, direct mail has shown, time and time again, to still be an effective marketing medium. Why? There are probably many reasons why. For one, direct mail has a tactile aspect to it—your message is something that is tangible and can be held. Another reason is that because so many companies are focused on digital, a direct mailer is going to stand out more. A recent Direct Marketing Association study found that direct mail is far more effective than digital channels with house-file response rates. So, while you absolutely want to have a great digital presence, don’t forget the power of direct mail in 2016.

Some tips: 

  • Direct mail costs can range from relatively inexpensive to costly, depending on the campaign. If budget is a concern you should be judicious with the direct mail option
  • Use digital targeting tools to dial-in your direct mail list
  • Make offers that your target market will actually want
  • Complement key digital marketing campaigns/offers with a direct mail component

Mobile/Tablet

We’ve already discussed a couple times the importance of mobile-friendliness when it comes to your digital collateral, but it’s worth bringing up again. In response to the growing usage of mobile platforms, Google made changes to it’s search algorithms earlier this year to prioritize mobile-friendly websites. With 60% of adults now using tablets or smartphones, over desktops, to get information about services or products, having a mobile-friendly version of your website will be crucial to staying in front of consumers over the next year. According to Social Media Today, nearly half of consumers “start mobile research with a search engine.” It’s not enough to be optimized on desktop anymore.

Your email content should likewise be optimized for mobile platforms, as mobile email opens have increased by 180% over the past three years. (Social Media Today).

Some tips:

  • Test the mobile-friendliness of your website with this Google tool
  • Create email campaigns with both desktop and mobile in mind

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As we suggested in the introduction, focusing on just one of these will likely not give you the return on investment you’d like to see. All four platforms discussed above can be integrated with each other and just about any other marketing/lead generation activities you perform.

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Marketing Corner – December 3rd, 2015

5 Best Practices for Client Appreciation Events

Client appreciation events are a great way to reward your clients and reinforce your relationship with them. However, advisors and agents often struggle with how to properly run an effective (and fun) event. Many will offer a dinner, maybe a wine and cheese party, or even a few rounds of golf. While a free nice dinner is certainly nothing to sneeze at, putting on a memorable event goes beyond these approaches. Here are five best practices for organizing a knockout client appreciation event.

Time it Right

Many advisors time their get-togethers to occur around the holidays. This certainly makes sense—people are in a cheery mood, you may have more time available at the end of the year for an event, plus it serves as a good transition from one year to the next. It fits nicely with the sense of thankfulness and generosity that come with the holidays. However you may want to consider looking at off-holiday opportunities. This is because the end of the year can be a very busy time for your clients, even if it’s a wind-down time for you. Holding your completely awesome client event in the second or third week of December will be as good as not doing it all for some of your clients, possibly the ones you wish to acknowledge the most. So look at times that fit for you and your clients. Perhaps early November, or even in the summertime. You may even want to reach out to your top clients and ask them what dates work for them.

Know Your Client Base

Having a good knowledge of your clients’ interests will go a long way to organizing an effective event. You may have clients that love golf and some that absolutely hate it. You may have clients with food allergies or some that don’t drink alcohol. Having a good understanding of who you are putting the event on for, not just why, will make the event all the more meaningful. This will also affect whether the event is more formal or more casual. If you have more of a formal client base, a tailgate BBQ may not resonate. If you have a more casual base, a black-tie event may be uncomfortable.

No Pitching, No Selling

An invitation to an event run by a financial advisor or agent often means there will be selling involved. Consumers know this. Your clients know this and in fact you may have earned their business from an event like a dinner-plate seminar. However, with your client appreciation event you should not sell at all, because this is supposed to be about your appreciation of your current relationship with your clients. Presentations about a hot new product line or attempts at upselling will spoil the spirit of your get-together. Leave the upselling for policy reviews and follow-ups.

Allow Friends and Family of Your Clients

While you should not seek out referrals with an appreciation event, encouraging your clients to bring friends or family members is a good way to put your face in front of potential new clients. A successful, fun event will leave an impression that can pay off down the road. This does not mean, however, that you should actively collect information from potential clients. Rather, have a few business cards handy and brand the event if possible.

Make Your Client Appreciation Event Unique

A good client appreciation event will have two main things: a meaningful activity and an opportunity for interaction. A big stuffy dinner will have neither, no matter how delicious the steak is. A wine and cheese party may give an opportunity for conversation, but will likely not be that memorable.

A golf outing may be very memorable, but will not give a chance to interact with all of your clients if you have a large book. So when you think about a client appreciation event, look for more unique opportunities that fit your clients. Obviously budget can have some effect on what you are able to do, but it’s important to realize that, 1) client appreciation events are investments and 2) there are many relatively inexpensive unique solutions. You may look at holding your event on a rented yacht, as one of our advisors did. You may look at a tailgate BBQ event, if it’s appropriate for your clients.

If budget allows, you could even look at renting a skybox for sporting event in your area. Even something as simple as picnic can be memorable if it is tied to something else. The point is, to really show your sincere appreciation of your clients, look for events that are different than what they are used to.

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