Marketing Corner – November 19th, 2015

Evaluate Your Year

At the end of the calendar year, many advisors find themselves thinking about how well they did during the year and what they can do better in the next. However, advisors and agents often evaluate their year from one single metric: production. It’s the only thing that matters right?

While production can be an indicator of success, it is not the only metric that matters. Production is in many ways is like a baseball player’s batting average. Many students of baseball and statistics will challenge batting average, and the way it is calculated, as flawed, not revealing enough about the true strengths of the player. It tells part of the story, but not the whole thing.

Assuming production does impart the whole story of your year in business can leave you vulnerable to blindspots and missed opportunities for more sustained growth. Digging deeper can not only help you more accurately evaluate the year, it can help you build a better marketing strategy for the next year. Here are four ways to dig deep and evaluate the year.

Examine Your ROI of Marketing Activities

You may have done bang-up production over the year, but how much did it cost you to hit those numbers?

Look at the past year’s marketing activities and see if you can directly tie them to specific cases.

Obviously marketing is a little more complex and may not always offer a direct correlation to a case. You may conduct certain marketing actions purely for the sake of brand awareness and these are less likely to receive a direct return on investment. However, think about the quantifiable aspects of the past year’s marketing to get a sense of what’s paying off.

There’s a huge difference between clearing a million in production from a $20,000 marketing budget than there is clearing a million from a $500,000 budget.

Examine Your Target Market

If examining your marketing activities gives you an idea how your production came to you, looking at your target market will tell you who it came from. This is important because it can help redirect your marketing activities or even open you to new markets. Did the majority of your production come from your ideal target market or was it a range of demographics?

Most advisors will have a certain client profile they target. Some may specialize with pre-retiree boomers. So if you target pre-retirees, but saw more business from younger clients, you’ll want to rethink how you are marketing, maybe to readjust to your preferred target market, or to focus more on the new client base.

Related to this, you should also examine how much of your business came from existing clients and how much came from new clients. And from your new clients, how much of them were referrals and how many were from your marketing efforts.

Examine Your Consistency Quotient

Just by being in the game, you might hit a fluke homer or even a grand-slam. (Sorry, but not really for all the baseball metaphors). Landing big cases with high production is certainly a goal for most financial advisors—who wouldn’t want to spend their career shaping high-value cases that pay off big every time? Unfortunately not every case will be as big as you like. (Taking on smaller, or more run-of-the-mill, cases may pay off down road, especially if the client becomes a lifetime customer). Just as you wouldn’t want to judge your performance based on the very small cases that yielded slim comp, you shouldn’t judge how well you did based on your big cases (unless, of course, you kept hitting it out of the park). To get a better appreciation for how well you did, isolate the outliers and look at the bulk of the past year’s cases. The areas where you are consistent and see consistent growth are going to be better signals of your success than a few big cases as you move into the next year.

Examine How Well You Achieved Your Business Plans

What were your goals at the beginning of the year? How many did you achieve or how close were you to achieving them? What prevented you from doing so?

In talking with financial advisors and agents, we find that many don’t have a set new-year business plan, and if they do, it’s often simply doing more production. As we’ve discussed before, having a specific set of goals, versus a vague direction, is going to be better for the mid-term and long-term sustainability of your practice. This is because a set of specific, reasonably achievable goals, gives you basic metrics to measure. This helps you to understand why you achieve these goals, and why you perhaps fell short on some of them.

If your goal is only to do more production, then what constitutes more? If you have a specific number, say, hitting your first million-dollar year, what will you sacrifice or overlook to achieve this? How much did it cost you to hit a million? What other opportunities did you overlook? The point is the story of your year in business is not just your production or revenue; it comes down to who your clients were, how they found you, how effective your marketing was, the consistency of your cases, and how you measured up to your business plans.

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Marketing Corner – 11/09/15

Finish The Year Strong

Well here we are in the last two months of the year. For some financial advisors, this is a time to wind down and set up for the next year. Some may have a mad dash to close as much business as they can through the month of November and ease off in December. However, there are several strategies that advisors and agents can use to make the most of the end of the year and finish strong.

Holiday Marketing

One of the main reasons advisors ease off toward the end of the year is because the period is loaded with holidays. This means that prospects and clients are likely focused on family and travel, rather than their big picture financial concerns. Advisors themselves may enjoy the ability to comfortably wind down, spend time with family, and reset for the new year. But this period presents several opportunities for marketing.

Now, you may know that a holiday—especially a big one like Christmas—is a great reason to touch base with you clients and prospects. Generally advisors will issue Christmas greeting cards to their existing clients and perhaps even to targeted prospects. It’s a nice way to keep your name in front of consumers and to show your current book of clients how much you appreciate them.

However, overlooked is Thanksgiving. This is arguably as relevant of a holiday as Christmas and presents another great opportunity to reach out to your target market. Plus, since not many advisors use Thanksgiving for holiday marketing, you will have a better shot of having your message stand out.

So what kinds of marketing should you do?

You may elect to do a simple holiday greeting card or you could incorporate the holiday into a marketing push around a specific program or service. (“Be Thankful for Lifetime Protection and Accessible Cash Value with our Life Insurance Solutions”). However you do it, be sincere, respectful, and professional with your holiday marketing.

Employ Pull Marketing

Perhaps you draw a lot of your business from seminars and presentations throughout the year. Many of the advisors and agents we work with run successful seminar programs. In our digitally driven world, seminars can still be very effective. However, at the end of the year, this style of marketing can be challenging. Since the last two months are busy for everyone, you might not see your usual attendance numbers and end up spending much time and effort on busted seminar presentations.

Here is where digital pull marketing solutions can work to draw consumers to you and help make up lost opportunities. Pull marketing generally refers to non-intrusive methods that work to draw consumers who have an interest in your services. This often includes SEO (search engine optimization), PPC (pay-per-click campaigns) and other digitals means of marketing. While a good marketing plan is going to incorporate many different platforms and methods, focusing on pull marketing can help overcome the challenges at the end of the year with push marketing. While pull marketing may not bring the same number of leads as a good seminar, it is not as time-involved and relatively inexpensive.

Use End of Year Tax Concerns to Target New Business

Toward the end of the year, consumers–especially high-earners and business owners–may have specific concerns about their tax liabilities. Some may be actively looking for ways to reduce their overall tax bill and some may be unaware of solutions for minimization. November and December present last chances to make choices that will have a positive impact for the year come tax time. These opportunities will vary depending on the consumer’s unique situation, but they are opportunities nonetheless. Beyond looking at deductions and credits, many of these beneficial tax arrangements may involve financial products like life insurance, annuities, and retirement accounts.

Incorporate Programs That Use Real-Time Leads

To squeeze the most out of the end of the year, you may want to consider using a real-time lead generation program to boost your production opportunities. Legacy Financial Partners currently has a new enhanced real-time lead program available to our clients. Like pull marketing, real-time lead programs deal with consumers who have shown an interest in relevant topics and positions them to you. However, in the case of real-time lead generation, these consumers may be vetted, qualified, or further enhanced through an intermediate specialist lead-gen affiliate.

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Marketing Corner – October 28th, 2015

Four Ways To Improve Your Digital Presence

With so much focus on in-person appointments, financial advisors and agents often treat their digital lives as an afterthought. This makes sense to a degree—even with “robo-advisors” and mouse-click policy shopping, nothing is going to replace the service an advisor can provide in person.

However, your digital presence matters, even if it simply acts to funnel leads to in-person appointments. Since consumers will research you online, your digital presence now serves as a first impression. How you run your website will also factor into your ranking on search engines and online directories. So with that in mind, here are five was to juice up your digital presence.

Brand

It’s important to treat your website and web collateral as more than a digital business card. Consumers should be able to get a sense of who you are and why you are uniquely qualified to serve them from your web platforms. One thing that will help you stick in the minds of consumers is good digital branding.

Now, in today’s digital environment, everything—from social networks, to your website, to your content—is branding. However, we are specifically talking about branding in a traditional sense–design, layout, and images.

If your website looks and “feels” outdated, consumers are less likely to have confidence in your services. When was the last time you updated your website’s branding? Is your logo outdated? Are photos low-quality or low-resolution. Does your website function the way a modern site should?

A simple, and often inexpensive, way to improve your digital presence is to invest in re-branding and digital infrastructure. This will give your consumers a modern and responsive digital experience.

Optimize for Desktop AND Mobile

Advisors that embrace content and edu-marketing may be aware of SEO basics. But this is typically thought of in terms of a desktop experience. Now, more than ever, mobile optimization is a crucial aspect of ranking and SEO.

Earlier this year Google made significant changes to it’s search algorithms, with more emphasis on mobile-friendliness. And so on April 21, the Mobile Apocalypse (or Mobilegeddon) arrived, forcing the hand of many website owners to evolve with the new digital landscape or fall behind.

While this mobile-friendliness ranking directly affects searches conducted on a mobile device–not as much on desktop—this change is still huge. According to a Local Search Association Study, 60% of US adults now use tablets or smartphones over PCs to get information about services and products. With more and more consumers using phones and tablets for their searches, having a mobile-friendly site will go a long way to increasing your visibility.

You can test your website’s mobile-friendliness using this Google tool [LINK].

Be Consistent With Content Marketing

Content marketing can be a great way to discuss topics that are relevant to your target market and educate consumers on important aspects of financial planning. Content marketing can also reap benefits with your SEO, as search engines tend to favor sites with recent consumer-facing content.

However, content marketing is not a set-it-and-forget-it marketing activity. Rather, it is an ongoing and evolving process. Advisors and agents certainly have a great deal of expertise to draw on when drafting content. The problem comes when content becomes stagnant. Maybe you become busy with big cases or you focus on other marketing activities with more immediate lead generation. Maybe you hit a rut.

But the key to content is consistency. Publishing posts at regular intervals is going to be much more effective than irregular intervals, even if the time span between posts is, say, two weeks.

So take a look your schedule, see where you can appropriate a few hours for content generation and stick to it. Draw on your resources and support staff. If you have sub-agents, use their knowledge base and experience to generate posts, or even relegate content activities to them.

**For more information content marketing and effective blogging, check out our Marketing Corner piece, “Writing An Effective Blog Post” **

Automate Drip Marketing

To a large degree, good visual branding, optimization, and content creation can be seen as passive marketing activities. You are trying to draw consumers to your website, learn about your services, and possibly submit information through contact forms. Many advisors use contact form submittals to generate leads and capture promising consumers to follow up with.

However, you can make this process more efficient–and still retain a personal touch–through automated drip marketing platforms that piecemeal information about you and your services over a period of time. In addition to complimenting other aspects of your digital presence, automated drip systems allow you to engage in multiple ways. Your messages are issued at a steady clip and you can (and absolutely should) follow-up in more direct means, like a phone call.

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Marketing Corner – October 20th, 2015

Why You Keep Reliving Your First Year In The Business


The first year of running a business is usually the hardest. While it promises great opportunity and can be very exciting, the first year of running your operation involves long hours, stressful work, and strategic risk taking. You struggle, sweat, and toil, with hopes that it becomes easier and that your vision will take flight. You walk through the crucible of your early years with the idea that the challenges you face later on will be welcome and proportionate to your business’ growth.

Many business owners find themselves, however, reliving the drama of their first year. This could be a problem that continues from year one of the company’s lifecycle, or emerge after periods of success. But if this year feels like the first, here are five potential reasons.

You Focus More on New Client Acquisition than Client Experience and Retention

There is no definitive statistic on the cost difference between going after a new customer versus retaining a current one. Most reports suggest a range of 4-10 times more, but the actual figures will likely depend on industry and specific consumer profiles. Some fields like financial services will have a generally high client acquisition cost.

Your client acquisition cost (CAC) is one of the key numbers you and your team should always know. Likewise, you should have a sense of the value a lifetime consumer represents, although, depending on your service mix and market, the value/cost ratio of retained customers can be subject to different parameters.

As a general rule, it is going to be more cost effective—and easier—to retain your existing client base than it will be to acquire new clients. Many business chase new clients aggressively as a way to bring new life into their business, to move into different markets, and to maintain an active company.

While capturing new clients and expanding into new markets is essential for any business to sustain growth, many businesses do so at the detriment of their existing client base, diluting the overall customer experience.

To combat this, balance your acquisition efforts by giving the same special attention to your current or previous clients. Create customer experiences that ensure your clients are likely to repeat business with you. Cultivate a business environment that is attractive to both new and old clients.

You Focus Too Much On Lead Generation Rather Than Branding

Let’s make one point clear: lead generation is absolutely crucial in any business. As suggested in the previous section, lead generation can come from both new clients and existing clients. Without leads and clients you don’t really have a business, right?

So the point of this section is not to diminish the importance of lead generation, rather, it is to convey the importance of brand awareness. Depending on your industry and business, you may have different ideas about brand awareness.

For one, brand awareness is a term that gets broadly shucked around. It is an important aspect of business that is equally measurable and immeasurable. You can quantify it through clicks and impressions, direct mail response rates, and surveys. Yet there’s an unquantifiable quality to brand awareness, and this is one of the reasons many small businesses spend more time on measureable actions.

Brand awareness is simply the level at which consumers are familiar with your company and your services, the idea being that the more recognized you are, the more a consumer is likely to seek you out. For some products and services, brand awareness drives the business. For others, this can be difficult.

If you are a tech giant like Apple, you are highly visible and have a wide audience to speak to. If, however, you are a small business like an auto shop or a financial advisor, your market is clustered with others that more or less provide the same service you do.

This is why your marketing should serve the dual purpose of lead generation and brand awareness. Go after the “now” clients with timely promotions, and capture the “later” clients with material that demonstrates what you provide and why you are one of the best at it. You may even perform actions that are solely for the purpose of brand awareness, such as content creation, edu-marketing, and community sponsorships. While these activities may not see an immediate return, you will have a brand recognition that can enhance the response rate of your more direct lead generation activities.

With a proper mix of marketing methods that includes both traditional and digital means, effective brand awareness can be performed relatively inexpensively.

Your Marketing Is Not Evolving

How you reach out to your clients is just as important as the message you send. Sticking with what has worked for you may provide good returns in the short term. However, over time you are likely to experience diminishing returns, due to a variety of factors, such changes in culture, new technology, and market shifts.

The means and the content of your marketing should match a unique aspect of your target market. For instance if you are targeting baby boomers, you might play on nostalgia and use direct mail pieces. For a millennial audience, you likely would engage with social media. Obviously these are reductive examples and don’t speak to complexities within all target markets. The point is your marketing should have a purpose and a target, and evolve as the means in which your potential customers access information evolves.

You Are Not Addressing Your Value

One reason you may be reliving your first year in the business is that you are not unique or are no longer unique. This can be a rough epiphany, but understanding what, if anything, distinguishes you against similar companies and service providers will help to focus your marketing and prospecting efforts.

Having a vague idea of the value you offer to consumers will result in a vague mix of business. Knowing your value proposition may be as broad as the level of customer service and care you provide, compared to other similar companies. Or your unique value may extend to areas of expertise—specific offerings that others in your area cannot provide.

So have a long hard look in the mirror and determine the value of your services and what makes you unique. The other side of this point is that you may have a unique value, but are not featuring it properly with your marketing and prospecting.

You Don’t Have a Direction or Specific Goals

It’s easy enough to say that you want your company to grow—what business owner doesn’t want to? But you may find yourself back in that first year scramble if you don’t have concrete goals that match your vision for your company. Or you may not have a vision at all.

In business, there are two types of goals: specific and non-specific. Both do have a function in developing a marketing and business plan, but many businesses overlook the importance of specific goals. Non-specific goals are great at giving a broad sense of momentum and help you see the bigger picture of your company.

Specific goals, however, represent actionable and measurable objectives to push your business forward. So instead of “I’d like to see more business by the end of the year,” think more a long the lines of “we did $100,000 last October. This October let’s hit this number again.” This may or may not be a reasonable goal—you could be experiencing an overall slump and need to hedge expectations, or you may be primed to shoot for a bigger number. The point is, you have a specific goal that you can now evaluate and design the means to achieve.

Your specific goals will likely fall in short-term ranges, simply because those are the easiest to measure and evaluate. But your overall vision for the company should have some specificity to it as well—what do you want to be doing with your company in 5, 10, 15 years? Having a specific answer to this will go a long way in keeping your business thriving.

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Marketing Corner – October 8th, 2015

Critical Illness Awareness Month

In addition to being a CD renewal month, October is also critical illness awareness month, as designated by Assurity Life Insurance Company. While relatively new, the critical illness awareness month program reflects the growing importance (and concern) of critical illnesses.

A critical illness is a medical situation that has the potential to threaten life or the quality of life. This could be a condition such as a stroke, heart attack, or broken bone. Or it may be a lingering illness like cancer, kidney failure, or even a terminal condition. Critical illness insurance provides coverage in these situations to help pay medical costs and lost wages. Of course, what will be covered will depend on the specific policy.

Because of medical advances, many conditions that used to be fatal are now treatable, leading to an increase in critical illness conditions. According to the CDC, 3 out of 4 individuals over the age of 40 will experience a critical illness at some point in their lives.

The financial and quality of life impact of these conditions can be devastating. Health insurance and long-term care plans may cover some of the baseline expenses associated with these situations. However, medical insurance will still involve copayments and deductibles, which, depending on the condition, could still be extremely high. Many people may already know that medical expenses are the number one contributor to bankruptcies in America, but it might be shocking to know that, according to one study, 78 percent of these bankruptcies involved individuals with health insurance. LTC and disability coverage will likely not kick in until after a certain length of continuing illness or condition. This leaves a gap and a potentially damaging financial/health situation. Critical illness insurance provides coverage for this gap, issuing funds that could be used to help with medical expenses or replace lost income.

Since critical illness is becoming increasingly important to the population as a whole, critical illness insurance awareness month is a great opportunity to educate your clients and to provide another layer of protection. These types of policies are generally affordable and complement other means of protection, such as life, health, and wealth.

You may think that critical illness coverage is not a viable product to pursue, because of it’s general inexpensiveness and low production return for you. However, much like Medicare supplements, critical illness insurance can act as a door opener that allows you to address a client’s whole financial picture.

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Marketing Corner – August 27th, 2015

Writing an Effective Blog Post

Social media and content marketing have dramatically shaped online interactions and consumer relations. As an advisor and small business owner, you may feel like this type of marketing and branding isn’t relevant to the success of your company. But in truth, it is.

Content marketing allows you to reach out to prospects and clients in a unique way, compared to other forms of marketing like direct mail. It is cheap, efficient, and when employed properly, doesn’t require too much of a time commitment.

Here are Ten Best Practices for Creating an Effective Blog Post

Write About Topics That Matter To You

Blogging presents an opportunity for you to demonstrate your expertise and present information that reflects your experience and specialty. Writing on topics that you are passionate about will help keep you engaged with this form of content marketing.

Write About Topics That Matter To Your Audience

Knowing what will resonate with your audience is crucial with blogging—really with any kind of marketing. So write about concerns that affect individuals within your target market. What specific retirement or financial pl anning issues do they think about or should they think about? Discuss these issues and offer basic strategies to solve them.

Be Consistent

Many advisors will start a blog and then get swept up in the duties of running their practice. However, it is very important that you keep a regular schedule, as this will help to build a following and maintain momentum. Make sure to appropriate a portion of your time for blogging and content marketing. Even if you only do so for a few hours every couple of weeks, you should start to see traction as long as you maintain consistency.

Be Professional

Blogs can be used as informal messages from your company to your prospects and clients. Because of this, many people approach blogging very casually. While you do want to present your information in a humorous, perhaps loose tone, you should still create professional content that reflects well on you and your practice.

Don’t Be Afraid to Use “Voice”

One reason blogs can be so great at reaching out to your consumers is that you can present yourself as an actual human being. Establish a voice, speak informally, and break down complicated concepts in
easy-to-understand terms. While this may seem to contradict the “Be Professional” point above, the important thing is balance. Don’t shy away from personality, but don’t be sloppy.

Balance Posts with Images and Related Videos

Content with images and short videos generally get more traction than those without. Seek out images and videos that enhance the points you are discussing. Make sure that you give proper attribution to sourced elements or use stock image services. If possible, create your own 1-2 minute short videos to illustrate core concepts within your blog post.

Adhere to Writing Basics

Just because it’s a blog, doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t demonstrate quality writing. Use proper grammar, diction, and appropriate tone when publishing your pieces. Break up large chunks of text into easy to read paragraphs. Make sure your piece has an overall purpose. Give your reader a reason to finish the post.

Share/Syndicate Through Other Platforms

Not only should you host your latest post on your website, you should syndicate it through other platforms. Sharing your post on LinkedIn or Facebook can be great at reaching a targeted audience through your connections or specific groups. In addition to these social media platforms, syndicate your content through niche websites or forums.

Respond to Current Events or Other Articles

Draw on current events that may be of importance to your audience. Is there a policy change that may affect your prospects? Are there seasonal topics that may resonate with your audience (e.g. tax-time, life insurance awareness month)? Did you come across an article that illustrates an aspect of financial planning you feel strongly about? Use it as a discussion point. The more you can tie your pieces to current events and other sources, the more they will have immediate relevance and credibility.

Use SEO Tools To Make Your Pieces SEO-Friendly

Creating content on a regular schedule helps to optimize your website’s placement in search engine results. But you should also use tools like Google’s Keyword Planner or Ubersuggest to find keywords that will boost your SEO ranking.

With SEO keywords a good balance is key. You certainly do not want to ignore keywords that may raise your ranking, but you also do not want to stuff your articles with unnecessary iterations of keywords. The latter may, in fact, hurt your web ranking.

**This post is part of Legacy Financial Partners’ ongoing Marketing Corner, a space that offers advisors short sales ideas, yellow-pad concepts, and alerts to aid advisors in lead conversion, marketing, and client relationship building.

If you haven’t yet, grab your free copy of LFP’s other recent sales kits, such our Strategic Referral Guide and LinkedIn Prospecting Kit. Be on the look out for more helpful guides from Legacy.

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Marketing Corner – August 5th, 2015

Your Insurance Marketing Plan

You may have a loose collection of goals, ideas, and initiatives for you and your agency. But do you actually have a marketing plan written down—a document that holds you and your employees accountable?

A marketing plan is a lot like a business plan. It organizes many aspects of your business and projects forward to specific, achievable goals. You can think of a marketing plan as part of your overall business plan or as something that dovetails with your business plan. However you think of it, having a written catalog of marketing goals is particularly helpful in charting the growth of your practice.

It may seem like unnecessary homework, especially when you have many operational, day-to-day duties. But dedicate some time to consider at length your marketing plan. Draw on input and feedback from all your employees and draft a document that can be shared among relevant parties.

Here is a simple five-step process for creating an insurance marketing plan.

Step 1: Assess Current State of Business

Using metrics and feedback, assess how your company is growing. Consider what’s working and what isn’t. Compare metrics to previous months and years. Get an overall sense of how the company is situated.  Is there a particular market that you are seeing more business from? Less?

Step 2: List/Brainstorm Goals

Consider your main goals for the next coming months and years. Identify them by timeframe, i.e. “in two months, I’d like to see this much growth,” “by next year I want small businesses as clients as well as individuals,” “in eighteen months, we need to see a 200 percent increase in revenue.” Obviously your goals will be unique to you and your practice, but don’t be afraid to list out everything you want and what you think is reasonably achievable.  Once you have your list of goals, prioritize them and plot them on their respective timeframes.

Step 3: Identify Specific and Non-Specific Goals

From list, separate your goals into specific and non-specific categories. When we ask agents what they want for their business, many initially offer non-specific goals like “I’d like to see growth,” or “I want to get more appointments,” or “I’d like to convert more leads.” Non-specific goals can be good for the broad trajectory of your business, but being more specific will help you figure out how to achieve short-term goals.

For instance, let’s say you did $500,000 in production last year. You might say, “I’d like to see if I can do a million even.” Depending on your area and specialty, this may or may not be a reasonable goal, but at least it is specific, with quantifiable and measurable metrics.

Here are some non-specific goals with their specific equivalents:

 

Non-Specific Specific
“I’d like to see more business by the end of the year.” “In the last half of 2014 we did $250,000 in production from twelve clients. For the last half of this year, let’s see if we can do $400,000 in production from 15-20 clients.”

“I want to do more digital branding and marketing.”

“We should have an interactive consumer-facing website in the next two months and implement an email drip campaign.”
“I want more big fish clients.” “Let’s target pre-retiree doctors and try to convert ten to clients by the end of the year.”

 

Non-specific goals are not always bad. They can provide you a sense of your company’s big picture and provide direction for your various specific goals.

Step 4: Identify Your Target Market(s)

Every business should have an idea of who is buying from them and who they want buying from them. A large retailer or restaurant wants anybody and everybody to shop from them, but they also know based on experience and purchase habits, who is coming to their stores. They are fine with a large number of small-to-medium sized purchases, but they obviously want as many big purchases as they can get.

Likewise, you as an insurance agent or financial advisor might want anybody (usually meeting an income threshold) who can benefit from your services. So if you think that your target market is anybody, you will get anybody—which could be a hodge-podge of leads and prospects that burn before you can convert them or might be a steady stream of small fish clients that keep your business afloat without significant growth. This type of business is good and well—it’s where the majority of business likely comes from and it’s important to not ignore it.

But if you can target specific market types while you conduct everyday business you will be positioned for growth. Going back to step 1, where you assessed the state of your business, think again about the client types you already work with. Where does the majority of your business come from? What are things you can do to enhance production from this segment of your business? What are potential client types to pursue harder? Profile your target clients. For example:

 

Client Type: Pre-Retiree Doctors

Income Threshold: 80,000 per year

How Many Current Clients: 5

How Many Brought On Last Year: 2

Goal For This Year: 4

Client Type: Mid-Level Professional

Income Threshold: 60,000 per year

How Many Current Clients: 18

How Many Brought on Last Year: 7

Goal For This Year: 12

 

Step 5: The How (Matching Marketing Solutions To Target Markets and Goals)

This step is where you begin to think about marketing solutions to go after your target markets and specific goals. Obviously with any new business initiative, cost will always be a deciding factor. The one thing we’ve found working with our agents is that not one single strategy will work; rather, it is a mix of targeted strategies that grow brand awareness and bring in more prospects.

When thinking about marketing solutions consider:

Appropriateness for target market

The senior market may be less receptive to digital marketing and a younger market may not be receptive to direct mail

Cost and ease of implementation

Digital solutions like social media, email, and web campaigns, may be relatively cost-effective for a broader audience. But more expensive solutions like workshops may be what pull in higher-end clients

Metrics and Logs

What kind of measurements will you use to track your marketing campaign? Digital marketing is great because platforms like social media and e-blasts provide easy ways to track response rates.

 

Once you have followed through on your marketing plan examine what worked and what didn’t. Then you go back to Step 1. While your overall, non-specific goals for the business may not change, your specific ones can and should. A good marketing plan is not only a document to chart the future of your company and keep you accountable, it is a living document that changes and grows as you do.

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Marketing Corner – June 25th, 2015

5 Best Practices for Consumer Engagement on LinkedIn

LinkedIn is a powerful social media platform for many reasons. It has a reputation as serious hub for business professional and companies—less Internet fluff than you might find on other social networks. The design and functionality of LinkedIn makes it great for longer posts and consumer interaction. Participation in groups can expose others you your expertise and services. However, as great as LinkedIn can be, many professionals, especially advisors and agents, fail to take full advantage of the platform. Here are five simple, actionable things agents and advisors can do to maintain consumer engagement on LinkedIn.

Post Relevant Content Regularly

As a dynamic and fluid platform, LinkedIn has the potential to be more than your online resume or business card. With the “Post” feature, you have the opportunity to present relevant and targeted content that will showcase your expertise and educate potential clients. These posts will show up in the feeds of your connections and be collected on your profile under the “Posts” sub-section. It is it critical that your content resonates with your target market and that you post on a regular schedule.

Request Connections / Send Messages

It is important to continually build your connection network, but LinkedIn, unlike many other social networks, discourages blindly connecting with individuals. So if you come across what seems like a potential client and you want to connect, make sure you include a message that explains why you want this person in your network. Be sincere, honest, and direct. Avoid being spammy.

Send “Thank You” Messages When You Make A New Connection

If someone accepts your connection, or even better, connects with you first, make sure to issue a message thanking them. This will reinforce that you are indeed a trusted professional and not some marketing hack sweeping up connections. This is also an opportunity to ask leading questions and find out more about this person—to see if they may need your services. So if this is an individual that accepted your initial contact, offer further explanations of what you do and let them know that if they need help now or at some point in the future, to seek you out. If this is an individual that initiated contact with you, after thanking them, ask something along the lines of how do they think you can help them. Either way, be professional and get the conversation started.

Personalize All Communication

As with all web engagement with potential consumers, it is best to personalize your LinkedIn communications. This adds a touch of familiarity while still remaining professional. Use templates if you must, but make sure that subject lines, greetings, and closings are personalized to the recipient.

Respond in A Timely Manner

If you are looking to build your brand and gather leads through LinkedIn, then treat all of your connections and engagements as leads. It can be easy with your day-to-day tasks to put off responding to an inmail or a comment. But the value of your interaction dwindles the longer you wait to respond (think of the old marketing saying “the lead dies a bit every day”). Keep your notifications on, keep LinkedIn up on your browser, or do whatever will keep you positioned to respond quickly. You should also appropriate a portion of the day or week to exclusively prospect.

There are certainly other actions you can take to maximize your LinkedIn activity, but the most important thing is to see your LinkedIn profile as both necessary and active. Don’t let your web presence become static, especially if you are looking to drive consumers to your services.

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Marketing Corner – June 11th, 2015

Reaching Across Generations

Advisors focus much effort on prospecting and marketing to new clients. While you should absolutely maintain a steady stream of new faces, there are several opportunities for you to grow based on the individuals you already work with. Referral sourcing is one way. Another way—and one greatly underexplored—is generational service, that is, retaining assets when a spouse of a client dies and taking on their children when both parents die.

At the death of a spouse, a financial advisor retains the living spouse about 50% of the time. Once the other spouse dies, the advisor retains the assets only 2% of the time. [SOURCE]. This may seem like a significant challenge to maintaining generational clients, especially with retention up the family tree dropping so severely. However this is still a good opportunity because there are a few very simple and actionable things you can do to increase the likelihood of generational retention.

Know Your Clients (And Their Families) Well

The easiest way to create a lasting relationship with multiple generations of a family is to be an important part of their lives. This is not to say you should invite yourself over to family reunions or holiday gatherings, but learn about your client’s family and demonstrate your interest in their lives, beyond finances. Keep attuned to life events and reach out appropriately.

Create Strong Relationships With Both Spouses

Even in dual income households, there will typically still be one spouse responsible for financial concerns. You will probably spend most of your time with this spouse, especially after you establish a financial plan and are in maintenance mode on that plan. Follow-ups and check-ins will likely route through this spouse. This creates a problem when this individual dies, as you now have a limited relationship with the surviving spouse.

Instead of dealing with one spouse, suggest participation from both spouses and issue communications (calls, emails, follow-up letters) to both parties. Make sure the secondary spouse feels included throughout the whole financial process, eliciting responses and opinions from them. Certainly couples do not always agree about money, but with your knowledge, care, and expertise, you can also act as mediator between disagreements. Remember that you are helping them to achieve their financial goals.

Likewise, if there are legacy planning concerns, include the adult children so that they know who you are and what their parent’s wishes are for the assets. This will not only clarify what the assets are, it will serve to mitigate any infighting between the children once the estate is divvied up. Plus the adult children have been introduced to someone their parents trusted with their financial planning and thus are more likely to entrust you with product solutions once the assets are transferred to them.

Retaining the Next Generation

The next generation down from your boomer clients will probably fit within the Gen Y/Millennial demographic. You might assume that this generation has different priorities regarding finance and quality of life. However, it might surprise you that, by and large, they want much of what the previous generation wanted. Millennials, saddled with student debt and faced with a volatile economy, are concerned with financial plans and retirement resources, which for you presents a great opportunity, especially if you already have a family relationship with them.

Although the next generation down values the core aspects of retirement planning (or at least worries about retirement), Millennials do have different communication styles and unique experiences that shape their behaviors and attitudes. This generation is very savvy digitally and appreciates more informal or semi-formal interactions.

So while succeeding with the adult children of your boomer clients may require an adjustment in presentation and communication style, their financial needs and wants are roughly the same as their parents.

Ultimately retaining several generations of a family comes down to you doing what you do best: having great interactions (with the whole family), providing excellent service and solutions, and attuning yourself the unique client you are dealing with.

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Marketing Corner – June 5th, 2015

Understanding Behavioral Finance Problems


Have you ever made an impassioned, logical, and appropriate pitch for a prospect and they walked away? Have you ever created a tailored financial plan for a client and they chose to not follow through—even though it responded appropriately to their needs and unique situation? Of course you have. This kind of rejection is part of the prospecting process. You win some, you lose some. But it’s important to consider why, even with a logical, tailored, and appropriate solution, a client or prospect fails to see the key benefits of what you present to them.

Part of this can be explained with behavioral finance. Behavioral finance is a relatively new sub-field of economics that that seeks to explain financial actions and ways of thinking that may be irrational. These irrationalities are often identified as “biases,” some of which you are likely familiar with (i.e. gambler’s fallacy).

For an advisor or life insurance agent, these biases can represent real challenges to converting a prospect or making a client understand how your solutions best position them to achieve their financial goals. Consumers are often unaware of these underlying biases affecting their financial decision-making. Understanding these can help you overcome objections and clear more production. Here are five common biases to be aware of:

Loss Aversion

Loss aversion is the tendency for people to avoid loss instead of going after gains, in that the emotional character of loss is not equal to it’s numerical gain. For example, compare how you feel about losing $150 versus finding $150 on the street. This can impact a prospect’s ability to see the value of products with growth components, such as fixed indexed annuities, or it can even impact their consideration of any financial solution at all (status quo bias).

Snake Bite Effect

Once bitten, twice shy. It’s only natural for people who have a negative experience with financial solutions (or know someone who has) to be on-guard when presented with a product or plan. The issue here is that the conditions could be completely different or the consumer could be conflating products that are not comparable.

Endowment Effect

This bias describes the tendency of people to hold on to properties they already own, placing more value than they are actually worth. For instance, a prospect may have a large sum of money in a low-growth savings account, but because they have accumulated that sum over a long length of time, they may be averse to using these funds to purchase specific retirement vehicles that may be more appropriate for their retirement goals.

Mental Accounting

Mental accounting in finance describes an irrational bias in how individuals treat money compartmentalized into different “accounts.” People ascribe characteristics based on what that money will be used for or how it came to them. A consumer is likely to play with money that came from a windfall, even if they have debts or bills. Or a consumer might have a piggy bank used for saving toward a vacation, even though they have significant credit card debt. Although the money is the same (the debt and the change in piggy bank) both are treated differently because of their utility. Mental accounting can greatly impact an individual’s saving/spending habits. This bias can also affect a prospect’s receptiveness to repositioning funds, because of the separate accounts they come from.

Anchoring

This bias, observed in many different disciplines, identifies the tendency of an individual to latch (anchor) on to a specific piece of information and make choices based on this information–even when other details, contexts, or considerations are available. This can be a particularly damaging bias because a consumer with a strong anchoring bias returns to the same reference point to process new information.

While these are common biases you may encounter as an advisor, they certainly aren’t the only ones. As behavioral finance continues to develop and expand, more and more explanations are posited to

While these are common biases you may encounter as an advisor, they certainly aren’t the only ones. As behavioral finance continues to evolve, more explanations develop for why consumers behave irrationally or illogically. The important thing is to be aware of these filters and understand why prospects or clients behave the way they do, so you can sidestep any potential roadblocks to a sale.

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