Marketing Corner – January 29th, 2015

Retirement Planning and the 4 Principles of Flight


After a few weeks of offering best practices, this week we wanted to discuss an illustrative yellow-pad concept to convey the basic forces at play in retirement planning. This particular diagram is relatively simple but can do a good job at explaining that retirement planning goes a little beyond accumulation and distribution.

I’m not sure how many of you are familiar with the four basic principles of flight. Although there are other complicated factors at play with flying an aircraft, flight can be reduced to four main forces: lift, weight (gravity), thrust, and drag.

plane1 (1)

In this model, lift, created by the variation of air pressure on a plane’s wings, causes the craft to rise. It is countered by weight, which acts to pull the craft downward. Forward movement is provided by sufficient thrust. This is force is countered by drag, a result of friction and air pressure variances. In level flight, all forces are balanced.

We can use this model as way to explain concepts within retirement planning, especially plans with variable products and direct investments.

plane2 (1)

Here we see that thrust has been replaced with savings, drag with taxes and fees, lift with positive returns, and weight with negative returns and inflation. As with flight, we see an opposing relationship between the pairs; as one accumulates and moves forward with a retirement strategy, eventually there will be taxes and fees, even if they are minor compared to the movement and are easily overcome. Positive returns compound on accumulated value (hence lifting the aircraft upward), but this countered with negative returns and inflation that can drop the craft downward.

This is not a hard and fast analogy; you can easily adapt to your client’s scenario. But as a way to touch upon different external forces in retirement planning and conveying the importance of keeping a strategy “aloft,” the flight analogy drives home hard the value of a strong plan. In this diagram, it is not enough to get in the air; retirement plans need to be sufficiently structured to fly further and higher.

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Marketing Corner – January 23rd, 2015

Prospecting Versus Marketing


Agents and advisors often conflate prospecting and marketing as one and the same. While both have the same overarching goal—positive dividends for you and your company—the two terms can be seen as distinct activities. Understanding the difference between the two will help you focus your goals, provide for more efficient use of resources, and reap a high return on investment.

Both prospecting and marketing encompass not just one strategy or process, but rather many, often used in coordinated efforts. The problem for many advisors and agents is that they think a piece of marketing can also serve their prospecting needs, or vice versa. While there is certainly some overlap between what you could consider as marketing and prospecting, to get the most out of your efforts, identify one main objective you wish to achieve within the distinct categories.

In broad terms, good prospecting is an active process—speaking with clients, potential clients, referrals, and so forth. It is a direct activity with a level of personal engagement. You are actively seeking out leads and selling your value proposition. 

Most forms of marketing can subsequently be considered passive. While you surely hope that an advertisement, bench graphic, or a radio spot would draw a good response for your target clients, the results can vary wildly. Why do this kind of marketing then? Because it builds your brand and reinforces your value in your area. Although you would hope for a direct response, this kind of marketing is passive because it is more effective as an indirect way for consumers to identify your business and services.

So, prospecting—direct, active. Marketing—indirect, passive. These are not strict definitions, but rather a way to filter your communications and lead generation efforts. The more that you filter down to one achievable goal, the more you are able to target your ideal market.

Ask yourself:

What are my expectations with this [direct mail piece, advertisement, radio spot, seminar]?

What do I want to happen with this activity? 

How will I measure results?

Is this activity more prospecting or is it more marketing?

If you can respond to these questions with simple and clear answers, you should find that not only are your expectations reasonable, you will have a better idea on how to achieve them. The big problem with trying to combine marketing and prospecting with a lot of expectations and desired results is that you will have poorly-defined goals and insufficient ways to measure results.

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Marketing Corner – January 16th, 2015

Calibrating your Target Market


Last week we discussed core pieces at the heart of an effective marketing campaign, beginning with the bullet point of “Understand Your Target Market.” This week we wanted to expand on this idea further, because of how important this is to developing a successful marketing program.

Having worked with many advisors and agents, we find that most financial professionals identify their target market through simple constraints, such as age and income. This is certainly understandable, because these are two key pieces of information used when generating an illustration and determining possible solutions for a prospect. However there are many other factors you should consider when targeting clients. Considering these other factors and broadening your approach will help you target better and generate more consistent results in your marketing.

Multiple Ideal Client Types

As we mentioned in our post last week, there are multiple ideal client types in different kinds of product lines and consumer profiles. Make sure that you have a good grasp of who are looking for in these different categories. Also think about the common denominator shared by all of these client types that you are looking for.

The Persona Profile

Many companies will develop and target their ideal client by giving a hypothetical prospect an identity, complete with name, age, needs, occupation, hobbies and sometimes a backstory. Developing a “persona profile” can be a good strategy to think of when trying to delve into the psychological identity of a prospect or client type, but you don’t necessarily have to go so far as to develop a whole fictional person. Rather think about your target market beyond “age” and “income” to access a better understanding of who your clients are and what they need. This will help to tailor your specific messages and identify potential client touchpoints.

For instance, lets say you wish to target retirees, or soon to be retirees. You want to target someone with investable income, a hobby or interest that reflects not only their assets but also quality of life concerns, and a need to protect the sum of their life.

So we have:

Retiree – Concerned about financial planning or is open to a financial planning conversation

Hobbies/Interests – Likes cars and sports

Your message can be placed in specific targeted media, like a car magazine or website, and connect the idea of “running on empty” to their financial plan. This is a simplistic example, but it demonstrates how much further you can reach just by thinking about your client’s hobbies or interests.

Another example:

Let’s say we have someone who his greatly involved in their community and local charities. This person is likely concerned with wealth transfer issues, be it to the groups he or she supports or to their own family.

Mind you, this isn’t radical thinking, but that’s why it matters and why it works. Not only do you expand your idea of a target client beyond age and income, but also you already have a direction in developing and placing your message.

Another reason why thinking about the hobbies and interests of potential clients is helpful is that a person with a passion will likely understand the value of a good financial plan, because money will mean more to them than money; it will be the means to access and maintain what is important to them. Individuals generally don’t see money as cold numbers and figures—they see what they can do with it. So getting away from a numbers and figures approach in targeting will make your messages hit harder.

Life Events

In the previous section, we are really discussing using what people do as a means of targeting. You can also use what people experience as way to access them. This includes the whole arc of a prospect’s life and the financial concerns that someone experiences at each milestone.

A new parent not only has a shift in financial expenses but also a shift in priorities, which makes them a likely candidate for a cash value life insurance policy. A person approaching retirement will have a whole host of concerns and complicated financial needs—from coordinating employer-sponsored benefits and shoring up other retirement assets. This person may also have interest Social Security and estate solutions. A new job, the loss of a job, marriage, the death of spouse, all of these are major events that have a need for financial services, whether the person experiencing them realizes it.

**

If you want to increase the ROI on your marketing and produce better results, you need a firm grasp of the market you are going for. The better you understand the variety of your prospects, beyond simple input values such as age and income, the more focused and powerful your marketing will become.

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Marketing Corner – Thursday, Jan. 8th, 2015

The Six Pieces of An Effective Marketing Campaign


There are many voices and ideas when it comes to marketing. As technology expands, new methods and proponents arise. Certainly there is value in trying new strategies and our organization, Legacy Financial Partners, embraces new solutions as well as traditional marketing tools. But whether you are building a broad digital plan or pursuing consumers through direct mail, there are foundational points that are at the core to all effective marketing campaigns.

Understand Your Target Market

This is about as basic of a marketing principle as it gets. But it is one that is often overlooked or under-considered because of how basic it is. Targeting your audience and understanding your target market goes beyond thinking of age demographics or income thresholds. Many advisors and agents think about their ideal client—stable income, high liquid resources, good health for example—and only promote to this client type, even when advertising outside of their ideal client.

For some it helps to think of not one ideal client, but multiple ideal client types in different product lines, categories, and consumer profiles. Being able to have a more cosmopolitan scan of potential clients will assist your targeting, because you will be able to understand on a deeper (and more effective) level what a new retiree is looking for, what a younger client in his or her first stable job might need, or what solutions will work for new parents and so forth. Draw from your experience, explore research, and offer solutions that are specific.

Timing

Timing is everything. We always say that the right message issued to the wrong audience will fail as miserably as the wrong message to the right audience. An ill-timed piece of marketing can nullify a carefully crafted message sent to the right audience. Timing can envelop many aspects of the marketing process. Think about when your target clients begin building their budgets or start working on their long-term life goals. What are the key life events that cause your prospects to need one of your solutions?

The Platform

This is one we think about quite a bit when developing campaigns with our advisors and agents. What is the right platform or medium for this marketing piece? For instance, what might work for mid-thirties new parents with stable income probably won’t for the senior/boomer market. A generalized approach would have digital pushes for the former and traditional direct mail for the latter. While this splits marketing on a traditional versus digital dichotomy, these generalizations often hold true for these demographics. Also consider that not all message types will be effective in all mediums, no matter the target market.

Tracking

This is crucial. Being able to track results, with as much specific detail as possible, will help you account for what works, what doesn’t, and help explain why. This aids your analysis and understanding of the three points above–was it the medium, the timing, or a misunderstanding of your target market? Or was it something else out of your control and understanding?

Know Your Value Proposition

What is it that makes you or your services unique? Can you easily identify and articulate this? Not that you would necessarily want to go over-the-top with your essential quality in your messages, but having a good understanding of what you offer clients will help your promotions to be sharper, clearer, and issued with purpose.

The “Give”

A good, time-sensitive offer can inspire great consumer responses while qualifying your prospects. Make sure any offer presented is tailored to your target audience and follows the points above. Give your audience a unique reason to come to you and identify with your services.

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Marketing Corner – Thursday, Dec. 11th, 2014

Five Guidelines for Social Media Uses


Last week we discussed five best practices for community engagement. This week we are going to examine one of those practices—social media–in closer detail. Social media in business use has been the subject to many ideas and approaches in the last ten years, given the rise of several big names as well as a multitude of niche platforms. Here are five simple best practices for agents and advisors using social media.

Know Your Audience, Understand Your User Base

One mistake that many businesses make is rushing to use any and all social media in an attempt to have as much digital visibility possible and to stay ahead of the curve. This is certainly understandable—you never quite know what will break through and develop a consistent user base. But the reality is that for every big player like Facebook and Twitter, there are hundreds of platforms languishing in obscurity or being appropriated for other things. For agents and advisors, using something like Pinterest—a great platform for sharing ideas and images—probably won’t be a successful use of time and efforts. This is because Pinterest, even with it’s heavy user base, probably will not have a target market of individuals interested in life insurance, annuities, or retirement planning concerns.

Now this is not a hard and fast rule—if you have an interesting way to capture the essence of your business and business philosophy and translate it to the way something like Pinterest is used, go for it. Just understand that even with the most spectacular design and creative use of a program, your target audience may not be there. Social media is a great tool with many applications. But not all platforms are used in the same way and have the same mix of demographics. Before using a platform, look at how other people are using it, understand how interactions work, and how the community is maintained.

Good Posts

 One of the many reasons why social media is so attractive and (in many cases, with the right platform) successful at engaging with a client base, is because it allows companies to have multi-pronged communications. Posts can be advertisements, press releases, casual discussions, informational pieces, or all of these at once. So what makes a good post then? A good post—even if it is a casual, blog-like post—should communicate your core business principles and value proposition. It should offer something that your target market can use or think about.

Balance

Now that you have found the right platform make sure your posts have a balance of sales and good information. Although there is a wealth of information available online, people still value good information and the source of that good information.

For example, let’s say you were targeting Social Security maximization clients. To target this group you might provide information about recent changes in Social Security as well as an offer for a Social Security maximization review. In something like a direct mailer or an email blast, you would probably pick a few key statistics and then drive home your services through strong sales language. With a post, you have more space to balance a sales pitch with helpful information. A well-balanced post will provide useful details about current changes and at the same time be clear—but not overwhelmingly so—about services and solutions being offered.

The above paragraphs discuss balance within a single post, but it is also important to have a balance across all your public, social media communication. In this case balance means variation between posts—delivering different styles of communication that can reach a swath of your target client group.

Frequency

 Frequent posts are critical in building and maintaining a relevant audience. Although building a following base may take time, the more people see good information coming from you as a source, the more likely they will engage with you and seek out your expert services when the have a need. A regular stream of posts demonstrates your credibility.

Cross-Platform Unity

Agencies use social media to build their brands and drive consumer leads, and they may use multiple platforms for different types of communication. However, it is important that all roads are as interconnected as possible and lead back to a main hub (your website, your office). You can do this in a variety of ways. You can brand your emails and simple posts with your social media icons/links. You can, and should, provide links back your website or a certain sections of your website. Disseminate your posts far and wide, so that when you create one, it ripples through all of your digital platforms.

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Marketing Corner – Friday, Dec. 5th, 2014

Five Best Practices for Community Engagement


To open the door to your community, you have to be active in your community. Being engaged with your prospect base and your local population not only serves as a great marketing effort, it provides a human face to the type of work that your do. Here are five best practices to have more reach within your community.

Joining Your Local Chamber of Commerce

Although it may seem a little outdated, joining your local chamber of commerce is still a relevant method to network and interface with your community. The advantages of joining your city’s chamber of commerce include promotion, local directory placement, and access to things like mailing lists. Being a due-paying member of your local chamber of commerce also solidifies your identity with your city, county, or town.

Social Media

While there can be many complicated and involved technical aspects with positioning, branding, and engaging through social media, it is important that you do maintain a digital presence. You don’t have to be an expert to use social media for engagement, you just have to be committed to your online community and use the best platforms that fit your brand and philosophy. For advisors and agents, often the most useful and relevant networks will be sites like LinkedIn and Twitter, which are used by many professional types. But whatever platforms you use, and however you use them, it is crucial that you do so regularly and provide relevant content or posts. Localize you social media and engage with prospects in your area.

Charitable Causes and Events

Supporting a local charity or a non-profit organization will obviously land you good local PR points, but make sure you are supporting causes that speak to you or ones that you are passionate about. Aligning yourself with a cause can be a great way to identify you and your business to your clients and potential clients. Just make sure that whatever causes you do support—either through money, time, or space—you so sincerely.

Sponsorships

Like supporting charities, sponsoring events and organizations is a great method to increase your brand awareness, especially if what you sponsor is particularly relevant to your target prospect pool. A good source of sponsorship opportunities will often actually be your chamber of commerce, which may have list of local sponsorship opportunities and benefits.

Look Outside Your Chamber of Commerce

In most communities, networking and club opportunities start at the chamber of commerce but do not end there. Your area may have things like the Rotary Club or other business organizations that provide space for interaction and networking. The best way for community engagement is to be visible and participate in local events or meet-ups. Having trouble finding the organizations or events that speak to you: start one up.

It is important to remember that doing just one of these will be insufficient to properly engage with your community. You should look at all of these practices, as well as any others, to build and maintain your community presence. Whatever methods you practice, also remember that engagement is supposed to be an extension of you—your services, business philosophy, professionalism, 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 – Thursday, Nov. 20th, 2014

Retirement Planning: Building A House


In last week’s Marketing Corner, we discussed how advisors and agents can use stairs to illustrate the planning process for consumers. In the same vein, this week we have another yellow-pad illustration concept that can be used to quickly demonstrate the importance of a financial plan and how the pieces of a sufficient wealth and retirement plan fit together.

In explaining the financial planning process we often use the three phases of protection, accumulation, and distribution. This simplistic breakdown of the financial planning process is easy to digest, and more importantly, allows for emotional and logical resonance with most prospects. There are many ways to present these phases, but one we like, and one that often connects with prospects, is a house.

To build a house you first need a foundation. In our model, the foundation is long-range instruments, such as life insurance, long-term care insurance, or disability insurance. This gives our house stability, covers important things like providing a death benefit and protection during illness or a chronic condition. This correlates to protection.

Next we need the framework; the walls and windows. In our model this includes things that help you build on your foundation and help you toward your goals. Many types of financial products can satisfy this; cash value life insurance, annuities, securities, etc. The framework also includes how a client’s retirement program is structured. This correlates to accumulation.

Finally, we have our roof. Upon retirement, through a strong foundation and sturdy framework, the house now has robust roof to weather economic changes and protect the lives inside for many years. This correlates to distribution.

 

The house is now complete and the client is on their way to enjoying retirement.

 

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Marketing Corner – Tuesday, Nov. 13th, 2014

Marketing Corner – Tuesday, Nov. 13th, 2014


Illustrating the Planning Process: The Stairs


Most of us are familiar with the basics to establishing a financial plan. Your client or prospect might be likewise somewhat familiar. But as we know from sales and marketing, just because a person is aware of the key point you are explaining does not mean that you have their buy in, so to speak. That is why we like yellow pad concepts so much, because they quickly illustrate that key point or idea and make an emotional connection that much more likely.

One of the best simple, quick-to-draw, illustrations for a client to understand the planning process is The Stairs. Within this model we see the initial step as establishing financial goals. The second step is to prioritize these objectives. These steps, as we know, are made easier and completed more efficiently with a financial advisor that can see above these two steps. Step three is to develop a plan. The fourth step involves implementing the plan, and the fifth step is regular review. After this, we arrive at the top, having successfully reached financial security.

1

The nice thing about this particular yellow-pad concept is that it also can easily illustrate the importance of starting early with financial planning. In the image below, we see the same basic stair structure, except each step has become steeper, making reaching the top all the more difficult. Waiting to implement a plan doesn’t change the goal it just makes it much more challenging to accomplish. This is a great way to give your clients and prospects an “a-ha” moment and convey the consequences of waiting to plan.

2

The Stairs can also be used to demonstrate the three basic phases of a financial plan: accumulation, preservation, and distribution. The initial step can still be to set financial objectives, and the last step can still be financial security in retirement.

3

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Marketing Corner – Tuesday, Nov. 4th, 2014

The Three Outcomes


When it comes to retirement, most people are aware of three basic and important outcomes: a person will die, get sick, and potentially exhaust their money. Although these are uncomfortable truths, they are still important to discuss in retirement planning because they convey the critical nature of planning ahead and as early as possible.

Consumers are likely to recognize that as they ease into retirement their main expenses reduce. The kids are out of the house, college education paid for, house payments lowered and completed, etc. But at the same time, income earned from work is reduced or altogether zeroed out. The following are quick yellow pad concepts to illustrate the three outcomes with retirement to drive home the importance of a long-term financial plan.

Our first image tracks the decline of earning power and the reduction of expenses preceding retirement:

fig1

The second image demonstrates the first outcome: death. In this image, retirement is broken by this event. The death of a spouse can cause a decrease of income in retirement as well as an increase in expenses. Which can throw a retirement plan completely off track.

fig2

This image demonstrates the second outcome. We see that a large medical issue can spike through the buffer space between retirement income and expenses tapping into reserves. The consumer in this situation could face exhausting their funds.

fig3

The next image demonstrates the third outcome, outliving money during retirement. We see that, due to inflation, taxes, reduction or marginal increases in things like social security, a consumer’s baseline expenses eventually intersect with their retirement sources of income.

fig4

This image demonstrates the solution. Through specific and tailored strategies developed with a financial advisor, a consumer is able to put more buffer in between expenses and their income during retirement and create a consistent positive arbitrage. Their money is able to last longer, and more importantly, the consumer is able to maintain a quality of retirement where they are not worried about finances.

fig5

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Marketing Corner – Tuesday, Oct. 28th, 2014

Asking for a Referral


You have just provided a great service to a client. Perhaps you built a long-term retirement program for them from the ground up, or you helped maximize their existing retirement instruments. Whatever the case, you’ve satisfied your client’s planning needs. Now what?

Ask for a referral.

Referrals are a simple, low-impact way of generating qualified prospects and it’s a shame that more advisors don’t ask for them. Why do so many advisors avoid asking for a referral? There are probably many reasons, but it could have something to do with the potentially awkward request—you have worked hard to capture this client and after an involved process you may not want to spook the client with more pitches and sales language.

Asking for a referral should neither be pitch, sales, or marketing (or at least seem like these things). It is an understanding and evaluation of the relationship you have created with your new client. With that said, we wanted to provide advisors with some general guidelines for asking for referrals.

Demonstrate Your Value

The easiest way to prime a client for a referral is to do the best job that you can. Be comprehensive and leave the client with a positive feeling about their financial future.

Don’t Be Afraid To Ask

Value yourself and value the services you provide. If you are confident in your abilities, your mission to help consumers, and your expertise, you should be able to ask for a referral.

But Don’t Be Too Confident

Asking for a referral should be a sincere, genuine request. Being too confident and aggressive in approach can not only close you off from a referral, but also sour the advisor-client relationship.

Don’t Badger or Pester

If the consumer has expressed some hesitation with a referral or dismisses it politely, don’t press too hard or become too desperate.

Be Quick

Don’t make asking for a referral take up too much of your time with your client. It should be a quick transaction.

Don’t Make it About You

Some advisors will express that the reason for a referral is to help their business grow, etc. While this may or may not be truthful, approaching a referral this way can turn it into something too self-serving.

Target Your Referrals

Ask about anybody that would fit within the spread of products you facilitate. Ask about other individuals that may be nearing retirement or others that have gone through a life event, such as a birth or change of job. Be specific in your request.

Follow Up

Be prudent when you obtain a referral and follow up promptly. Above all, maintain a professional and respectful approach.

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