How To Incorporate Thumbtack Into Your Business

Listing your company on community-based business directories is a great way to boost your online presence. Because businesses with profiles on high-traffic platforms like Google My Business, Yelp, and Merchant Circle (to name a few) benefit from higher local SEO rankings than those that don’t, these sites can be great tools for brand awareness. That said, many only offer a snapshot of your business/services. For advisors targeting niche markets, this does little to generate qualified leads.

However, there is one rapidly growing platform that digs a little deeper to connect consumers with professionals that meet their specific needs. Launched in 2009, Thumbtack is taking a new approach to the traditional professional services model popularized by Yelp and Angie’s List.

Instantly Matched Leads

About a year ago, Thumbtack introduced Instant Match, a feature aimed at connecting consumers with the businesses that best suit their needs. When you set up your business profile, Thumbtack gives you several options to fine-tune your potential leads. You can specify your area(s) of expertise, type of clients you’re targeting, travel/location preferences, and other details meant to filter out unlikely matches.

Consumers searching for services that fall under the “Personal Financial Planning” category are required to answer a series of questions about their income, career status, specific needs (retirement, life insurance, etc.), and other relevant details. If your preferences match the consumer’s, your profile is included in their search results and the door is open for them to reach out.

How high or low you set your weekly budget determines how many leads can contact you. Because you’re charged each time a consumer makes contact (or vice-versa), it’s a good idea to keep a close eye on your budget settings if you want to keep a steady flow of leads coming in. Thumbtack only charges for that initial contact and doesn’t tack on (pun intended) any additional fees or commission if you and the lead decide to do business together.

Keep in mind that Thumbtack is a localized marketplace, not a guaranteed lead generator. Its value as a marketing tool is based largely on the demand for your services. If there aren’t many people in your area using the site to find financial advisors, you might not get much out of it. On the other hand, the leads that do come your way are more likely to be interested in doing businesses.

A few additional things to keep in mind when building your Thumbtack profile:

Consistency Counts…

The contact information on your profile should match that of any other business listing you have (Google My Business, Yelp, etc.). Keep your physical address, business hours, phone number, email, website, and social media pages consistent across all platforms. This is one of many factors that help determine your SEO ranking.

…And So Does Content

A well-written and comprehensive bio will increase your chances of attracting the leads you want. Give a concise overview of your services to convince the consumer that you’re the right person for the job. You want to come across as both professional and personable. Include a few high-quality photos of yourself as well. Thumbtack’s Q&A section offers a list of questions related to your background, education, and experience. This lets you go into a little more detail about yourself without turning your bio into a novel. There’s also an option to incorporate a background check (via Checkr) into your profile. Use this section to list your professional licenses and credentials.

Follow Up

Keep a close eye on your notifications and try to follow up as soon as possible when leads come in. Remember, you aren’t the only advisor included on the list Thumbtack sends to the consumer. Reply ASAP and beat the competition to the punch. After the initial contact is made, proceed as you would with any other prospect who enters your pipeline.

Be Patient

Thumbtack connects consumers with pros working in hundreds of different industries. And with the Instant Match feature still in its infancy, getting the results you want might take time. If things are moving slow, try tweaking your preferences a little or adjusting your budget for a few weeks. Like any other digital marketing avenue, Thumbtack comes with its own set of pros and cons. That said, this is an innovative platform that has great potential for those willing to put in the effort.

Secrets for Successful Video Marketing

Video cameraThe value of incorporating video into your overall marketing strategy cannot be understated. No matter the platform, video outperforms every other advertising medium by a longshot. In fact, simply including the word “video” in the subject line of an email has been proven to increase open rates. Using video on social media and websites is far more effective than text or images.

Overall, video marketing is becoming increasingly more prevalent for advisors. According to a study by Wibbitz, those working in the financial industry are leveraging video marketing more than those in any other industry but manufacturing. So, have you jumped on the bandwagon yet?

The Value of Video

You don’t have to look hard to find an endless list of stats and surveys that support the hype surrounding video marketing. However, the answer to why video is so effective can be summarized in one word – psychology. Televised messages have become commonplace. We tend to look for those connections that might exist between ourselves and the person we see on the screen. This is a level of emotional engagement that isn’t as easily or quickly found with other mediums. And when targeting people with services that relate to their finances, retirement, and families, trust and confidence are key elements to conversion. If you think about it, one of the goals during any one-on-one interaction with a prospect is to earn their trust, isn’t it? Why should your marketing approach be any different?

If a picture is worth a thousand word, then a video is worth far more. Actually, according to Forrester Research, video is worth about 1.8 million words. This doesn’t mean the articles you write aren’t an important part of the overall process. However, a short, but sweet video message can be a much more effective way of capturing consumer attention. This is especially true for those living faster-paced, “time-is-money” lifestyles, like the nearly 60% of executives (a.k.a. high-end clients) who stated they prefer video over text, when given the option (Forbes).

Your Video Budget

Those working with a limited marketing budget might think that video production is too elaborate and expensive of an endeavor to attempt. In fact, producing a decent online video is much easier than you think. Most mobile devices today come with cameras that can hold their own against those used by pros. The rest of the equipment needed – a tripod, mobile device mount, and clip-on microphone – can all be purchased for $100 or less. Set it all up in a well-lit, professional setting, and you’re ready to roll.

Lights, Camera, Action!

If you’re a little shy about stepping in front of a camera, don’t feel bad. Some of you might take it right away, but many people are intimidated by the thought of being on a video that’s blasted out across social media. It might sound cliché, but pretending that you’re in front of a client, not a camera, is a great way to relax and present yourself as the same well-spoken and knowledgeable advisor you are in the “real world.” Composure and confidence are the two of the most important elements to delivering a good performance.

he third piece of this puzzle is practice (practice, practice). If you’re not the type who can memorize lines verbatim, you should at least have a good grasp of your talking points before shooting. Using cue cards or reading from a script while shooting might be necessary but doing so can make your performance seem unnatural and distracted. A video of an obviously nervous person uncomfortably reading from a script while their eyes dart back and forth is a video nobody wants to watch. Run through the spot a few times, critique each take, make note what worked, and identify where you need to improve.

Quality Content > Quality Production

While you want to put your best and cleanest take out there, it’s the quality of your content that matters most. Great content makes up for average production every time. As popular as live streaming media has become, the “DIY” vibe is becoming the trend to follow. If you’re comfortable going out there without a net, Facebook Live is the way to go. By the end of 2017, 20% of all videos on Facebook were live streams. Those videos were watched as much as three times longer and received around 10 times as many likes and comments as uploaded videos. With a little promotion and planning, a lengthy Facebook Live Q&A session can be a great way to drive traffic to your social media pages, while giving you the chance to strut your stuff in front of an engaged audience.

As we move farther into the age of streaming media, advisors who utilize video can expect increased engagement, interaction, and conversion rates. And, of course, with all that, more business. So, are you ready to roll? It’s time for your close up.

Think Locally Part 3: Create a Community

If you think beyond the textbook definition, the essence of hyperlocal marketing encompasses any method used to engage with and build relationships with prospects living within your area. Recent editions of Marketing Corner offered tips on how you can apply that concept to boost your local online presence and leverage Nextdoor.com for business purposes. However, there remains much more ground to cover when it comes to localizing your marketing efforts. So, let’s keep exploring, shall we?

To state the obvious, Facebook is among the most valuable online/social media marketing tools business owners have at that their disposal. However, changes to the platform’s advertising and targeting policies have made it more challenging to connect with qualified leads. That’s not to suggest you stop running geo-targeted ads or put the brakes on your Facebook marketing efforts. In fact, when trying to convert local prospects, you might consider increasing the time and energy you put into Facebook. The key is to spend that time and energy wisely.

The ultimate goal of any Facebook business page is to increase brand awareness. The best way to achieve that goal is to get as many people as possible to “like” your page, right? Sort of. While you do want to build an audience, you want that audience to consist of people who are interested in and would benefit from your services. Spending money to promote your page and boost your posts is still one way to reach that audience, but it’s not nearly as effective as it once was. So, how do you attract those legitimate and qualified prospects out there in Facebook Land? You get them talking.

If Content Is King, Then Conversation Is Queen

Quality ad content might catch their attention, but conversion usually requires conversation. It’s your expertise, people skills, and gift of gab that makes clients out of prospects. So, why not apply that concept to your marketing efforts?

Remember that Facebook is social media and people use the platform to interact and engage with the world around them. Use this to your advantage and create a Facebook group made specifically for discussions related your areas of expertise. Ideally, you’re already applying this practice to your page by posting content that is both relevant to your target audience and reflective of your professionalism and know-how. Creating a group and linking it to your page goes one step further by giving others a chance to chime in.

Because you’re using this group to engage with local consumers, give it a name that reflects both your area and the subject matter – “[YOUR CITY/REGION] Financial Guru,” for example. Because you want group members to feel comfortable discussing topics related to finances and retirement, it might be a good idea to set the privacy settings as “Closed.” This will keep the posts and comments hidden from anyone not in the group, but still allow outsiders to find it and send a request to join (which, in turn, allows you to vet any incoming members). It’s also important that you use your business page, not your personal profile, as the group admin and when posting or commenting. This will help establish your brand as the “expert,” and drive traffic back to your page at the same time.

As the group admin, you want to be the most active member. Reposting or sharing content from your business page and/or website is a good start, but you also want to keep people talking. Balance out the links you share with informal posts and conversation starters. For example, a photo of the sun setting over a beach and a caption like “I think I found where I want to spend my retirement years. How about you?” You get people engaged and thinking about their own plans and did so without pushing a product in their faces. Remember, the group is more about establishing and fostering relationships than anything else. Save the sales pitch for the appointment, this is your chance to show some personality.

A few other things to keep in mind when managing your Facebook group:

  • Be responsive! Reply to questions and comments from group members. Don’t use a confrontational tone in response to criticism, but don’t ignore it either. The same goes for positive feedback. Even a simple “thanks!” or clicking the “like” button can go a long way.
  • Before launching the group, define your guidelines and rules (No spam or self-promotional posts, hate speech, explicit language, trolling comments or abusive comments, etc.) and list them in the “About” section and/or on a pinned post. Don’t hesitate to get rid of any violating posts/members.
  • Avoid controversial subjects! Taking a stance on politics and other divisive topics is a great way to lose business. Consumers want to hear your expertise, not your opinions.
  • Create a sense of community. The people who join your group are (hopefully) members of the same community in which you live and work. Remind them of that by including a few local references in your posts.
  • Invite everyone who follows your page to join the group and vice-versa. And, while you’re at it, encourage other members to invite their friends to the group.
  • Be consistent! If your posts are few and far between, your group members will lose interest and, eventually, stop engaging altogether. If you can’t post on a daily basis, consider adding someone to help pick up the slack.

Overall, you should treat your Facebook group as you would your business page. It might be a little more casual and open-ended, but it’s important that your message and voice match those used anywhere else online.

 

 

Think Locally Part 2: Hyper-localize Your Online Presence

You’ve probably heard the buzzword “hyperlocal marketing” trending as of late. While the concept is nothing new, the use of hyperlocal marketing is growing rapidly.

Our last Marketing Corner post looked at how Nextdoor.com is expanding its neighborhood-based social networking hub into a hyperlocal marketing tool for businesses and service providers. But one social platform is merely the tip of a much bigger hyperlocal iceberg.

In a nutshell, hyperlocal marketing involves targeting prospects within a specific geographic area. Geotargeting your ads and sponsored social media posts are popular forms of hyperlocal marketing in action. However, those are most effective when you reach a consumer who is willing to engage with the post/ad and answer your call to action. In spaces oversaturated with ads, such as Facebook, this can be a challenge.

Be There When They Want You

People are busy. They have places to go and things to do. Yes, they’re probably scrolling through Facebook or Twitter along the way. But that sort of multitasking leaves little room for them to engage with the ads that pop up in their newsfeed. While it’s important they at least see your content scroll by, it’s even more important that they can easily find it when they’re ready.

According to Google, “near me,” or location-based searches have increased by as much as 150% over the last two years. These might include “financial planners near me” or “advisors in [city or zip code].” Google now lists local results over organic when returning the results of a search, just below the list of paid results. The higher a site ranks on these search results, the more traffic the site will receive.

So, how can you boost your site’s ranking? Because Google’s algorithm is in a constant state of change, there is no clear-cut answer to that question. However, there are several ways to optimize your page for better local results.

Best Practices for Local SEO

Claim Your Business Page

Claiming and optimizing your Google My Business page is a crucial part of boosting your SEO ranking. Setting up your page is free and fairly simple, but does require you to complete a verification process. Once you are verified, add relevant information to your page. Include your address, business hours, website URL, phone number, and business description. This information needs to be accurate, consistent, and honest. Google has cracked down on businesses that give false or misleading information. Any violations of these guidelines could result in your page being suspended.

Images can help drive search engine traffic, so you’ll want to include a handful of quality photos of your business. Use a good shot of the front exterior of your office as your cover photo. You should also include your logo, professional headshots of you and your team, and a few interior photos as well.

The slug and meta description for the very article you reading right now.

Keywords & Content

Your address should be included in the sitewide footer section on your website, as well as on your “Contact” page. If you post original content to your site (which you should be doing), localizing some of that content can also help boost local SEO rankings.

Incorporating localized meta descriptions, tags, and keywords into your pages and photos can also help your site’s local rankings. Just be aware that Google frowns upon “keyword stuffing,” so make sure to keep things relevant. You will also want to include a clearly and concisely written snippet of anchor text (the blurb that appears underneath your link on a search result), such as “[Insert business name], a certified financial planner in [insert city], specializing in retirement planning.”

Be Mobile Friendly

This almost goes without saying. Mobile searches account for roughly 60% of all online inquiries and that trend is expected to grow in the years to come. Additionally, Google and other search engines favor sites that are optimized for mobile over those that are not. Simply put, if your site is not mobile friendly, you’re going to lose business.

Local Review Directories

While the reviews and feedback posted to your Google business page will appear first and foremost in search results, there are several alternative review sites that you should look into. While these are geared more toward retailers and service industry businesses, they also have value for those working in the financial industry. Customer feedback, be it from these or any site, can be leveraged to help your overall search ranking. Just remember to be responsive and transparent when a client shares their feedback.

Overall, local SEO is more of an art than a science. This is especially true when it comes to maximizing your online presence to prospects in your area. Having read through the tips listed above now might be a good time to conduct a few localized online searches of your own. Whose business ranks higher? Yours, or the competition?

Think Locally: Marketing Yourself on Nextdoor.com

Nextdoor logoYou’ve probably never given much thought into incorporating Nextdoor into your marketing strategy. If you haven’t, don’t feel bad. Not very many have. In fact, for many marketers and businesses, Nextdoor is barely a blip on the radar. All that might change in the not-so-distant future if the company has its way. For the last seven years, the community-based social networking platform has built itself up as an online neighborhood message board of sorts, giving people a place to post about garage sales, lost pets, crime, and other local happenings.

This “Craigslist with a newsfeed” feel hasn’t made Nextdoor the most popular digital destination, but a number of small, niche businesses (home repair, lawn services, daycare, etc.) have discovered the value in advertising through Nextdoor. In April, the company introduced the ability for businesses to sponsor posts, making now a good time for agents and advisors to give Nextdoor a look as well.

Nextdoor is often described as “hyperlocal social media,” because its users only see what others in their own or surrounding neighborhoods post. For them, the increased privacy and relevancy, along with the lack of unsolicited, “spammy” posts, makes the platform a more neighborly alternative to global social networks. For you, Nextdoor offers unsaturated access to a localized list of potential new clients.

Your Friendly Neighborhood Financial Planner

The obvious first step in your Nextdoor marketing campaign is to create or claim your business page. This will differ from a personal Nextdoor profile in that the business page won’t have any specific neighborhood affiliation. The owner of a business page also can’t access neighborhood directories or the conversations that take place on the site. These limitations are in place to, according to Nextdoor, make sure “…members’ experience remains positive and is not overwhelmed by posts from businesses and service providers.”

Your page will also lack the bells and whistles of a Facebook business page, and displays little more than your contact info, profile picture, location on a map, and

what Nextdoor members are saying about your business. This last feature is where the value of Nextdoor can be found – word of mouth marketing.

According to Nielsen, two of the most trusted forms of advertising are online

via nextdoor.com

consumer opinion and recommendations from friends and family. Nextdoor brings both together under its “Recommendations” section. Like Facebook or Google reviews, Nextdoor recommendations allow customers to offer feedback about their experience with a business. With more than 17 million recommendations posted, this can be a powerful brand awareness tool. Be sure you review the site’s Community Guidelines to avoid any violations or conflict of interest.

Hyperlocal Social Marketing

As we mentioned above, Nextdoor is in the process of incorporating Sponsored Posts into the newsfeeds of its members. However, in the interest of keeping the content relevant, they’re taking a calculated approach in doing so. Thus far, Nextdoor has only partnered with select businesses, including home and auto insurance providers, to give Sponsored Posts a test run. While they have yet to open the floodgates, the company says the option will be more widely available in the near future. When this happens, participating businesses will have the ability to build a geographically-customized audience based on zip code, neighborhood, or individual home address. This targeting method could come in handy when trying to fine-tune your message to homeowners, and/or people who live in a specific community.

Whether Nextdoor will be an effective way to market your individual business depends largely on how active your community is on the site. If you aren’t already a part of the more than 150,000 Nextdoor neighborhoods across the U.S., this might be a good time to sign up and start exploring.

**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.

We are deep into summer. Don’t forget to request our Summer Survival Kit, which provides great tips for advisors on how to deal with the slump in business that naturally happens each summer.

 

What You Need To Know About Facebook’s New Ad Policies

“Your Facebook ad has been disapproved”

Facebook Ad Not Authorized

Those six words have been throwing a wrench in the works for more and more business owners as of late. If you haven’t encountered them yet, the chances will be even greater you will in the coming weeks. In response to the ongoing data, privacy, and “fake news” scandals, the world’s most popular social media platform is making some changes. These changes could have a direct impact on your marketing strategy.

Politically-Motivated Policies

In the interest of transparency, Facebook is tightening the belt on ads pertaining to elections and political issues. The new rules include new verification requirements for advertisers and “paid for by” disclosures on their ads. While the move is intended to slow the spread of “fake news,” there are a few kinks left to be worked out of the screening process. There have numerous reports of ads/sponsored posts being incorrectly flagged as “political.” The flagged ads won’t be approved until the advertiser submits certain personal information.

The policy itself was written with politicians, lobbyists, and election campaigns in mind. However, content from a variety of businesses has also been caught in the crossfire of Facebook’s increased scrutiny. Facebook launched the new political ad rules in late May. The rollout included a list of 20 initial issues that would be used to determine whether an ad was political in nature. A few topics that appear on that list might help us understand why your post about a retirement planning seminar was disapproved:

  • Budget
  • Economy
  • Health
  • Social Security
  • Taxes

Sure, it might seem silly to draw any sort of connection between the November elections and a post about how a tax-deferred annuity can supplement Social Security benefits. But, with a screening process that’s based on a combination of human judgment and a still-evolving algorithm, it’s happening. Has it happened to you? If so, don’t expect much help from Facebook. The company is passing the issue off as growing pains and claims it will straighten itself out over time. This forces non-political advertisers whose content has been flagged to appeal the decision and/or complete the authentication process. Both of these require more time and energy than most of us would rather spend on clients and prospects.

But wait, there’s more…

Dislike Button

The content of your Facebook ad isn’t the only thing under the gun these days. The ways in which you target your audience is also undergoing a major overhaul. The end of June will introduce the first step in Facebook’s move to eliminate “Partner Categories” from the available ad targeting audience. Partner categories consist of consumer data provided by third-party companies that advertisers use when fine-tuning their customized audience. This means that several behavioral and demographic parameters advertisers used to better reach those consumers who would benefit most from their products/services will no longer exist on Facebook’s advertising platform.

What does this mean for you?

Advisors often used income-based targeting options to find qualified prospects. Net worth, homeownership, and financial behaviors have long been used by advertisers when customizing an audience. Beginning June 30, those parameters will no longer be able to be used for creating new or editing existing campaigns. On October 1, any ads using data gleaned from partner categories will no longer be delivered.

Does this spell the end of Facebook advertising? No, absolutely not. Facebook will still remain one of the most valuable ad platforms available. Even after the third-party data is gone, the remaining demographic, behavioral and interest categories will remain. You’ll just have to be a little more creative when doing so. Here are a few tips that can help you work around the changes to Facebook’s advertising platform:

Geotarget Affluent Communities

You can no longer use Facebook to specifically target homeowners who make at least $75,000 a year. However, you can use what you know about your own city to geo-target consumers who live or work in a specific area. This is a good tactic that can be used to create a customized audience of potential prospects.

Replace Behaviors with Similar/Relevant Interests

While Facebook ditched third-party data, that doesn’t mean they’ve stopped learning everything they can about its users. The social media giant uses a variety of online activity to create comprehensive profiles of its users. This includes visited websites and Page “likes.” If you ever expressed an interest in clog dancing, Facebook thinks you might be receptive to an ad about clog shoes. The same goes for those who have searched for things like annuities, retirement, and life insurance. This approach might take some experimentation but can be an effective workaround in the absence of third-party data.

DIY

Facebook’s targeting policies apply to info compiled by third-party data mining companies. But the rules do not prohibit businesses from targeting people based on data they’ve collected themselves. Consider using surveys, forms, or landing pages to help build an audience of consumers who want to see your ad.

In all likelihood, we’re just seeing the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Facebook’s ad overhaul. This means we should expect the “formula” for a successful ad campaign to change with the seasons. Keeping up with it all can take more time than most of you have to spare, but you also can’t afford to waste resources on ineffective advertising.

This is where we can help. If you’d like to learn more about how to keep ahead of the curve, call us today.

Surviving the Summer Slump

Summer has officially arrived! The weather is getting hotter, but for many, business is cooling off. It’s not uncommon for advisors to experience a slump from June to late-August. Clients and prospects are away on vacation or too busy with summer activities to worry about finances. With fewer appointments and less on your plate, how will you spend your summer?

Some use the downtime as a chance to recharge before things pick up again in the fall. Others simply wait it out and accept the summer slump for what it is—an often-unavoidable decline in business. However, as an entrepreneur, you probably aren’t the type to sit around and wait for business to come in. And why should you? You might not produce many results over the summer, but you can still be productive. A little extra effort and creativity is all it takes to beat the summer slump and make long-term improvements to your business. Here are two suggestions to consider.

Get Outside

The summer months are filled with a variety of outdoor activities, events, and community gatherings. In fact, some of those prospects you’ve been trying to reach have probably already made plans to attend one. You should join them! Many community events offer sponsorship or vendor opportunities to local businesses. This can be a good opportunity to boost brand awareness and put your business card into the hands of several potential clients.

Reflect & Refocus

This would be a good time to take a close look at the first half of your year. How are your results matching up with the goals you set for yourself? What are you doing right? What could you be doing better? Even the most successful advisors can benefit from a little self-evaluation. Careful scrutiny of your strengths, weaknesses, wins, losses, and everything in between is a necessary step toward taking your business to the next level.

There are countless other ideas that are worth considering if you want to maintain some momentum during the slow season. Want to hear more? Our 2018 Summer Survival Kit is full of tips that can help create new opportunities while the competition is sitting at the beach.

Fill out the form to claim your complimentary kit today.

Key Takeaways From the Latest SSA Board of Trustees Report

The latest report from the U.S. Social Security Administration’s Board of Trustees brought some troubling news for future retirees. For the first time in 36 years, the SSA will have to tap into its trust fund in order to pay for the program this year.

The June 5 announcement puts a spotlight on the worsening long-term financial status of the combined asset reserves for both the Old-Age and Survivors Insurance and the Disability Insurance trust funds. According to projections, the OASI trust fund will be depleted by 2034. This is one year earlier than previous estimates suggested. The result will be a 79% reduction in benefits. The lifespan of the DI trust fund was actually extended from 2028 to 2032. When this occurs, only 96% of benefits will be payable. When combined, these wells are expected to run dry by 2034. As a result, recipients could lose roughly 20% of their benefits.

A Brightside to the DI Fund Depletion?

While the four additional years projected for the DI trust fund did not budge the overall combined depletion date, it was perhaps the closest thing to “good news” contained in the report. The changed depletion date for the DI reserve is “largely due to continuing favorable experience for DI applications and benefit awards.” In other words, fewer people are claiming disability.

This might suggest that more people are recognizing the value of personally-owned disability insurance as an alternative to SSDI. Perhaps the possibility of reduced retirement benefits could be a much-needed wake-up call for pre-retirees. As noted in the recent Marketing Corner post covering Social Security awareness, more than 40% of people aged 50 – 64 plan to use Social Security as their main source of retirement income.

An Insolvency Crisis?

So, overall, should we start freaking out over the looming Social Security crisis?

Yes, but no.

Shortly after the report was released, headlines and social media posts containing terms like “insolvency” and “bankruptcy” started spreading like wildfire. For many, the news re-ignited fears that they would reach retirement with no benefits. The projected insolvency should be taken seriously, but a little context is needed in response to the alarms being sounded.

The Board of Trustees “consider the trust funds to be solvent at any point in time if the funds can pay scheduled benefits in full on a timely basis.” The words “trust funds” and “in full” should add a little clarity to the overall situation. The trust fund exists to cover the gap between the payroll taxes used to pay for the program. Additionally, the funds cover the actual amount needed for the year. But trust funds do not have “borrowing authority.” When the money is gone, it’s gone for good and the gap will go uncovered. However, payroll taxes will still keep the program alive, albeit in a crippled state. Benefits will still be paid but could be lower and take longer to come.

Cause for Concern

A depleted trust fund means a significant reduction in benefits for everyone. The current average amount of a monthly Social Security benefit check is roughly $1,500. Not really enough for a “financially-secure retirement,” is it? For many, it’s barely enough to get by. We can only imagine the hardships that a reduction in benefits will bring.

There is still time for lawmakers to make the changes necessary to avoid the coming crisis. Lawmakers have presented possible solutions. One option would see a gradual increase in payroll taxes to further raising the retirement age and lowering the cost-of-living adjustments. That said, waiting on a viable solution from Capitol Hill might not be a risk everyone is willing to take. Those facing retirement in 15 or more years will have to find additional income to supplement their Social Security benefits. And doing so means they have to start planning now.

Last month’s post on Social Security awareness asked advisors what they are doing to educate consumers on the program’s retirement benefits. In the wake of the Board of Trustees report, that question bears repeating. What are you, as an advisor, doing to engage more consumers and stress the importance of an alternative/supplemental source of retirement income?

5 Reasons Why Agent Recruitment Can Be Difficult (And How We Help)

One of the biggest challenges agency owners face is recruitment. Without quality staff under your brand, how does your company grow? How do you target motivated people that will successfully join your vision and process?

Below we discuss five reasons why agency recruitment can be difficult and how we can help your firm.

Your ideal agents may be harder to find than you think.

Ideal Candidates Are Hard To Find

New agents may be molded to fit your agency’s approach and vision. Experienced agents will have fluency with product lines and sales techniques. But each also carries disadvantages. New agents may require longer on-ramping, as they may lack knowledge base and drive. Older agents may be less willing to be coached.

Generally, when you want to bring someone under your banner, you want them to have proven experience in the industry, but not so much that they will be aging out of the field soon. This means the number of prospective agents who can become long-term assets for your company is smaller than you realize. There is still great opportunity; you just need to spend more time and effort marketing to the right candidates.

Fill out the form below to claim your Agency Accelerator Guide

The trap that many agencies fall into is taking too much risk on less-than-ideal candidates. You want to grow, you need staff right away. But investing the time and money going after your ideal candidates can pay off huge.

How We Help: Legacy Financial Partners can target and manage your ideal candidates. With a large nationwide database, we can put you in contact with candidates that meet your experience requirements.

 

Cleary setting expectations with new agents can prevent issues down the line.

Expectations Not Clearly Defined

We find many agencies lose new agents because expectations are not clearly defined between the two parties. Terms of employment are often casual, handshake deals, without outlines as to what determines success. Putting KPIs and metrics in a document such as an employment agreement can put you both on the same page. You should also clearly describe the support, coaching, and tools available to new agents.

How We Help: From our experience working with both agencies and individual advisors, we can help your dial-in expectations, goals, and metrics that are reasonable to both parties, with support offered to you as the owner and your new agents.

Your Value Proposition Is Fuzzy

As with your consumer prospects, you should be able to articulate your distinct advantage to agent prospects. Why should an individual agent want to join your firm over others? How are you getting this message out?

For most agents, it won’t be one single thing that entices them to join your firm, but a mix of things, such as:

  • Comp
  • Prospecting and Coaching Support
  • Your Firm’s Success/Branding
  • Independence
  • Specialty Programs/Tools (exclusive, proven marketing programs)

How We Help: Legacy Financial Partners has worked with numerous agencies and agents to identify their value proposition. Our support helps you develop/enhance your business. And through Legacy, you will have access to the marketing tools, programs, and support your agents desire.

 

Your Website and Marketing Materials Are Outdated (or non-existent)

A prospective agent is going to check your web presence and marketing materials at some point in the engagement process. You want to give them the impression that you are a modern, forward-thinking organization. An old website can turn away potential employees, the same way it can turn away prospective clients.

And what about your marketing materials? Do you even have agent-facing recruiting brochures or landing pages? These can be very helpful as you guide a candidate to join your company.

How We Help: Legacy Financial Partners is a digital marketing organization as much as we are a brokerage. We create progressive and eye-catching websites, landing pages, email templates, brochures, and more—all designed to leave your clients and agents with full confidence in your services.

 

Recruiting quality agents takes time–a resource you don’t always have.

Good Agent Recruitment Takes Time

For agency owners like you, time is one of your most precious resources. Not only are you likely servicing your firm’s top dog clients, but you are also responsible for keeping the lights on, handling payroll and personnel issues, approving marketing (or creating marketing) and more. Being your own boss is a double-edged sword. You answer to no one, yet you are responsible for everything.

Throw agent recruitment into the mix and your time is that much less. Good recruiting takes time—in the sense that it can be weeks or even months before your onboard the right candidate and in the sense that it takes time away from your other duties.

How We Help: Legacy Financial Partners agent recruiting solutions saves you time and allow you to engage with prospective candidates further in the funnel.

 

Want to learn more about our Agency Accelerator Business Platform?

Request our Agency Accelerator Business Platform guide.

Going Guerrilla: Marketing Outside the Box

When you think of the different marketing/advertising methods at your disposal, what comes immediately to mind? Digital and print ads? Commercial spots with your local TV and radio stations? Social media?

All of the above are effective ways of getting your brand out there to your target market. However, they also exist in a very crowded space. One where each message is forced to compete for the attention of a consumer base who is already over-inundated with advertisements.

By limiting your marketing strategy to the “go-to” traditional methods, you are thrown into the mix others who offer the same services. Beyond that, your ads are competing against a host of other businesses; all waving their arms wildly and shouting “Hey, look over here!”

Studies suggest the average person is exposed to roughly 4,000 advertisements a day. That is a whole lot of arm waving and shouting. If you want to stand out and rise above that kind of clamor, you might have to go guerrilla.

The concept of “Guerrilla Marketing” can be traced back to the early 1980s when author and advertising guru Jay Conrad Levinson first coined the term. He used it to describe any “unconventional marketing tools used in cases when financial or other resources are limited or non-existent.”

Books have been written detailing the finer points and evolution of guerrilla marketing since it was first introduced. To this day, the overall concept remains the same and can be pinned down to one word—unconventional.

What Does “Unconventional” Look Like?

For starters, guerrilla marketing does not necessarily mean “free advertising.” After all, in order to make money, you have to spend money. However, a little creativity can go a long way when it comes to the money you invest in brand awareness.

At its core, guerrilla marketing is all about taking the consumer by surprise; presenting your business in a way that strikes a resonant chord with consumers. This is actually easier than it may sound if you don’t mind pounding a little pavement. As an independent agent or advisor, your business is based on forging real-life relationships with your consumers. You can get that ball rolling by taking your marketing efforts directly to would-be-clients.

Fliers

Before the days of Facebook, you couldn’t walk past a telephone pole, public bulletin board or storefront without seeing an array of fliers promoting concerts, speaking events, garage sales, etc. In fact, you probably still see them scattered about the community. This should tell you there is still something to this overlooked, but cost-effective promotional vehicle. Consider hanging a few fliers for your next seminar. Just make sure they’re in a well-trafficked area and posted with permission

Plant A Seed

Community gardens and pocket parks are popping up in neighborhoods all over the country. Chances are, you pass by one or more on a daily basis. Chances are even greater that you pass by one or more locations that would greatly benefit from a little beautification. Look into filling those voids with a flower garden and bench, complete with a “Brought you by [Your Brand Here]” plaque that lets everyone know that you have a vested interest in the community.

Make an Appearance

Think about all the various community events, gatherings, festivals, and parades that take place in your area. Are you getting involved in any of that action? You should! Keep in mind that “getting involved” means more than just paying to have your brand displayed on the event poster. Arm yourself with a bag of “swag” (aka cheap giveaway items that feature your logo and contact info) and send everyone home with your brand in their pocket.

If you’re at an event with vendors, consider giving away reusable shopping or tote bags to people as they come in. Charging cables, phone holders and USB drives are also handy items that we never seem to have enough of. And don’t forget about the kids! Sure, a fidget spinner or squeeze ball with your logo might not seem like the best way to connect with people who are interested in retirement planning and life insurance. However, that’s exactly who is going to pick it up once their child puts it down.

This is just a small example of the non-traditional marketing opportunities that you could add to your toolkit. Maybe they’ll work for you. Maybe they won’t. The point is to start thinking outside of your own box. Know that you are not confined by the formulas set by traditional marketing methods. If you’re still looking for new and innovative ways to engage your target market, get in touch to find out how we can help.