Disney aficionados out thereor anyone who spends time with children under the age of 10know these words. Cinderellas fairy godmother utters them just before turning Cinderellas meager surroundings into something pretty impressive: The pumpkin becomes a carriage; the rats become dashing horsemen; and Cindys threadbare clothes become the ball gown to top all ball gowns.
Have you ever thought about whats really happening here? Its some quick-thinking, rapid-fire marketing. Theres no other option, really. Cinderella has until midnight to snag the prince, or its back to scrubbing and washing for the three mean ladies back home.
|THE GOLDEN RULES OF MARKETING|
Do you often feel the same pressure? You know youve got to attract new prospects and generate some business, but your marketing plan doesnt seem to be cutting it? Your marketing plan doesnt have to resemble the launching protocol manual for a rocket, but it must be something you can get off the ground, something with manageable components, and something youll do continuouslystarting today and ending the minute you retire.
There are as many marketing techniques as there are advisorsand not everything works for everybody. But looking at what a few successful advisors and a marketing expert are doing may serve you well as you embark on recharging your marketing plans.
Larry Chambers, a marketing expert and author of Credibility Marketing: Build Your Business by Becoming a Recognized Expert, suggests credibility marketing as a surefire technique for his clients. Through the credibility marketing process, you turn your knowledge into written articles that clearly outline a problem and present a solution. The person reading the article recognizes that you, the author, can solve problems like his, and will turn to you whenever he needs help. Chambers says it eliminates the people who arent interested in your servicesand attracts those who are.
The credibility marketing process unfolds like this:
First, become an expert in a particular area of insurance and financial services. This means you have to be aware, informed and accurate at all times.
Credibility marketing takes a commitment, but the good news is that not everyone is going to do it, so youll stand out.
Then, decide which market you want to focus on, and which of that markets problems you are going to solve.
Next, write down the problem you are going to solve and your solution for it. Write clearly and simply. This step is key.
Now, develop a list of the magazines and other publications that your market reads. To do this, you can ask your clients what trade magazines they read, notice whats on their desks and check out the stacks at local libraries.
Then, email or call the editor of the magazines and tell them about a problem youve seen a number of your clients struggle with and your proposed solution. Many of the publications you contact will accept articles from outside writers.
Once you receive a positive response, you have to commit time every day to getting the article done. Credibility marketing takes commitment, but the good news is that not everyone is going to do it, so youll stand out, says Chambers, who suggests that advisors try to place one article per quarter. As your articles start to circulate in publications, says Chambers, people will remember you as a problem solver, and you become the advisor they contact when their needs surface.
The biggest trap to fall into is writing about yourself instead of about a problem your reader has. Its not about you, stresses Chambers, its about the client. Other trouble spots include making too many points in your article and trying to write an award-winning piece. Keep it simple, keep it concise and solve the problem. Let the publications editors do the rest.
Heard, but not seen
Like Chambers, Gary Thomas, CLU, ChFC, J.D., LLM, believes that creating name recognition is what marketing is all about. Thomas, owner of The Wealth Technology Group in Springfield, Mass., and a member of Springfield (Mass.) AIFA, takes a different route to establishing himself as an expert: the radio.
He has created a following as the regular guest on a weekend radio program that takes calls from listeners. While this may sound scary, its not far-fetched to think you can do it, too. There are scads of weekend and late-night radio programs, and many of them are starved for guests. Very often these radio shows feature segments on financial planning, retirement, college planning, charitable giving, etc.
If youre active in NAIFA, youll make more money in commission than youll ever pay in dues, without question.
Brown & Brown Insurance
Radio hosts are also experts in guiding radio neophytes through the interview, so there is no need to worry about crashing and burning when you do get a spot on a show. Because of fierce competition and ratings, the host wants your interview to succeed as much as you do, and will do all he can to put you at ease.
To get yourself on the radio circuit, contact the programming directors of a few stations whose listeners are in your target market. (The advertising departments of the stations can tell you who their listeners are.) Tell the programming director your expertise, and let him know that youre available. Heres a hint: Let the programming director know that you dont mind last-minute calls. The best relationship you have with a station could begin when a pleading programming director calls because the scheduled guest backed out at the last minute.
Keeping the momentum going
The radio program has worked for Thomas. Even though we werent targeting a specific area or market, our name was in the community, he says. And this resulted in calls from interested individuals and groups who wanted more information.
Thomas does not just sit back and rely on the radio show to bring in prospects, however. He keeps in touch with every person who contacts him. Its a big job, for sure, but he doesnt let up. He maintains a drip marketing program, using a mix of emails, newsletters and clips to keep in contact with clients and prospects. His perseverance is paying off. A lot of advisors arent communicating a lot with their clients leaving them out as fair game, he says.
He also relies heavily on the phone. Thomas has a licensed caller who sets up quarterly phone appointments with clients and warmly interested prospects. Its a step in between; they dont have to commit to coming in, says Thomas, who believes it separates his firm from the pack. Marketing is putting your name in front of people with a casual interest and the money to buy. When you call on them, theyre predisposed to buy.
Sticking to a plan wasnt a problem for Dean A. Meyer, ChFC, CLU, LUTCF. The marketing challenge he faced recently was how to switch gears without missing a beator losing his already hard-earned reputation.
Meyer had built up quite a property and casualty agency, which he sold in 2000 to become an independent P/C agent. Last fall, he was recruited by Brown & Brown Insurance in Ft. Collins, Colo. Meyer felt like a brand new agent because the firm wanted him to sell group health, life and disability income insurance.
He didnt let the change set him back to square one. Instead, he used his experience, his contacts and good old Ma Bell to build his new following. Meyer knew that he needed three things: a top 10 list of centers of influence, a list of wildest dreams companies, and a solid referral sourcehis local association, NAIRA-Larimer.
To build centers of influence, he started with people he knew when he was a P/C agent. He visits with them at least once per quarter to get referrals and introductions. He recognized that he also had to cultivate a center of influence that he didnt have from his P/C days: someone with access to the human resources personnel in his new target marketsmall businesses with 20 to 100 employees. He decided that staffing agencies fit the bill. I stop in and tell them what were doing and talk about my ideas. I find that people are willing to give us an introduction to businesses they work with, he explains.
Meyer also contacts a group of larger companies that Brown & Brown is trying to cultivate, which he calls his top-20-of-my-wildest-dreams companies. I stay in contact with them once a month with a newsletter or a clipping I can mail or email, says Meyer.
Its smart to belong
The jewel in Meyers marketing crown, however, is NAIFA-Larimer. Its a fantastic source of referrals for him. There are agents who dont want anything to do with health or employee benefits work. They will refer me to those clients. They know Im knowledgeable and wont get involved in their business. If youre active in NAIFA, youll make more money in commission than youll ever pay in dues, without question, he says.
When Meyer goes out on calls, he arms himself with a list of companies located where hes headed. He uses a database that plugs him into information about businesses. The bonus is that Meyer doesnt pay for the database. I use ReferenceUSA. Typically wed pay $1,000 for something like it. But we connect through our local library and get it for free, he says.
With all of these prospects and leads in hand, he works the phone faithfully. I set aside three days, one and a half hours a day, and identify 30 names to call. When I sit down to make those calls, I know 50 to 60 percent will get me through, he says. They become Meyers warm prospects. Eventually, he gets an interview with half of them. Ultimately, he closes 25 percent of those.
While working the phone is highly successful for Meyer, Richard Sullenger has fallen in love with another marketing method: seminars. Seminars are the wave of the 21st century, if you do it right. Its the best way to build trust with a large number of people at one time, he says.
Sullenger, a past MDRT president and a member of the Kern County (Calif.) AIFA, has had a lucrative career since entering the business in 1963. I was always a good producer, but I had no central focus. I wanted to make a change, he explains.
At the 1996 MDRT meeting, he attended a workshop on seminars, and returned home to radically realign the way he marketed The Sullenger Financial Group. Sullenger decided to focus his attention on conducting seminars in the retirement marketplace in his quest to make his firm a household name.
is putting your name in front of people with a casual interest and
the money to buy.
The Wealth Technology Group
How it works
The process of planning a seminar has become a near science for Sullenger and his staff. They work with Response Mail, a Florida-based company that prints and mails invitations to 5,000 addresses in the ZIP codes Sullenger selects. The invitation offers two seminar options, one on a Tuesday and the other on a Thursday. Because the invitations are targetedgoing to retiree-rich communitiesSullenger averages between 45 and 55 attendees each day.
On the day of the seminar, Sullengers staff makes reminder calls to those who have been invited. Sullengers seminars start at 5:30 p.m. and end at 7:30 p.m., when dinner is served. (He recommends serving more than just hors doeuvres.) He says its critical that you not talk about yourselves or try to educate attendees about products. And dont try to present too much information either. Instead, use the seminar as an opportunity to disturb the attendees.
|SULLENGER'S SEMINAR SUGGESTIONS|
According to Richard Sullenger, of The Sullenger Financial Group, for seminar success, attention to details is critical, and the event has to be a class act. Here are other dos and donts:
He also advises you to keep details in mind and dress
in a suitand for men, with a tie. While speaking, he suggests you
make a mistake here
and there. If you try to be too slick, youll turn seniors off. With this audience, you just need to be very relaxed, be one of them in a way, he adds. Its also important to encourage attendees to make follow-up appointments before they leave. Then, the next morning, make sure you call attendees who left the
seminar without making an appointment with you.
Sullenger has some lessons
to pass on to those interested in seminar marketing. Initially, his group advertised in the newspaper. Three people showed up at his first seminar. They changed the ad, and the numbers picked up, but those attending werent the people he wanted to work with. Thats when he decided to go with mailing mass quantities of invitations to specific geographic areas that he knows have lots of retirees.
Sullenger cautions that seminar marketing is not for those who cant get up in front of a group. Whats his best piece of advice? Do it first class or stay out of it, because youll just hit and miss, he says.
Keith Gillies, a member of the Greater New Orleans AIFA and the Louisiana state membership chair, says one of the keys to successful marketing is remaining flexible to changes in the economy, consumer preferences and technology.
Gillies, who is affiliated with Union Central, is taking advantage of technology. His firm creates its own multimedia business card, which is a CD-ROM the size of a business card. A friend introduced him to the idea a few months ago. He researched the auto-run software products on the market and decided to buy AutoPlay Media Studio (www.autoplaystudio.com). The software costs about $500; each burned CD is about 60 cents. If someone looks at it, and theyre interested, great. If not, Ive lost only 60 cents, he says.
Gillies spent about 40 hours during two or three weekends getting information loaded into the software. To avoid any trouble spots, his firm had a number of versions approved by his compliance department.
With all the heavy lifting and implementation done, Gillies firm needs only to keep the information fresh and accurate. I like the flexibility of using a multimedia card we develop and burn in-house. We can change the contents to fit an individual or group of prospects. Navigation is just like a website. Prospects can email us or visit our website with a click, he explains.
Gillies always carries the cards with him. I dont make more than 10 at a time, so theyre always up-to-date. If I run into someone who asks me what I do, I give him a CD-ROM and tell him to pop it into his computer. From a prospecting point of view, theyre curious about the itty bitty CD-ROM, he says. Then, Gillies finds, they become very curious about what he can do for them.
No magic wand needed
Sure, it would be great if you could wave a magic wand and a high-net-worth prospect looking for a trusted advisor appeared right before your eyes. Lets face it; that just isnt going to happen. Youve got to invest in, and stick to a marketing plana series of activities to stay in touch with your target marketto attract customers and keep the prospect pipeline filled.
Besides, magic wands are few and far between.