From the January 2011 issue of Investment Advisor • Subscribe!

January 1, 2011

Facebook and the End of “Push” Marketing

Facebook could supplant company websites

Despite my constant harping, financial advisors still ask about lead generation, aka “push” marketing techniques, following my presentations. They want to know what works. To me, this is always truly amazing … because I had just finished sharing exactly what does and doesn’t work for the better part of an hour.

“Push” or “lead generation” marketing is a series of techniques with a goal of generating brand new business relationships from prospects who do not know the business. This type of marketing includes cold calling, direct mail for lead generation, newspaper/magazine advertising, canvassing and public seminars. You probably built your business on techniques similar to these.

These techniques rarely work well in today’s financial services industry. Here’s why:

1. Compliance has sterilized the marketing message.
The most popular content techniques must be used in order to get someone’s attention, break through their sales resistance and compel them to pick up the phone. The first of these techniques is to brag about performance, the second is to provide client testimonials. However, depending on your license, you may be outright barred from both, or incredibly limited. This is due to compliance limitations which, while there for good reason, can make marketing more of a challenge.

2. Investor fear has them paralyzed.
The hype and fear machine, (also known as “The Media” or, more specifically, cable news networks), has done a phenomenal job of scaring most investors into complete inaction. I’ve spoken with countless advisors who relay the same story: “Almost daily I talk to a prospect who is completely unhappy with their portfolio performance and who wants to move, but is incapable of pulling the trigger.” With this kind of reluctance in the marketplace, the chances of an investor calling someone they don’t know based on a piece of direct mail or advertisement is incredibly low (I’d guess nil).

3. The Internet.
The Internet has radically changed the way we make purchases and decisions. Twenty or more years ago, perhaps a cold caller could get your attention on the phone, build some rapport, and maybe even convince you to make a purchase. But, how do we buy now? We see a product on television, see a friend using it, hear about it on the news, and we look it up online. Before buying, we read about it, check out consumer reports, compare prices, sort through reviews—as consumers, we’ve taken control. We no longer tolerate being “sold” anymore. We sell ourselves.

So … what now?

A few years back, I witnessed a technology futurist explain to a stunned audience that within a couple of years, a business’ Facebook page would be more important than their main website. I guffawed in disbelief!

Now, I’m certain that he is right.

Facebook now has over 500 million active users worldwide, according to the company’s press page. Two of the co-founders of Facebook just made the Forbes list of the 400 richest people.

Not only is the sheer volume of subscribers interesting, but more importantly, so is what they’re sharing. People spend over 700 billion minutes on Facebook every month. They share information on where they eat, where they shop, what airlines they fly, what they drink, where they go for entertainment and more. We are absorbing their posts, and they influence our behavior—including what we buy.

What does this mean? It means that Facebook is not only changing what we buy, but the very psychology of how we buy. Every day we become more resistant to the antiquated “sales pitch.” We simply walk away when someone we don’t know tries to sell us something—anything. Strangely enough, in this digital age, without a relationship, it’s awfully difficult to sell. Relationships (aka brands) are more important than ever.

So, what should you do with this information?

First, stop thinking that Facebook is just a chat site for teenagers and get ready to eat the “I’ll never have a Facebook account” declaration that you made to yourself not so long ago. Second, get yourself a Facebook page (if allowed by compliance) if for no other reason than to understand what everyone is talking about. Log in weekly (at least) to further introduce yourself to this new culture.
In short, Facebook is changing the way we interact, buy and behave. It’s time to embrace the future, because it is no longer the future. It is very much present.    

Peter Montoya runs a marketing firm that specializes in serving Financial Service Professionals. He is the creator of the MarketingPro system. You can learn more about him at www.PeterMontoya.com.

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