From the November 2013 issue of Research Magazine • Subscribe!

October 28, 2013

Seeking Your Endorsement

An ad campaign for a local election plastered the faces of four community members who supported the office seeker.

I found this interesting and noteworthy: Were these four endorsers national celebrities? Local celebrities? Writers whose astuteness and judgment could be verified through a quick Google search?

Actually, none of the above. In fact, they were probably known to few community members. So what did this fab four all have in common? They all had the letters MD next to their names.

Granted, we’re far more familiar with political campaigns with politicians standing next to men with hard hats and other such folksy images. But this was an election targeting an affluent and educated community.

I thought of this in connection with this month's cover story on prospecting for retirement clients (“Tales of Smart Prospecting”). There are all sorts of angles—indeed, our article profiles five distinctive approaches with the idea that readers will perhaps get ideas that sync well with their own style.

And yet I hearken back to the four doctors. Why would a campaign seeking the support of an affluent, educated public—the same target audience that financial advisors are busy prospecting—list the names of four doctors rather than four supermarket clerks?

And the answer is of course obvious. Doctors are assumed to be smart and capable for the unarguable reason that they spend many, many years getting through college, medical school, residency and often specialist training. They have to do well in difficult subjects like organic chemistry just to pass go.

What's more, doctors are involved in noble and high-stakes work: saving lives and healing the afflicted.

I know of another profession that also involves noble and high-stakes work: that is the work of a retirement advisor. Given longevity trends and the fact that most people have little sense as to how they can achieve steady and sufficient income in the years they may be too old to perform the work of their younger years (or lacking in desire to do so), the provision of retirement advice is a rather critical function in today's society.

Yet I have not yet seen financial advisors sought out, as a group, for their endorsements. And though the work of advisors is noble and vital, it must be emphasized that financial advisor training not always but often lacks the rigor that characterizes other professions.

There are training opportunities out there. The Retirement Income Industry Association (RIIA), whose annual meeting I just returned from, is a stellar example—for those seeking opportunities to enhance their professionalism while capitalizing on the marketing advantages such specialization confers.

RIIA member Dana Anspach, profiled in our cover story, offers astute advice: “Create a niche in the retirement market. Learn all the ins and outs so that you become the go-to expert in your area.”

On your path to acquiring that knowledge, I advise you to read Moshe Milevsky's educational (and suspenseful!) Annuity Analytics column “A Most Curious Will(iam)” and Michael Finke's “What Do Annuity Buyers Want?” in this issue. You’ll see that in-depth understanding and broad knowledge on retirement income (and other) topics are more accessible than you might have thought. And hopefully it won’t be too long before your endorsements are sought—at least by clients seeking your recommendations.

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