Getting To The Top Of Your Market

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As every successful business person knows, the ultimate goal of any profession is to make a profit. How we achieve that goal, however, defines each of us as a professional, and a person.

Most advisors share the belief that our profession is invaluable to our clients and that their success becomes our success. However, in todays increasingly competitive and automated world, it is becoming harder to meet and connect with the people with whom we want to do business.

Families and business owners are constantly short on time with work and family obligations, consuming weekdays, evenings and weekends. Everyone, too, is overloaded with information and sales pitches: from direct mailers to bothersome evening callers hawking products and services.

Our sales ideas and services are in danger of becoming part of that noise. People now have access to many insurance and investment products through varied distribution methods.

The question then becomes: How are we, as professionals, going to cut through the clutter and sell clients the products they need? How can we create healthy business relationships and be seen as knowledgeable professionals and resourceful providers for our clients and the marketplace?

The answer: We must learn to market for sales. More than ever, we have to define an action plan and process for making ourselves visible to our clients, grab the attention of our prospects and create sales opportunities. Over the past five years, I have worked extensively to accomplish this goal through a variety of ways and opportunities.

Develop A Plan

First, you have to develop a plan. I annually work with my general agent and mentors to identify my best clients and then develop a marketing and public relations budget to gain visibility. You, as an individual producer, must learn the ways in which you can “share the cost” of these marketing initiativesefforts that you may have avoided previously because you deemed them too complicated and expensive.

Look to your general agent, mentors, other centers of influence and even your peers for ways to cooperate on administrative, marketing and emotional support.

Create your message as part of your plan. My goal is to project an image of success and uniqueness. I define myself as a professional who can listen well and offer services to my clients as the services relate to their financial goals and dreams.

When creating a plan, I first identify my top clients and prospects. I mainly work in the individual marketplace with families, successful business owners and professionals who are involved in their communities.

Having three school-aged sons, I realized that my goals were similar to most of my clients: to spend time with my children, especially on the weekend, in activities that bring families together. All of my boys are involved in sports and I have been fortunate enough to coach all of them and their peers.

My involvement in coaching has led to our familys increased connection within our town. Besides being a wonderful opportunity to meet new people, this exposure has allowed me to generate meetings and to answer questions about peoples financial problems and concerns, leading inevitably to business opportunities.

Know Your “Elevator Talk”

To assist prospects who ask for your advice on the baseball field, you have to have your “elevator talk” prepared. By that, I mean you need to explain your profession and how you can help them quickly, effectively and in a non-intimidating fashion.

I talk about my unique planning methodology that helps people make better financial decisions. And I let it be known the people I help are in my peer group. And I tell prospects that I have all the same concerns and problems as they do, from selecting the right mortgage to planning for a comfortable retirement.

Knowing that I am one of their peerssomeone they see often who is committed to my own family and community for the long hauloften breaks the barrier for these prospective clients. They know I understand them and face the same challenges but have the knowledge and resources to help them determine and achieve their financial goals.

Support Your Community

In addition to coaching, I keep myself visible in the marketplace by sponsoring events in town. (These need not be expensive sponsorships; for between $100-$500 per event, you can gain incredible exposure in your target market.) Additionally, my wife involves herself in volunteer activities and helps me in selecting opportunities for sponsorship.

In exchange for a sponsorship, you can expect to receive your name and firm information in all event advertisements, posters and banners, plus the program booklet. Believe it or not, few financial professionals take advantage of local, nonprofit event sponsorships!

Even with all the other financial services firms in my area (suburban Boston) no one else seems to be consistently researching these opportunities and investing in this type of very successful marketing. For a minimal investment I have established myself within my target market as a caring, concerned business owner who gives back to the community. When people see me, they have an idea of what I doanother reinforcement that leads to trust.

Additionally, I participate and, whenever possible, expand upon the outreach efforts of my general agency. One example is a special seminar that our general agent offered to parents of young children.

I invited clients and prospects to our agencys “Raising Financially Fit Kids” workshop, which expands upon a book by the same name. The focus: helping children learn the value of money, an issue of concern I myself share with my clients.

As a follow up to the seminar, I bought multiple copies of the book. Rather than simply drop them off to clients, I worked with a local business to create an innovative mailing packagecomplete with an oversized chocolate “dollar bill” bar for the kidsto cut through the clutter of the mailings these folks typically receive.

I sent the package with a personal note, again explaining that I thought the book a great resource and that my wife and I had found it useful in teaching our sons about the value of money.

Become A Networker

Networking is critical to success in our business. To that end, I always find out the professions of the people with whom I come into contact. I refer business to them and engage them in casual meetings so they can become comfortable with me.

If I hear that a friend or acquaintance in town has become unemployed, I will offer to share coffee or a meal and see if I can match the individual with my network of clients and other centers of influence. There is no better advertisement for my practiceor greater personal satisfaction for myself as a friendthan to be able to positively impact the lives of those I know.

Create Memorable Experiences

I am fortunate to be a season ticket holder to the Boston Red Sox. Whenever I can, Ill take present or prospective clients to a game (these tickets will be especially important now that my beloved Red Sox won the World Series) or give them the tickets so they can take their families.

People thank my wife and me for making this opportunity available. Its a simple gesture that really makes a difference. Who can forget an afternoon or evening at Bostons famous “Green Monster?”

Season tickets to college events are also an inexpensive alternative if the availability or cost of major team sports seats is too daunting. I also have season tickets for Boston College Hockey and Basketball. The games are accessible, provide a high level of competition and the setting is family-friendly.

Finally I would like to share with you what I feel is my best sales practice: an event I created entitled “Swing for Success,” a golfing lesson. With a local estate planning attorney, I sponsored three golf lessons last spring.

Attendance was limited to 15 people; each invitee was encouraged to bring a guest. The feedback was tremendous. Indeed, we had to turn away people. After individual lessons, we retired to the clubhouse for well-deserved refreshments and camaraderie.

In such a small, relaxed setting my co-host and I were able to get to know each of our guests a little better. That set the stage for future business opportunities.

I hope some of these ideas help you as you create your unique marketing plan. It takes time and consistency to gain traction and notice. The result of such work will be better relationships, more productive meetings and a way for you to achieve the two most important goals of all: being a top-notch professional, and helping your clients achieve their financial dreams and goals.

is a financial specialist with The Bulfinch Group, a Boston, Mass.-based general agency of The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America. He can be reached at barryz@bulfinchgroup.com.


Reproduced from National Underwriter Edition, December 30, 2004. Copyright 2004 by The National Underwriter Company in the serial publication. All rights reserved.Copyright in this article as an independent work may be held by the author.