Like every aspect of a successful business, marketing plans need to be re-evaluated and re-invigorated on a regular basis. If your promotional efforts haven’t been delivering the results they once did, perhaps it’s time to give the plan a shot in the arm. Examine your current sales strategies and see if you need to make some adjustments.
Timing is everything
When is the best time to ramp up your marketing plan? “There are certainly a number of schools of thought regarding the best time to enhance marketing efforts,” says Todd Rockey, vice president of strategic development for Marketing Informatics in Indianapolis. “Do you wait until business is slumping or do you build marketing efforts upon your success while business is great? My experience has proven that the best time to enhance your marketing efforts is when it seems you need it the least. I am a firm believer in building upon the success you are having, by intelligently allocating your resources (money, time and people) while they are available, and parlaying your business strengths into a bigger and better organization. It’s much easier to promote your business and sell your products and services from a position of strength than from a position of declining financials, lost clients or negative results.”
Planning for success
When you find a strategy that’s working and repeatable, by all means add it to your annual planning calendar. Alan Hartman of Legacy Partners in Macon, Ga., has developed an annual strategy that helps him keep specific projects on track. “I focus my direct mail efforts during five key months,” he explains. “I send out flyers on term insurance, annuities and LTC during September, October, November, February and March. January is a tough month right after the holidays, and in the summertime many people are gone. But the promotions from those five months usually generate a reasonable number of prospects to work on throughout the year. You have to spend your money where you get the best results.”
Experts recommend following a regular schedule – such as at the beginning of every month – to review your marketing plans and make needed adjustments or corrections.
“Advisors should tune up as much as ramp up,” says Ryan Urban, president of Insure Colorado in Colorado Springs, Colo. “I strongly recommend a regular review and re-organization of an advisor’s marketing plan to insure that it’s still appropriate and up-to-date. Delete the strategies that are not working, beef up those that are and create new strategies. And just as important, be sure you have a specific plan to follow. Creating a marketing plan is the easy part; follow-through is a different story. Know exactly who you’re going to contact; know exactly how you will handle that contact; know exactly how you will follow up.”
Reevaluate seminars and workshops
Are your workshops still generating strong response, or is it time to rethink your approach?
“The seminar results are no longer as fruitful as they once were,” an advisor laments. “I still get about the same number of attendees, but the conversion to appointments and the conversion from appointment to sale has declined significantly.”
“Workshops and seminars are deteriorating, because more advisors are doing them and there has been some negative press about ‘free dinners’ and so forth. We’re all combating that image,” says Leonard Martin of Leonard Martin & Associates Inc. in Warwick, R.I. “I always invite my current clients to attend our seminars and bring their guests. I usually have five or six of my existing customers among 25 to 30 new attendees, and it’s a great way of establishing credibility because my clients can address concerns and speak to the issue of ‘Is he for real?’ from their own experience.”
Watch for promotional opportunities throughout the year. “Local communities always have senior-oriented events at regular times during the year, such a senior expos and holiday dances,” Urban says. “Advisors need to stay connected to the senior services community to know exactly when these events are and how they can become as involved as possible. Planning ahead like this helps advisors keep their marketing budgets organized. Also, staying connected within the local senior services community keeps networking efforts alive.”
Replenish your referrals
Are you actively recruiting ‘centers of influence,’ like CPAs, attorneys and bankers, that you can team up with to share referrals and combine marketing efforts? Are you maximizing your time and money in your involvement with groups like the chamber of commerce? Do you consistently ask your customers for referrals? To increase his referrals, Martin recently hosted both a luncheon and dinner for groups of CPAs. Martin gave a talk geared toward tax and retirement issues related to IRAs and 401(k)s. The meetings attracted more than 50 CPAs, all of whom have the potential to send referrals Martin’s way.
Reevaluate the marketing ‘mix’
“Marketing strategies are as diverse as the businesses and organizations with whom we partner,” Rockey says. “The variables that enter into the marketing mix strategy are numerous and unique. For instance, we serve many great nonprofit organizations that focus their yearly fund-raising activities around just a few key events. With limited marketing budgets, it is important that they allocate resources towards those premier events.
“On the other side of the equation, we serve businesses that must continually compete for market share and for whom name and product recognition must be nearly immediate. Awareness and promotional campaigns serving that community of clients require repeated, consistent branding and messaging. In my more than 20 years of experience developing, implementing, measuring, and managing marketing strategy and efforts for a very wide range of industries and organizations, those who have performed the best were those who planned and executed a precise ongoing marketing strategy and then supplemented those efforts with well-planned and intentional special events.”
Gratitude and good prospects
“I hold quarterly client appreciation lunches for my customers and their colleagues,” Martin says. “[The Society of Certified Senior Advisors] helped me put it together, and I assembled a group of professionals focused on helping seniors in the community: an attorney, a reverse mortgage specialist, an accountant, a home health agency, a realtor that specializes in the senior market and a medical equipment expert. We work together and offer presentations on social and health issues in the senior community.”
Martin’s last luncheon attracted 36 people, and the experts split the catering expenses. Martin presented a half-hour program supplied by CSA entitled “American Crisis in Living,” about the challenges posed by Americans’ longer life spans. He then introduced the panel and led a question-and-answer session. After the presentation, one-third of the attendees scheduled private consultations. (Also, Martin notes, the attorney on the panel became a client.)
“I think that one of the most important areas that marketing managers and strategists need to focus on is the area of intelligent targeting,” Rockey says. “The return on the investment one makes on analysis of their client base, identifying their best target candidates based upon that analysis, and focusing a message and offer to that group is outstanding. Through intelligent targeting, any organization – from businesses of any size to nonprofits to government agencies and universities – can increase the efficiency of their marketing spending and in turn spend less on production and fulfillment costs and still increase qualified lead generation, closed sales and greater revenue.”
Martin sums it up: “You can’t keep throwing money at things that aren’t working,” he says. “Salesmanship and the days of calling 50 people to get five appointments are gone. I’ve seen a lot of changes in 31 years. The bottom line is, we have to be good marketers. It’s not about products any more, it’s about ideas.”