Leads. Advisors must have them to survive. They are the lifeblood of any successful business. Without them, advisors have a couple of choices: Spend more time on the golf course or milk their existing book of business for all it’s worth – which isn’t a bad idea but can take a person only so far. Leads. Gotta have them, but how does an advisor keep a steady stream of them rolling in? Seminars? Going it on their own? Using the experts?
Many advisors find great success with seminars, getting in front of crowds of seniors anywhere from a couple times a week to once every month or so. Successful seminar presenters manage to convert a high ratio of seminar attendees into clients based on traits ranging from the seminar content to the advisor’s personality to the attendees’ specific needs. Much has been said and written lately about seminar saturation – the fact seniors in populated areas get too many invitations to too many seminars from too many advisors – but seminars still get the job done for a good number of advisors.
Advisors who don’t use seminars- either because they aren’t comfortable in front of groups of people or because they concentrate solely on selling – have to decide the best way for them to keep the prospect pipeline full. Established financial practitioners may have the luxury of running a 100 percent referral-based practice, picking and choosing new clients from the pool of prospects referred by long-standing clients. Those who don’t have that luxury are faced with the task of using some of their valuable selling time to prospect, which isn’t always the best scenario.
“Most folks want to focus on selling instead of prospecting,” says Bob Weir, president of Riverhead, N.Y.-based Lead Strategies.
Weir’s statement illustrates why lead generation companies exist: to allow advisors to sell and create financial plans. Advisors certainly can do their prospecting on their own. They can buy or create their own lists, mail to those lists over and over again, and do all of the follow-up, or they can use a lead generation company to take care of all that for them. Technology has spawned new ways to generate, follow-up with and close leads, but the traditional methods still work, too.
“Using a direct mail company specializing in leads for the senior market allows the senior advisors to send out larger mailings more affordably than them doing it on their own,” says Michelle Bardin, an account/sales supervisor at Rockwall, Texas-based TargetLeads. “And it helps them free up their time to do what they do best – sell.”
Whether an advisor uses a traditional lead generation company or a company that uses the Internet, a few things are clear. First, advisors are likely to save money. Companies that specialize in lead generation can compile lists faster and more effectively than a person working alone. Plus, those companies can use their massive mailing volume to save money on postage. If an advisor’s 5,000-piece mailing is sent at the same time 20 other advisors’ mailings are sent, postage costs are significantly lower. Bardin says an advisor trying to do it on his own likely will have to pay first-class postage.
“Individual advisors can’t do the volume we can on printing, mailing, etc.,” Weir says. “Plus, it takes a bit of time.”
Another advantage to using a lead generation company is that advisors are paying for performance.
“A producer who is good at seminars is paying for a list, the mailing, a meeting room in a hotel, food and more,” says Matt Burskey, chief marketing officer for AnnuiWeb Direct. “And he pays for that whether people show up or not. When you’re using a lead generation company, you’re paying for performance.”
Burskey, whose Ann Arbor, Mich.-based company specializes in Internet leads, discourages advisors from using just one lead generation source, something that may seem counterproductive for a man who makes his living that way, but he says advisors shouldn’t put all of their eggs in one basket – much like successful advisors probably tell their clients.
Lead generation companies are plentiful, so what should an advisor look for in a prospecting partner? One of the first things advisors should consider is a company’s track record. Has it been around for several years? Can you ask other advisors about their experiences with the company? Does it have a clean record with its local Better Business Bureau? Do some homework on several companies before you choose one or two to work with.
“Make sure you know the people you are going to work with,” Weir says. “Make sure they’ve been around a while. It’s nice to give people a chance, but don’t blow your entire budget on someone new.”