Lead generation. No two words strike more of a sickly feeling in the hearts of most senior advisors. That’s because a great many of you don’t know how to tackle the problem.
Certainly, you’d like to drive new leads to your business and believe that direct mail is at least part of the answer. But the thought that keeps you up at night is this: Are you doing enough, and are you doing direct mail correctly? Sounds like you better grab this tiger by the tail …
While there are advisors and firms doing a fine job when it comes to direct mail and the larger pursuit of lead generation, they aren’t in the majority. That’s the opinion of Jorge Villar, president and partner of Response Mail Express in Tampa, Fla. Villar’s business, which specializes in lead generation programs, spreads its efforts across 15 different industries. Having worked for the past dozen years in the financial world, what Villar has witnessed leaves him shaking his head.
“Lead generation in the financial services industry is terrible,” Villar says. “It’s the most emotional sale that one person can make – you’re asking seniors to part with their money. But even professional copywriters I know haven’t attempted to write for [this market] because most people simply aren’t going to choose an advisor based on a piece of mail.”
No matter how snappy an idea you might bring to a direct mail piece, it’s very difficult for people to make a decision on an advisor based on words on the page. Villar notes a recent Ameriprise mailing that garnered a response rate of one-quarter of a percent on a million-piece mailing. “It’s just plain difficult to use ink on paper and the vehicle of the mailbox to get people to respond to any type of financial investment.”
Villar says that advisors can be off the mark with their message, their medium and – quite importantly – their frequency of communication. “I’ve never ever seen a company or an advisor do a multiple mailing campaign in my 12 years in this space. That mentality doesn’t exist in the industry.” Advisors do single mailings while pharmaceutical companies, by contrast, frequently put in an order with Villar’s firm for 22 mailings. They commit to a program over a long time span and, ultimately, earn a strong return as a result. “I really don’t think [many people in the financial industry] understand direct mail,” Villar notes. “And even when an advisor does, they don’t stick with it long enough to bear out results.”
Marty Baird, founder of Advisor Marketing in Annapolis, Md., says advisors tend to be short-sighted in their marketing plans. “Unfortunately, most want to use a stopwatch to measure evolution,” Baird says. In that sense, he reasons, a financial advisor is as guilty as his clients, who expect returns on an investment right away. “We tell investors to have a five- and 10-year horizon with investing,” Baird says, “yet most advisors have a 90-day or six-month view of their marketing efforts and whether they’re paying off.”
The good news about all of the bad news, of course, is that if you can execute direct mail and other forms of marketing properly, you will stand out from the crowd. When it comes to crafting direct mail – be it to drive folks to a seminar or place your services at the front of their minds – Maribeth Kuzmeski, president of Red Zone Marketing in Libertyville, Ill., says your efforts have to meet three criteria.
First, it has to be compelling. And by compelling, Kuzmeski explains that you’ve got to have an idea and presentation that really stands out from the clutter. “To achieve that,” she says, “you’ve got to test it in small numbers and, when you find something that works, send it out more broadly.”
Second, your communication has to be personal. “It has to touch them personally and say something that gets them where the pain is. That can be included in the message but it can also be a hand-written note, or sometimes it’s a picture. It’s a personal communication.” Something that engages that reader into wanting to continue a conversation with you as an advisor.
Last but not least, the mailing has got to be response-driven. “There’s got to be a very specific purpose to it,” she notes. “Something that makes that prospect pick up the phone right now.”
Those ideas, however, should not be taken to mean that direct mail is the only route to success as an advisor or that no one is doing it right. On the contrary, a blending of messages is often the best way to drive business to your office.