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Marketing mistakes to avoid

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Successful marketing is hard work. Most people will agree with that. But the payoff is well worth the extra effort.

Advisors who don’t have the expertise or the desire to handle their marketing efforts on their own certainly can find a number of experts to handle their “get out the good word” efforts, people who will tell them what makes a solid marketing campaign. What about the other side of the equation? The things that advisors shouldn’t do. What are the things advisors should avoid doing, or not forget to do?

For the answers to those questions, we turned to a handful of marketing gurus and business coaches. They broke down the mistakes into two categories: internal marketing and external marketing. Here is what they had to say.

Internal marketing

Advisors’ existing clients should be their best source of new business, but many neglect to tap into the potential there. There’s the potential for referrals and recommendations, and there is the potential for further sales to existing clients. That cannot be overlooked.

“Too many people do not work with existing clients,” says Mel Schlesinger, president of Client Creation Academy ( ) in Winston-Salem, N.C. “Your best prospects are your current clients. In the time it takes to find one new client, an advisor can go to five clients and upsell them.”

With that thought, what follows are some things to avoid when it comes to internal marketing.

Family affair

Financial advisors who work with seniors tend to overlook those clients’ families as prospects because of a perceived age gap, but today’s seniors – especially the older ones – are the parents of adult children, many of them baby boomers already thinking about their own retirement. Plus, showing a genuine interest in a client’s family goes a long way toward that client trusting his advisor and thereby referring him to others.

“Advisors need to understand the family dynamics,” says Gerri Leder, the founder of Baltimore-based LederMark Financial Marketing & Communications ( ). “There is nothing worse than a client dying and the advisor knowing none of the family.”

It’s bad for professional and personal reasons.

Too specific

This suggestion from Schlesinger may find resistance from many advisors who specialize, but it makes sense from an overall planning perspective and from an internal marketing perspective. He says people think of being a specialist in the wrong way.

“Too many people are product specialists instead of market specialists,” Schlesinger claims. “LTCI specialists, annuity specialists, they have to find new people to sell to all of the time.”

Advisors don’t have to know everything about every product, he says, but if they are going to be senior market specialists, knowing a variety of products allows them to serve their clients in more and better ways – and can be more conducive to a healthy bottom line.

An alternative to learning more products is to form alliances with people who do. LTCI specialists are particularly adept at this, finding other advisors who work with everything except LTCI and establishing a referral pipeline back and forth. Even with a commission split, many LTCI experts say the alliance route is the best way to go.

The world’s a stage

If the ultimate goal of internal marketing is the coveted recommendation a client makes to a friend or family member, then advisors have to earn it. Stan Hustad, business performance coach, PTM Group ( ), Tucson, Ariz., firmly believes advisors need to perform for their clients and create an experience. The easiest place to control that experience is at the advisor’s office, not the prospect’s home, and the experience should begin the moment prospects walk through the door.

One advisor Hustad has worked with treats clients like respected guests before she even sees them. As soon as prospects hit the door they are met by a secretary who welcomes them, hands them a personalized menu of refreshment choices, takes their coats if the season calls for it and asks them what they want from the menu. Coffee is served in China, soda and water in glassware. The secretary serves the drinks and tells them the advisor will be right with them. As they sit in the waiting area, they are surrounded by pictures of satisfied clients. These touches may seem simple, but they are overlooked far too often in the rush-rush world we inhabit.

Once the advisor is in her office with the prospects, it’s time for her to perform. Different advisors will be comfortable with different methods of performing, but the goal should be the same: to secure a new client by showing how a particular plan can help the prospect and to make the new client trust the advisor enough to offer recommendations.

“Don’t forget the experience,” Hustad says in a voice that would be in all caps if he were communicating via e-mail or text message.

It’s personal

To stand out in clients’ minds, advisors have to go the extra mile. Sometimes, going the extra mile can be as simple as offering a personal touch, such as a birthday or anniversary card, a just-touching-base card, or a hand-written note.

“You have to take time to do it,” says Lori Bochner, president and CMO of DNA Brokerage ( ) in West Des Moines, Iowa. “Yes, it’s time consuming, but you must set aside time to do it. Schedule it every week.”

When Jane Smith tells Jane Johnson that her advisor sent her a birthday card before her son and daughter, that’s a recommendation wrapped in a compliment wrapped in a scolding – another mother will get it.

External marketing

While there may be a few financial professionals who operate entirely on word-of-mouth, snagging so many referrals from current clients that they never have to market to unknown entities, most advisors have to rely on external marketing for at least a portion of their new clients. The problem for many advisors arises when they have to step outside of their proficiency zones of planning and sales, and into the world of marketing. Most will rely on help from a PR firm or an FMO, but even then they need to know what mistakes to avoid.

Chase numbers

Schlesinger thinks too many financial advisors go after too many prospects, which leads to lots of appointments – Good problem to have, right? – but few sales and even fewer relationships.

“I see advisors focus on quantity rather than quality,” Schlesinger says. “They go after marketing from a ‘get the appointment at all costs’ mentality. That’s a mistake, because they spend an inordinate amount of time with people who will never buy. They are talking to people who have no intent.”

You gotta believe

Simply knowing the products inside and out isn’t good enough in most situations. Prospects and clients have to believe a product is going to work; they have to believe in the product’s ability to solve their problems. It’s a lot easier for consumers to believe in something if the person offering the product to them believes in it. One way to communicate one’s belief in something is through storytelling.

“Nothing significant happens until your story and their story meet,” Hustad says. “The first marketing piece should be a story about why you believe in LTCI, annuities, life insurance or whatever.”

Hustad says he sees storytelling as especially effective in the LTCI arena.

“Most people know someone with a long term care story,” he says.

And, Hustad says, the benefit of a well-told story is that audience demographics become less important because stories allow readers to take from them what they find important. An older consumer may see reason to buy LTCI immediately, or he may encourage his adult children to buy early. A younger consumer may see his own parents in the story and buy a policy for himself so he and his family are never faced with a dire long term care situation.

“With LTCI,” Hustad says, “if you don’t tell stories, you’re making a big mistake.”

One and done

A sure way to lose a basketball game is to fall victim to the dreaded “one and done” syndrome on the offensive end of the floor – not getting any offensive rebounds on missed shots. Coaches talk about second-chance points like they are as valuable as gold nuggets (unless a team manages to shoot at an unlikely 70-percent clip). Lori Bochner says the same is true with marketing: not following up can be dangerous.

“Agents ask for a magic bullet, and there isn’t one,” Bochner says. “It takes a consistent, well-thought-out plan.” As part of that, “Don’t just send a mailing once. Mail it repeatedly, and put your picture on it.”

Good for the gander

Everyone has heard the old adage that what’s good for the goose is good for the gander. Well, that may not apply to marketing strategies, especially if advisors consider themselves the geese. Life would sure be easier if there was a neat, easy-to-predict way to determine exactly what consumers want. But that’s not the case. Advisors shouldn’t make the mistake of assuming they know what will draw people in.

“One mistake I see [financial professionals] make,” Schlesinger says, “is that they create marketing ideas based on what they think people need instead of what people want.”

An example he uses deals with LTCI. Advisors may know that seniors need a good LTCI policy, but what many seniors want is good home health care. They want to age in place – that is what Schlesinger calls the emotional hot button. Until they understand that LTCI allows them to receive good home health care, they don’t care about LTCI. The same goes for annuities and life insurance. Until seniors understand that those products can fulfill a particular need, they aren’t that interested. Make sure marketing materials address real-life wants.

If you have a marketing mistake you’ve learned to avoid – possibly the hard way – send it to Editor Brian Anderson at [email protected] .

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