Q. How have you incorporated technology into your approach to the middle market? Do you market on the Web or through any social media tools? If not, why not? And if so, have you had the kind of results you were hoping for?
Guy E. Baker, MSFS, CLU, founder of BTA Advisory Group, Irvine, Calif.: We are using our website as an education tool. You cannot talk to anyone anymore who has not gone to your website to find out about you and your company. The Web is becoming an interactive brochure. With video, you can now put up a meaningful message and keep it current. So this is something every agent should be considering. Besides, it is fun to play around with various ideas and see what happens. There is one investment manager who has accumulated more than $1 billion from Internet inquiries.
As for social media, this is a growing area and again requires content. So yes, we are experimenting with it and hoping to find a workable combination. I have gotten several leads from people who have found us on the Web. It does work. But it cannot replace our basic prospecting activity. It is only a supplement.
Richard F. O’Boyle, Jr., LUTCF, M.B.A., licensed life and health insurance agent, Islip, N.Y.: I consider myself a technology-forward advisor in that I try to communicate with my clients on whatever platform they use. I have a blog and a monthly e-mail newsletter that I take pride in. I use my website to brand myself and convey my knowledge and experience. Nevertheless, I try to minimize the amount of e-mailing of quotes and illustrations, and I try to use e-mail only to schedule appointments and medical exams. I find that a lot of the important detail gets lost unless it is conveyed in person.
Marc A. Silverman, M.B.A., ChFC, CFP, founder of Silverman Financial, Miami: We have a large database of people we have met with over the years through seminars. We have developed relationships with these people using workshops to explain their company-sponsored pension plans. We do not actively engage in social media because of the strict regulations outlined by FINRA; however, we do market through the Web as allowed. We also e-mail prospects regarding upcoming workshops to encourage attendance. This has proved to be of real value because prospects share event information with friends, family and colleagues, broadening the opportunities for new client relationships to form.
Q. Can you share an approach to prospects in the middle market that has worked well for you recently?
O’Boyle: It’s old school, but I still use a detailed fact finder and budget-based needs analysis. I came from New York Life’s training program, which instilled those as the basics of building the value proposition. With a more affluent prospect, I present whole life insurance within the context of all of their other investments, showing that correct positioning of their assets can possibly minimize income taxes and build a conservative foundation to their portfolio. That’s not to say that I still don’t present whole life insurance to the middle-market prospect — I find that the cash flow isn’t always there to support the premium.
Silverman: The approach that has worked well for us is to target a specific market, namely the electric company, the telephone company or the Florida retirement system. The common ground is all of these prospects work for the same company, and they all have the same pension plan. These folks need to be educated on how their plan works. Assuming you do a good job for this market, your name spreads in a very favorable manner. By hosting workshops to explain their pension plan and/or 401(k) programs, your business has the potential to increase significantly.
Baker: The name of the game is trust and credibility. This happens fastest when you are referred by someone the prospect trusts. So I am doing what I have always done. I network in organizations where I can meet people. I build on the chain of influence, and I ask for referrals. There is no shortcut to this process. You have to be out there seeing the people. Sitting behind my desk is not going to get me any leads or business.
Charles K. Hirsch, CLU, is a contributing editor to Life Insurance Selling. He is the president of Hirsch Communications Consulting LLC, in Florissant, Mo.