Wayne Gretzky says: “Don’t skate after the puck…skate where the puck is going to be.” AP Photo/Lehtikuva, Markku Ulander.

The sales industry, regardless of product, traditionally has a herd mentality when it comes to marketing or overall sales strategies. The annuity industry is no different, but this is not a good reason for agents and FMOs to flock to the next “shiny thing.”

Not everyone can have “six pack” abs or can afford to spend tens of thousands of dollars a month on Internet display ads. My definition of a successful agent is one that knows who they are, knows the client types they like to work with, and are consistent with their business and marketing strategies. They don’t get distracted from all of the ongoing “noise” around them.

The annuity world is very small, and we all hear the crazy sales stories that tug at the subconscious to chase after that “perceived success.” I encourage agents to stay the course and be true to themselves, and to remember the reason(s) that they have chosen to offer “transfer of risk” annuity strategies to a starving public who are hungry for these products.

For decades, I personally witnessed the “me-too-ism” of the large wirehouse brokerage firms leap frog from focusing on mutual funds, then to muni-bonds, then to alternative investments, and then to the incorrect premise that every client needs a fee-based account. It was comical to watch the ongoing “mine is better than yours” product marketing strategy between the firms. It still goes on to this day, even though it seems like the final fork in the road is with fee-based accounts. 

Wall Street firms love to be able to track future projected revenue, which is the primary reason they love fee-based accounts. Please spare me the argument that it’s because fee-based accounts are in the client’s best interest. That might be true for some clients, but is not the primary reason firms push this strategy to their advisors. I’m waiting for annuity companies to eventually end up in the “world of trail commissions” because Wall Street fee strategies are usually the forecaster of things to come.

Since leaving the “master of the universe” wirehouse firms years ago to become Stan The Annuity Man, I have witnessed annuity sales trends that are ever changing, always copied by the herd, and fun to look back on. Below are some recent annuity marketing “pucks” that agents have been skating after.

Bad Chicken Dinner Seminars

Florida has really cracked down on this, which is sad for my parents that live in St. Augustine and who ate for free on a weekly basis. I used to send thank you notes to the agents for feeding them, and lowering my mom’s and dad’s monthly food bill.

Mass Postcard Mailings

I know that carriers and FMOs still do this based upon the mail I get on a weekly basis. My parents tell me that they don’t get these anymore, so I guess agents aren’t doing this as much.

Made Up Certifications

Thank goodness that the industry has started cracking down on this nonsense.

Ghost Written Annuity Books

Remember those horribly written books that agents could buy in bulk with their name on it? They might still exist, but I hope that trend is over.

Tax Return & Social Security strategies

This stuff I still see all of the time, and I guess still works. I just am not a personal fan of these “back door” marketing strategies.

Saturday “Expert” Radio Shows

Only a select few can pull this off in a professional way. I have personally seen four annuity agents in my area come and go on local radio in the last few years. Most of these shows are brutal to listen to.

Local cable TV Ads

Most of us have a face for radio, so TV doesn’t translate for the majority of agents. The ego trip of seeing yourself on TV normally doesn’t translate into long term sales.

Internet Ads & “Informational” Videos

This is the newest “shiny thing” and is already seeing some early saturation. The big boys are hammering it here and spending real money, so be careful with any delusional Internet marketing thoughts of annuity web domination.

A very long time ago, I put myself through college and got multiple degrees by being able to shoot a basketball pretty well. I had no choice in the matter since both of my parents (yes my mom too!) were college basketball coaches. What I learned from that life adventure is that everyone has a specialty, and only a select few can “do it all.” My specialty was shooting, my teammate Brad’s was rebounding, etc. The question is, what is your specialty?

Every week, I get numerous calls from agents asking me about my business model and what I am doing from a marketing standpoint. My answer is always the same. Forget what I’m doing. What do you want to do? How do you want to run your business? What type of clients are trying to attract? What type of marketing do you feel most comfortable with? And the most important question, what kind of lifestyle (sales and non-sales) do you want to live?

Wayne Gretzky has been quoted a million times when he said: “Don’t skate after the puck…skate where the puck is going to be.” For all of us annuity agents and financial advisors, we need to skate where “our puck” is going to be and not be sidetracked by the next perceived “marketing holy grail.”

For more from Stan Haithcock, see: