The complaint I hear most often is: I don’t have enough quality leads. However, many agents think that when (if) they get that problem licked, they are home free.
Not so. The truth is, a large number of your prospects are either going to be difficult or impossible to get hold of. Many will give you the dreaded “maybe later” answer on the phone or in person. You can waste untold hours trying to bypass their voicemail to present the solutions they need — but you won’t have to if you have plenty of leads waiting for your attention, and you have superior follow-up that systematically nurtures the leads not receiving your personal attention right now.
It is beyond the scope of this article to show how to generate abundant leads but I will address follow-up here.
Did you notice the title of this article included the word “ethically”? In our industry there are countless ways to rip off clients. In my 23-year career, I’ve seen many horribly inappropriate sales — clients who had too much, not enough or the wrong kind of insurance or investments. I am all about selling the products which clients genuinely need, want and can afford. And for clarity, when I say “maximum profit”, I’m talking about earning their trust and all their business for the lines your practice offers.
With that point made, here is the conundrum. Every prospect costs you money. You bought the lead, attracted it with advertising or earned it as a referral. Yet they will not all become clients. In fact, most of them will not. Don’t you wish there was some way to close that conversion gap so you deposited the most possible commissions from your marketing dollars?
The ideal scene is to convert every possible lead into a commission check, cross-sell every client for more business in the household, and receive regular referrals who are pre-sold on how wonderful you are. Well, the secret to getting that result is frequent, quality communication with everyone in your database. And to do that, you must have a superior follow-up system. To fit my definition of superior system, it should meet these three criteria:
- Be quick and easy — so you actually do it;
- Be reasonably priced and cost effective;
- Not be overly frustrating, difficult or require you to learn an entirely new skill set.
What kinds of follow-up do you do now? Good question. Let’s look at some options.
- Call the prospect (Will he answer the phone?)
- Pre-approach letter (Will the envelope be opened?)
- Sales letter (Will it be read?)
- Email (Will it be deleted before it is read or die in their spam folder?)
- Leave a voice mail (Will he return your call?)
Maybe. Maybe not. And how many attempts before you give up? Two tries? A half-dozen? I don’t know about you, but I find it mighty unrewarding to call and write repeatedly, yet, get little for my time and effort. And here is another consideration. Do you sometimes get so busy and overloaded that you don’t do it at all?
The single biggest hurdle you must overcome for effective follow-up is gaining the attention of your audience. Solve that and you are on your way to a close.
I did quite a bit of study and astute observation of what works outside the financial services marketplace before I decided on a client newsletter as my primary, systematic follow-up tool. No matter what other follow-up you do (and you should do a lot!), I recommend you put every lead on your mailing list the moment they hit your radar as a prospect.
When my research pointed to this marketing tool as the very best approach, I began looking for a vendor to buy a done-for-you publication. To my dismay, no one sold anything I was willing to send. It was all boring, dry industry news. No one cares about that stuff, least of all your clients and prospects.
That’s why I created my own. This is my formula for the successful publication — “Victoria’s View”) — I write for my own clients, prospects and contacts. The main newsletter page is 75 percent funnies and trivia and 25 percent agency stuff (recognize referrals, word of the month, etc.) plus I include a light-reading consumer-education article.
Perhaps that is counter-intuitive to you. How can you sell financial products when you waste so much space on nonsense? The answer is easy. People want to be entertained. Amuse them and you will gain their attention long enough to deliver your marketing message.
It is how TV and radio work. You turn it on for the entertainment but at the same time you also absorb the messages of advertisers. In the same way with a really good client newsletter, it’s the funnies and trivia that get the envelope opened. The consumer-education information slides in effortlessly like soft butter on a hot skillet.
This strategy has been working like gang-busters for years. I surveyed my own client readers and here is what I found:
- How long after receiving “Victoria’s View” in the mail do you usually open the envelope? “Minutes” or “hours,” 79 percent said;
- How often do you read “Victoria’s View” newsletter? “Every month” or “most months,” 87 percent answered;
- How often do you read the report included with each issue? “Every month” or “most months,” 74 percent responded;
- How helpful are the reports for learning about insurance? “Very helpful” or “helpful,” 91 percent said;
- What do you usually do with the report? “Keep or pass on,” 56 percent answered.
Those are enviable readership statistics. Not only is my content eagerly anticipated and opened right away but most people read the whole thing including the consumer-education reports, which they keep or pass on. I’m definitely doing something right because people LOVE my newsletter. An excellent client newsletter is, or can be if done correctly, the secret weapon in your marketing tool kit.
- It is the stealth invader into your prospects’ home that bypasses their voicemail and spam box to deliver your unique marketing message to a captivated audience.
- It melts sales resistance and generates in-bound calls for your advice.
- It does its work methodically, month after month, cross-selling your clients and creating loyalty with frequent quality contact.
- Done well, it prompts referrals and inbound calls for your services from clients and prospects.
Keep sending it until they die or buy. The per-person cost of a newsletter is so low for the results compared to the time and money of other types of follow-up. But why is it that client newsletters are so successful?
Bill Glazer, author of “Outrageous Advertising That’s Outrageously Successful,” best summed the value of a newsletter when he wrote,
“They [newsletters] tend to be read as informational, making them more welcomed when they are received. People tend to be more receptive to what you have to say in your newsletter because newsletters aren’t meant to be sales tools. Rather, they are designed to be a resource. People are conditioned to be less resistant to reading information, which is exactly what a newsletter should be. This is a HUGE marketing advantage.“
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A newsletter does not have to be fancy to be effective. In fact, plain, simple versions can work better than authoritative articles with color pictures in a slick publication. Why? Because your clients instinctively know that slick paper and fancy pictures means heavy reading on deep subjects. And they know exactly what to do with that — set it aside for when they have time and are in the mood for heavy reading on deep subjects.
To be entirely truthful, the biggest drawback of a client newsletter is the time it takes to write the darn thing. If you do it yourself, that totally violates the “quick and easy” point above for a superior follow-up system. But if you outsource the writing of the newsletter and the mailing, you could follow up effectively with your entire date base for only about one hour a month of your or your staff’s time. That option was not available to me, but it is to you.
Obviously, even with the best follow-up, not every prospect will become your client. But wouldn’t it rock your universe if you were to close the conversion gap and ethically extract maximum profit from every prospect?
More tips from Victoria: