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To achieve marketing success, spend smarter not more

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Here’s a question we get almost every day from advisors:

“Why are my marketing dollars not generating better results?”

Can you relate? If you’re like most advisors, you spend thousands of dollars on marketing campaigns, generate a handful of leads and are left scratching your head and wondering what went wrong.

It’s frustrating not getting the results you’re looking for, or worse yet the results you NEED. We’ve seen it ourselves many times, and in this post I want to shed some light on how and why this happens.

Before I do that, though, let’s set this much to rest: The solution to your marketing challenges is NOT to simply spend more money on what’s not working. While it seems many in our industry would encourage you to do so, that only compounds the problem, and the stress. Instead, understand the pyramid of engagement and you’ll quickly realize why your results, or lack of results, are happening and more importantly, what to do about it.

The pyramid of engagement

Every prospect in your market falls somewhere on the pyramid of engagement. We use this analogy to visualize the buying process. As they move through the natural buying process, prospective clients move closer and closer to the top of the pyramid where they ultimately take action.

To be honest, most prospects in your market live at the bottom of the pyramid. They’re completely unaware that they even have a need for the product or service you offer.

One level up from the bottom, prospects begin to become aware of their need, and begin to think that maybe they should look into it.

Next they move into the information-gathering phase of the pyramid. Today, armed with their smart devices, most people do their research online — yet many of the advisors we work with tell us their first effort to engage someone in the buying process is to try to get them to attend a seminar or come into their office. When a prospect is in the research phase, they’re often not ready for that step yet, and thus most advisors’ marketing campaign dollars are wasted on prospects not ready to make a commitment.

Rather, after doing their own research, prospects are primed for the analysis and comparison phase of the pyramid. This is the stage where they begin to look at options for how to solve their problems and look to see who might be able to help them. Following analysis and comparison comes the interview and evaluation phase.

Have you ever had this happen? 

A prospect comes in for a first appointment, and as they leave they say, “Well, this has been great. We have a lot of great information to think about now. We’re actually in the process of talking with a few different advisors, and will be in touch with you down the road should we decide to move forward.”  As painful as it is, now you know that you’re hearing that because they are in the interview and evaluation phase of the buying process. 

The pyramid of engagement represents a universal buying process. You could apply it to every product, every service and every company out there. Depending on the industry, prospects might ascend to the top of the pyramid quickly, over a day or two, or over weeks or even months.

When you’re helping clients manage and plan with their life savings, it’s typically a longer process. The good news is that when you’re aware of how the pyramid of engagement with your firm works, you can create a smarter way of doing business — one which will yield better results and give you a significant amount of your time back.

Old school vs. new school

Most advisors don’t know, or care, where prospects are in the buying process. Their goal is to force everyone to the top, convincing them to take action now by using clever closing and sales pressure techniques. In fact, we’ve probably all done this. Think of the sales culture we grew up in and the conversion tactics we were taught when we got into this industry.

Now obviously, if you’re still doing all of your follow up manually, you’re going to feel the pressure to close hard and fast. Otherwise, you risk not closing enough business today to stay in business tomorrow. And obviously you can’t afford to starve while waiting for people to get ready to buy, and you for sure don’t have the time to manually nurture every lead you generate for months on end.

But the truth is, in the 21st century, there’s no reason to be following up manually. We need to communicate with prospects based on where they are in the buying process and by leveraging the mediums they prefer.

This is where we can really leverage the pyramid of engagement to bring your marketing efforts to the next level. There are many tools available you can use to scale and focus your marketing and follow-up communication and stop sending everyone the same generic messages. 

Nurturing prospects through the buying process

Think of your prospects as living in three distinct camps: cold, warm and hot. If you spend your entire marketing budget on closing your hottest leads while ignoring everyone else, you’ll be leaving the majority of the potential in your market untapped. Real growth doesn’t come from spending twice the amount of money as the competition on finding just a few more prospects ready to buy today. It comes from successfully converting leads that you’d otherwise be throwing away.

One of the biggest problems we see is advisors treating every prospect as if they’re ready to buy today. You can see this in our seminar invitations, radio ads and calls to action. We act as if everyone in our market were somehow perched at the top of the pyramid ready to take action. Of course, that’s not the case. 

Instead of continuing to treat prospects this way, you need to create specific offers that are designed to lead prospects through each and every phase of the pyramid.

Calls to action

What differentiates a call to action for someone at the bottom of the pyramid from one designed for someone at the top? The greatest difference is in the level of commitment we’re asking for from prospects.

A high-level commitment call to action requires a lot of the prospect. Attend our seminar, call our office, come in for an appointment. All of these are big steps for someone who is just beginning the process. For a prospect that barely knows you, it’s a quantum leap in the buying process. People don’t get married on the first date, yet often that’s the expectation we communicate to prospects. Bottom line, you can’t expect a client to hire you on the first date.

By contrast, a low-level commitment call to action asks much less of prospects. Read this blog, watch this short video, or download this case study. Calls to action like these don’t require the prospect commit to anything, or risk getting roped into a sales conversation. All you’re doing is placing before them a resource to help them on their journey of self-discovery and research.

This helps build awareness and gets them engaged and looking to your firm for quality information. At the bottom of the pyramid, it’s all about engaging the prospect with helpful content and earning the right to have them spend more time with you.

Now, if a greater commitment offer like a seminar or in-office appointment is appropriate for hot prospects, and the low-commitment offer is appropriate for prospects just beginning the buying process, what types of offers might you make to someone in the middle of the buying process?

For warm prospects, offering more in depth valuable content — such as an ebook, video course or webinar — makes a lot of sense. They have given you enough of their time and requested low commitment content from you, and if they like it, it’s only natural that they want to learn more from you. This is lead development.

Since their buying temperature is increasing as they move up the pyramid, they want more information. They’re more engaged and interested, so we can ask more from them as we give the more.

As you can see, it’s important to think through how you’ll engage with prospects as they move through the natural buying process. You need different tracks of content designed for prospects at each stage of the pyramid so you can walk along with them as they move through the buying process, always at their pace.

Mastering the pyramid

To recap:

  • In the beginning, give prospects a quick hit of valuable content and help them as they become aware of their need.
  • As they move through the buying process, continue to offer highly valuable content in exchange for more of their time and commitment (i.e. attending a webinar or watching a video).
  • At the top of the pyramid, ask for much more from them as they are much closer to making a buying decision.

If you’ve been struggling to understand why your marketing efforts aren’t producing greater results, it may be that you’re treating all prospect the same. There is a better way. It starts with asking for less of a commitment from prospects early in the process and putting out low-level calls to action to bring more prospects into the funnel.

Then, you can create additional follow up tracks of content and even automate them to move prospects up the pyramid until they reach the point that they’re ready to buy.

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