What does digital marketing even mean? Is it one of those phrases thrown around to make consultants money? Is it like synergizing paradigms for maximum results or something like that?
Well, Jeremiah Desmarais says he knows what you are talking about because he has helped actual insurance agents and financial advisors 10X their businesses using digital marketing and has seen skeptics become believers.
He has real-world examples, such as an insurance agent who generated 324 leads in 10 days with $10,000 in commission in 24 hours using one email, and a retirement planner who filled his Social Security seminar for $20.19 using Facebook. These are just a couple of ways advisors were able to generate business using simple techniques.
Jeremiah has been in the insurance marketing trenches for more than a decade, helping boost revenue for organizations such as Norvax/GoHealth, Applied Systems, UnitedHealthcare, Aetna, Humana, Allstate, the United Nations and more than 100,000 agents in 51 countries.
He also has honed his message on the speaking circuit and recently boiled down the lessons into a book called Shift: 201 Proven Methods to Sell More Insurance and Financial Services Online Now.
In this interview with Publisher Paul Feldman, Jeremiah talks about what digital marketing actually means, and how agents and advisors can use it today to boost their business.
FELDMAN: How is digital marketing transforming the way agents and advisors are doing business today?
DESMARAIS: Digital marketing has proven to be the next way to interact and engage with prospects and clients.
Gone are the days when we actually had to travel to meet people. Ten years ago, if somebody had said, “I can show you how you could possibly save an extra $100,000 for retirement. Just click on the link that I just sent you in your inbox and I’ll show it to you right now,” people would have said, “No, I have to meet over a kitchen table.”
Digital marketing has allowed advisors and agents to have more time freedom, which I think is really important with the amount of chaos and confusion that exists in all of our lives today. It also has allowed people to have more time to be in control and really work on their business.
FELDMAN: Do you have examples of how digital marketing helped advisors free up time to focus on their business?
DESMARAIS: I’ll tell you a quick story. One of my clients was an individual advisor who had a successful agency, but he didn’t have a lot of time. After working with him for three months, we implemented two digital marketing strategies.
One had to do with prequalifying leads over the internet, and the other one had to do with generating more leads over the internet as opposed to just relying on newspaper ads, which is what he was doing before. When I followed up with him about 90 days after he implemented all of this, we were doing a Skype call and he said, “Hey, I want you to meet somebody,” and he pulled his wife into the video.
And I said, “Who’s this?” He said, “This is my wife, and I just want to tell you that because of the techniques and the training that I went through, my wife was able to quit her job and we now have more free time and we have more revenue.”
He added $100,000 in income — in extra income that year after just 90 days of implementation. His wife was able to quit her job and now they work together. So that is a great testimony to how digital marketing can empower advisors today.
FELDMAN: Are internet leads different from traditional leads, and do they need to be worked differently?
DESMARAIS: Absolutely. Most financial advisors are used to leads that come from either a seminar where the person has been indoctrinated for an hour and got to meet and know and like the person, or from referrals.
We know with seminar leads, you might get maybe 30 percent of buying units to visit your office. We also know that referrals typically have anywhere from an 80 to 90 percent close ratio.
But when you get to internet leads, you can have as low as a 5 percent, even a 3 percent, conversion ratio depending on the type of lead. That’s where you get into the world of the different kinds of leads.
FELDMAN: What are the different types of online leads you are referring to?
DESMARAIS: The most common lead today is called a shared lead. It’s the lowest-cost lead. You can typically get them for around $10 to $20 a lead. These are leads you can buy from lead aggregators that basically spend millions a year on SEO, and buying traffic and affiliate networks. So these lead companies will go out and find people who have prospects who they are already marketing other products and services to, and they’ll say, “Can you put my offer for a free life insurance quote in front of your audience?”
And they might pay that person $2 to $5 for every qualified person and then they’ll sell that information to an agent for about $10 or more. The problem with a shared lead is that a lead generated in this method is usually shared among multiple agents, so then it becomes a race to contact that lead.
There are lots of tools out there such as autodialers that can actually be quite fast, but you have to be sitting on the phone. Then even if you are one of the agents who is the first to get there, typically the person is going to be bombarded by other calls at the same time. A lot of consumers end up getting frustrated and never end up buying, which is why the conversion ratios are so low on those shared leads.
The second tier of lead is called the exclusive lead. These leads will be charged usually at two to three X premium price over a shared lead. I use exclusive leads, but not all exclusive leads are truly exclusive. That’s because consumers may not have visited only one website. They may have put their information on one website, and you bought that information at a premium price because you don’t want it to be shared among their other clients. But that person could’ve gone to three or four other websites shopping around for an insurance quote.
So your truly exclusive lead is actually a shared lead. Although they do have a little bit of a higher conversion, most people today don’t believe in the value of an exclusive lead unless you get to the next level, which is a live transfer.
Live transfer leads are not offered by all companies, but live transfers are where somebody has generated an interest. A call center has made a call on your behalf, qualified the person and asked, “Are you ready to speak to an agent right away?”
And if that person says yes, they put that person on hold and they transfer the call over to you. Those leads obviously come with a much higher cost but also a higher conversation ratio.
FELDMAN: How effective is social media for leads?
DESMARAIS: The best leads are actually the ones that you generate on your own, which is why we’re seeing so much success using two tools, specifically, Facebook and LinkedIn.
Facebook allows you to target potential investors by age, demographic, region, interests, hobbies, and how much money they have, the type of credit cards they own. It’s almost a little bit scary the amount of data that Facebook has. They also integrate with the three major data aggregators — Equifax, Epsilon, TransUnion. So they know everything about your credit, and these are all things that you can target.
If you only want people who have large homes, who have at least $500,000 of investable assets, have good-paying jobs and they love to golf, well you can put an ad directly in front of them.
And what’s really fascinating for me to watch right now is how two models can work together: seminars and digital marketing. Traditionally, seminars have a of about $200 per attendee or buying unit.
We worked with a client to create a small Facebook ad in a very small area, and we targeted maybe about 20,000 people. The client was able to reduce his cost from $220 to $26 per attendee showing up to his seminar, and that’s unbelievable.
So digital marketing is not only transforming the way leads are generated but it’s also enhancing the way that seminar marketing can be done. Advisors who do love to do seminars and want people to be indoctrinated in their philosophy can significantly reduce their cost-per-attendee by using that methodology.
FELDMAN: How are people advertising on Facebook to promote their seminars?
DESMARAIS: The ad is quite straightforward. It’s funny because the more creative the ad, the less it converts.
First, they’re identifying their target area. So Facebook has a page called Business on Facebook.com where you can go and set up a free account. They really try to make it much easier than it used to be in order to help people spend more money with them.
Then you decide what kind of ad this is going to be. Usually you want to make this an ad where you get people to go to a page. That ad is usually straightforward. It says “free financial planning workshop” or “free tax preparation workshop.”
Don’t write in too much of a direct response model. That may work for direct mail but doesn’t really work well for Facebook. What works well for Facebook is ads that are just very straightforward. I can actually read one here.
FELDMAN: OK, let’s hear this Facebook ad.
DESMARAIS: The ad is very straightforward. It might have a picture of you as the one who’s presenting. In some areas, it has an icon of a money bag or the image is the actual location. If you’re doing your seminar at a restaurant, you have that image right there. So: Free financial planning workshop, Houston, Texas, July 27 through 29.
People click on that ad and it goes to a landing page. So that’s really how they’re using Facebook. The beauty of Facebook is that with all the tools, you can get so granular in the types of people that you focus on. You can show it just to women; you can show it just to men; you can show a certain look of an ad to somebody who is affluent and a certain look of an ad to somebody who might have less money but might be a good Social Security or Medicare lead for you.
Then those ads lead to a landing page, which is very, very simple. It has a headline that gives a benefit of the seminar and underneath is a video, usually of the advisor talking briefly about what people are going learn at the seminar. This is important so that people feel like they’re building a relationship with a real human being who is going to help them, and that this not going to be some big corporate production. And then at the bottom you have the dates, and they can opt to sign up for either of the seminars.
The one metric on Facebook that is important for people to know is the drop-off. In direct mail, you get maybe a 30 percent drop-off from the people who sign up. So if you have 100 people who sign up for the seminar, maybe 30 people won’t show.
In Facebook, because it’s a digital environment, people don’t have a lot invested in the commitment. All they did was a couple of clicks. Typically, you might see a drop-off of about 50 percent. Some people might say, “Well, that’s worse,” but actually it isn’t.
In a typical direct mail scenario, you don’t have the prospect’s email address, but with Facebook you do. And we can follow all the people who clicked on your ad all over the internet. We’ve gotten their pixel, which is the new currency in media ownership. It allows us to track that person all over the internet.
With the email addresses of the people who didn’t show up, you can drip on them and invite them to, let’s say, a virtual workshop. That’s where you actually jump on GoToMeeting and teach the same thing you did live.
Or you can put them in an automated funnel where people get three short videos that are really your presentation broken down into three parts that you release to them over time.
And you nurture them that way and then at the end, you offer a chance for them to get a strategy session over the phone for their tax planning, financial planning, Social Security planning or whatever it might be.
FELDMAN: Tell us what a pixel is and how it works.
DESMARAIS: A pixel is just a small piece of code on your landing page that tracks who that person is and where they logged in from. For example, if I click on a Facebook ad and go to a page, I not only have been pixilated — tracked by Facebook that I engaged with that ad — but when I get to the landing page, there’s a piece of code that goes back to my Facebook ad that says Jeremiah clicked on this landing page, so we’re gonna add him to the people who are more interested in that landing page.
The other piece of code you have on there is a small pixel from Google, which works with the Google display network. The Google display network is a network of millions of websites willing to accept ads that Google approves. I don’t need to see what the ad is, I just know that Google will choose the most-likely-to-click ads and put them on my website. Typically, you’re always logging in from the same mobile device or the same computer. So now that you’ve been tagged, that little pixel is going to follow you wherever you go.
If you have ever been to a website and then you went to another website where you saw an ad to go back to website A, that’s an example of how a pixel works. Because you visited that website, they said, “I’m going to show you ads to help you come back to my website and hopefully buy something.”
In this case, it gets you to come back to my website either to come to my next seminar, download my eBook or get some other form of value-added incentive to give me your information.
This is really futuristic stuff. But I see that what’s going to make a lot of advisors and media companies in our space very successful over the next five to 10 years is being able to own the pixels of the preretirees and the retirees.
Imagine if you had a million people you’ve targeted on the internet, which is very easy to do, and it doesn’t take more than a couple of months or maybe even a year depending on how aggressive your marketing is.
FELDMAN: Not only does it re-engage people but it gives you credibility because you can be advertising in The New York Times or USA Today. In your book, Shift, you talk a lot about automated webinars. What are they and how are you seeing them best being utilized?
DESMARAIS: Automated webinars are webinars or presentations that you’ve recorded and that people can play back. What’s really clever about them is that people can sign up to see your webinar go live at specific times of the day, specific days or every day, even three times a day. And when people sign up for them, they feel as if it’s a live experience.
So they come to the page where they can choose an 11 a.m. or a 3 p.m. webinar and sign up for it. The automated webinar platform will email them their personalized link.
We’ll send them reminder emails to show up, and we’ll track whether that person has actually showed up. And assuming you have a good call to action in the webinar — to get on the phone to book an appointment — you will see these regularly occurring leads coming into your office because you’ll have a virtual presentation running up to seven days a week.
What I love about them as well is when people do not show up for the webinar, an email will remind those people to come back for a replay or rebroadcast. And these tools typically take maybe one to two hours to set up. Some of them will actually do the setup for you, and all you have to do is upload your video and a lot of the content is already done.
A lot of the follow-up emails are already written, and all you have to do is go in and customize them a bit. What’s nice is you don’t have to show up to do any of the webinars live because you did them once, but they perform for you forever. And then you can send traffic to it through your email list.
You also could joint-venture with an attorney or a tax preparation professional and offer this as a value-added webinar to their audience, so they email it to their people. You could send LinkedIn connections and Facebook traffic to the webinar.
In my book, I have a whole chart on how to structure that webinar so that you get the highest engagement. One of my FMO clients used it, and they had an incredible revenue-per-attendee. Using automated webinars is how they grew their business 611 percent in 90 days.
FELDMAN: When doing an automated webinar, do you recommend using your usual seminar or presentation or do you modify it for the format?
DESMARAIS: It’s typically the same. You do lose a few of the techniques to get people to engage when the webinar is not live. For example, in the live seminar you can ask people to shout out questions, and that gives a good back-and-forth with the presenter and creates more dynamics. On recording the webinar, we typically recommend people take the core teaching deck they usually use, with maybe a little more strength in the closing offer so that people are motivated to take action. You also can use scarcity, by offering consulting for only five people who are on the webinar, for example.
Another technique I like to use is to tell people that at the end of the webinar they’re going to get a special gift if they stick around until the end. And then you can give them something like a free guide or retirement cheat sheet or something of that nature.
FELDMAN: How about LinkedIn?
DESMARAIS: LinkedIn is probably the biggest blue ocean for agents today because it’s so underutilized. Most agents use it as a resume, but it’s a powerful lead-generating tool. With just 20 minutes a day of constantly connecting with ideal prospects, we’re seeing advisors today generate anywhere from one to 10 meetings a week with different scripting approaches. Simply because nobody else is out there doing it.
FELDMAN: What are some things agents and advisors can do right now to build business?
DESMARAIS: Just start with email. You already have it, you don’t have to buy anything, you don’t have to learn anything; and it’s mostly free to use. Get an easy win for you. Once you’ve got that easy win, tackle something that might stretch you a little bit more.
FELDMAN: I know they’re in your book, but would you give us a couple of tips on writing a really great email?
DESMARAIS: It all starts with the subject line. Have a compelling subject line that makes people want to open.
There are two different philosophies and techniques that work. Recently, there was a study done by BuzzSumo that analyzed something like 10 million subject lines in business-to-business settings. So this would be, let’s say, commercial lines or executive benefits or voluntary benefits. Going into a corporation, telling them what’s in the email is usually more effective.
When you’re going to consumers, you can be more creative. A good subject line can be as simple as “quick question” written in lowercase, because that looks like it was written by a human being and not a marketer. Another one is “Can you help me?” And that one is asking for a referral to the right person inside of a company if you want to sell them a certain type of policy.
So it all starts with the subject line. Once they get inside the email, you only have three seconds or less to get their attention. So the first line in the email will have to get to the point.
One of the scripts that’s worked the best is telling people why you’re reaching out to them. So, for example, if I’m reaching out to affluent executives who work in the San Diego area, I would open my email with “I work with affluent executives who work in San Diego to help them protect their wealth and assets.”
Or if you’re going after certain job titles, you can say, “I work with other CEOs in the San Diego area leveraging little-known ways to protect their assets from taxes” and so on and so forth. You want to get to the point right away and always try to find points of commonality in the first sentence.
In this case, I told them I work with CEOs, so that’s one point of commonalty. No. 2, I’ve told them I work with other people in their city, so I’m not some call center or some national firm. I’m an actual human being. The third thing you want to do is give them proof points.
If this is a cold email and they’ve never met you before, you have to prove what you’ve done already works for other people who are just like them. You may want to enter a line in there that’s something like “Here are a few of my recent success stories. I helped a CEO of a Silicon Valley company save X amount and preserve $500,000 tax-free when he gets into retirement.”
But you don’t need to be so needy all the time. You can almost take it away from people. You can say, “Obviously, Paul, I don’t know if you’re a good fit for what I do, but would it be worth getting on the phone for 15 minutes and seeing if there might be a good fit?” So do a soft takeaway because one thing affluent people do not like is having things taken away from them. Well, that’s actually all of us, right?
FELDMAN: Yes, the fear of missing out certainly motivates people.