Frank Kern. Most likely you had one of two reactions to seeing that name.
Frank Kern! He’s the President of the Internet! He knows how to market online like nobody else!
Frank Kern is one of the most successful Internet marketers on the planet and the self-proclaimed President of the Internet. He has been behind (and a key influencer in) many successful product launches, including StomperNet, a coaching and resource service for online marketing that sold more than $23 million in just 24 hours. But you might not have heard of Frank, because he isn’t headlining Million Dollar Round Table or other high-visibility venues. He shares his secrets in seminars and in consultations.
Success didn’t come easy for Frank. When college didn’t pan out, he began his career as a door-to-door salesman for a credit card processing company. Frustrated with rejection, he turned to the Internet in 1999 (coincidentally, the same year InsuranceNewsNet started) to figure out how to sell credit card processing “without having to talk to anybody.” Little did he know how transformative that choice would be for his life.
Fast-forward to today, and Frank is one of the highest-paid marketing consultants in the world. His laid-back style and delivery are unorthodox, yet he has inspired and coached hundreds of thousands of Internet marketers to reach incredible levels of success. His information products, including Mass Control, Infomillionaire, List Control and Mass Conversion (to name a few), have sold tens of millions.
So why are we talking to an Internet guy? Because he has been coaching insurance agents and knows our business. And he is focusing on the key techniques that brought success to him and to all the people he has helped over the decades.
In fact, even though he is associated most often with Internet marketing, it is the last thing that Frank talks about with agents. His magic bullet? It’s an actual thing sent in the real world through a parcel carrier to an ideal prospect.
In this interview with InsuranceNewsNet Publisher Paul Feldman, Frank will explain how to attract bigger clients (whales) so you can spend less time chasing small clients (minnows).
FELDMAN: You have talked about the importance of having an avatar of your ideal client. Yours used to be Bob, the insurance agent. Is he still your avatar?
KERN: My ideal avatar has evolved since then, but having an avatar of your ideal client is absolutely essential. In fact, I have a story about that.
I met Tony Robbins years ago, and he was doing well at the time. We worked on some stuff, and it was great. We’ve been friends ever since.
I just saw him a month or so ago. I flew down to his house and did an interview with him about his business.
I don’t know how much better his business is statistically, but my conservative guess would be that it has grown by about 10 times since I did that work with him. “Obviously things are going better than ever,” I said to him. “What happened?”
He said the single biggest change that he had made was to change his customer avatar – essentially, to go after a business owner or entrepreneurial type of customer who could really have the resources to invest in everything he had to offer. I think that too few people really realize the importance of the avatar.
FELDMAN: You have been working with agents and advisors for a long time. Is this a critical area for them?
KERN: Just over the past few weeks, I’ve worked with about 20 advisors individually in hourlong consultative sessions to diagnose what’s going on with them. And if there was one who didn’t have this problem, I don’t remember it.
Their main frustration was pain over not attracting the right people. Instead they were getting prospects with very few assets to put under management or small cases with people who don’t respect their time. All of that is a symptom of not targeting the proper customer. So that’s a big deal.
Everything is about the people. The funny thing about advisors is when they do market, they go after whales. But they fish for whales using minnow bait in a minnow pond, and then they’re frustrated that they’re catching minnows.
FELDMAN: What should they be doing?
KERN: Marketing, for advisors, is not intended to sell product at all. I don’t know of any advisor ever who has had a client pick up a brochure about a life insurance policy, then call and say, “Would you sell me this life insurance policy I read about?” I don’t know of any advisor, really, who has ever closed a big case or gotten significant assets under management where the person has gone online and filled out a form, and that just happened without human interaction.
But then they will likely sell the seminar. No one really ever wakes up in the morning saying, “You know, honey, if only we could go to a financial advisor seminar today, then everything would be OK.”
The reason advisors mail 10,000 pieces and then get only 30 people in a room, with 15 of them being actual buyers, is because that’s not what people want. Advisors are stuck with this antiquated method of client-getting.
FELDMAN: What are some steps to shifting marketing to attract “whales” instead of “minnows”?
KERN: First of all, get out of the minnow pond. When advisors buy a mailing list to send their mailer by ZIP code, that’s barely targeted.
If advisors look at the top 20 percent of their clients, they are likely to find commonalities. It could very well be a career commonality. For example, most of their clients may be doctors or dentists or other professional services folks. They might be of a certain age. They might have had a certain life occurrence, such as a child graduating college.
If you can identify who that top 20 percent is, you can mail only to them. Let’s say there are just 1,000 of those guys and you’re mailing 10,000. Well, you can take that 10,000-strong marketing budget and direct it toward that 1,000 instead and mail them constantly. Only put the bait in front of the whales.
FELDMAN: What are some examples of good whale bait?
KERN: First, get them to raise their hand and say that they want the end result. Let’s say your whale in this case is a man over 60 who just sold his business. He wants to protect that nest egg and grow it and also now structure his estate for his heirs. So you’re going to send this bait only to that kind of guy. You can buy a list of them nationally if you want to. And then the best possible whale bait would be to send out an offer for a free book or white paper titled “How to Grow Your Nest Egg After Selling Your Business and Structure Your Estate So Your Kids Will Be Taken Care of Without Them Squandering All the Money You Worked Your Entire Life For,” or something like that. Like, literally offer him exactly what he wants.
Now people are going to say, “This is just for me!” And this elevates the advisor above the salesman position and into the authoritative specialist position, which allows them to command higher fees and a greater deal of respect. Offer that expertise for free to the guy.
Send him a letter: “Dear Mr. Jones, our research indicates you just sold your business. Congratulations. You face multiple challenges. You have just received a sizeable amount of cash, which means the vultures are likely going to be coming out in force. And you now have an estate that is subject to a tremendous amount of tax. If you’re like most guys who just sold a business, you want to accomplish these two things: protect and grow that money, and give it to your family without getting shafted on taxes. I have just created this special book specifically and exclusively for people just like you.”
So the next step is, when he requests that book, you send him a lot more than the book. You overdeliver by sending him an entire box of material that includes a DVD presentation by you where you explain all the dangers he faces and all the ways he can genuinely overcome the dangers he is facing. You also include a book of testimonials from people you’ve helped in the past. You include something trivial-sounding but important – a coffee mug with his name on it, some cocoa and a little note that says, “Dear Mr. Jones, I have enclosed this coffee mug and this cocoa so you can have something good to drink and enjoy while you go through this material, because there is a lot of it, and it’s all very, very important.”
That stuff is called a “shock and awe” box. Where every other financial advisor might send him a book or might make him come into the office to get the book, you on the other hand have sent him this package of beautiful material and sent it to him promptly, maybe even by FedEx. Chances are, your prospect is not going to go through all that stuff, by the way. And we don’t really care. We just want him to remember you and feel like he liked you.
And then, along with that, you enclose the secret weapon.
FELDMAN: What’s the secret weapon?
KERN: You include the irresistible entry offer. And there are five steps to making this offer.
Step No. 1 is to offer to help for free. You might say something like, “Would you like me to personally help you come up with a strategic plan to shelter and grow your newfound nest egg and to transfer this new wealth to your children without paying undue taxes – for free?” You’re offering to do exactly what he wants you to do for him, for free.
Step No. 2 is to explain the benefits you’re going to give him. You would say, “During our conversation, I’m going to analyze your situation. I am going to review any tax liabilities or dangers you might have. And then we’re going to uncover exactly how you want to distribute this. I’ll review all the relevant laws and come up with a way for you to X, Y and Z. So you’re restating and elaborating on the benefits.
Step No. 3 is to be – and this is unheard of in modern-day advertising – upfront with the guy. So imagine you are someone reading this, and you’ve just gotten this nice package from this financial advisor. It’s beautiful, and there is a real book in there and a DVD and testimonials with cocoa and everything. Man, this is pretty serious. And he is offering to help you for free, and he is explaining the benefits of the help. What’s the first thing that’s going to come into your mind? “Why is he doing this?”
So what we’re going to do is the unthinkable. We’re just going to tell him, “I genuinely enjoy helping families in this position protect and grow the fruits of a lifetime of labor. And sometimes after having these conversations, people like to become my client. As you can tell, I am a financial advisor and I specialize in helping XYZ.” But now he’s thinking, “Oh god, this is going to be a sales pitch in disguise.”
So step No. 4 is to then eliminate the sales fear by saying, “Please understand that our conversation will by no means be a sales pitch in disguise. I can assure you that you won’t face any pressure to become a client. I won’t bother you about it in any way, and this will be incredibly valuable to you regardless of whether or not you make the decision to become a client.”
So now he’s putting the weapons away. And he’s a little less afraid of this. But just because we told him it’s not going to be a sales pitch in disguise doesn’t mean that he’s going to just blindly say, “OK.”
Which is why, in Step No. 5, I like to then add the extreme risk reversal. You would say, “In the event that you find our conversation to have been a waste of your time, let me know and I will immediately do the following. I’ll pay you $1,500 to compensate you for your time.”
Now, with an advisor, you’ve got to be careful with that because of compliance. So I always instruct the advisor to check with their compliance department to see what they can do. Usually it’s going to be “I’ll buy you dinner,” “I’ll give money to your charity in your name” or whatever it is. But you offer to self-impose some kind of intense penalty for wasting their time if they believe that you wasted their time.
Now your prospect leans forward. He is intrigued. He is finding this offer irresistible.
But we have them chase us by using takeaway selling. This is critical. If you look at every advisor out there, they chase. “Let me call you 9 million times to schedule an appointment” – if they have any follow-up at all. “Let me do everything that every other advisor under the sun does. Let me just be another drone in your mind.” Right? Well, that’s ineffective.
You want them to start chasing you and put you in that position of power. The way you do that in this offer is you say, “Please understand that I can’t help just anybody. In order for us to be a good match, you need to meet the following criteria.” Then, if the advisor has done the proper work, he lists the criteria of his ideal avatar.
This is important because it makes prospects qualify themselves to the advisor instead of the other way around.
The final step is to have them apply to speak to the advisor. Notice it’s not, “Call me to schedule an appointment.” It is literally, “Apply to talk to me.” Then you’ll say, “Once I review what you’ve sent, assuming I believe that I can help you, I will have my assistant reach out and schedule a time for us to talk.”
FELDMAN: People talk about shock and awe packages, but they don’t have them because they say they’re too expensive. Is it because they don’t recognize the value of the right client?
KERN: Yes. They don’t actually know how much they want to earn. They’ve never really thought about how much they want to earn per client. They also don’t know how many clients they need and how many conversations that means.
If their average client is worth $15,000, it makes a pretty good bit of sense to spend $1,000 to acquire that client through marketing. That doesn’t mean every shock and awe box costs $1,000. That means if your shock and awe box costs you 10 bucks and you have to send out 100 of them to get one client, then you just spent $1,000 to get that client. You’ve netted $14,000 on that transaction. That’s not too bad. And you haven’t had to go through a lot of crap in terms of 50 little minnows.
Over the course of the year, you send out 500 shock and awe boxes. You don’t need to spend the rest of the year sending out 500 more. Instead, you focus all of that marketing power on following up with those 500 people to get them to schedule the appointment.
The way you do that is you might send a FedEx letter two days later: “Dear Mr. Jones, I hope you enjoyed the giant box I sent you. I hope you watched the DVD and read the stories of clients just like yourself, and I hope you enjoyed it. I also included a very, very important letter, which I have attached as well in this package. It’s critical that you review this and get back to me as soon as possible because my schedule is very, very full. However, considering the fact that it sounds like you are in serious need of help due to the recent sale of your business, I am willing to set aside some time for you if I could hear back from you quickly.” Then you make the offer again. And if you don’t hear from him within three days, you send him another FedEx package.
You might even want to be creative with it. One of my favorite tricks is to send a baseball bat by FedEx. And the mailer says, “Dear Mr. Jones, it’s me again. I’m the guy who sent you the big box of cool stuff. You’re probably wondering why I’ve sent you this big bat. Well, it’s because I wanted to get your attention, and the other reason is because I am confident that when we sit down together and I create this plan for you, you will agree that we have actually hit it completely out of the park and gotten a home run for you.” It’s just another way to present that offer.
But it all hinges on the irresistible, risk-free offer to provide genuine, solid value to your perfect person. That will trump sending 10,000 dinner seminar invitations semi-randomly, every single time.
FELDMAN: On following up, one thing that sets you apart from a lot of other marketers is that you don’t just rely on online contact; you don’t just rely on direct mail. You’ll actually pick the phone up and call.
KERN: If they requested the shock and awe package, and they got the FedEx letter, and then they got the bat, I would have someone call them the next week. It wouldn’t be me personally.
FELDMAN: You are a very effective marketer on Facebook and social media. Do you think that social media is a good medium for advisors to use for marketing?
KERN: I think it’s OK. But my first move would be mail, because it’s so much easier to identify the perfect person. Guys who are 65-plus are on Facebook, but it’s going to be easier and faster to reach them through the mail.
FELDMAN: Do you think direct mail is more effective than radio and TV?
KERN: I do. It’s absolutely targeted. You get right to the person. And you can buy so much data. So if you say, “My perfect guy is going to be a physician who is 65 years old, owns two homes, has older kids, is an American Express Centurion cardholder and likes fishing,” I can get a list of every single one of them. If you want to know everyone who has a net worth of $5 million within 10 miles of your office, you can buy a list of just them. And you could focus like a laser just on those people.
FELDMAN: I hear a lot of advisors who claim that their only marketing and advertising is referrals. What do you say to advisors who don’t advertise because they don’t have the budget to do so?
KERN: I would be very suspect if they didn’t have the budget to do so. If that is true, that person is probably a failing advisor. I’m not suggesting someone go and drop $100,000 on mail. But if you spend the time to identify, let’s say, 2,500 perfect people in your area, and you want to send them a letter, it’s $2,500. I’m not proposing for people to go out and drop a fortune on untested methodology.
If they didn’t have the $2,500 to invest in their own advertising, they are probably not going to be in business for very long, so it’s probably not a conversation that I need to be having with them. Not to sound cold, but if you are at that point, you’re in so much trouble I don’t know how to fix you, because I can’t multiply zeroes.