If you are offering retirement income planning to your clients and you are using indexed annuities, chances are you still are using seminars to attract prospects. There is nothing wrong with using seminars to educate the public and attract new clients, but there is a stigma that comes along with them.
Remember the AARP and Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) alerts that were issued to warn seniors about “free lunch” seminars in 2010? How about the “Dateline: To Catch a Predator” TV special in 2008? These are extreme examples and they certainly do not reflect the way in which most respectable financial professionals run their practices. However, there is no denying the adverse effect that these examples have had on the public’s view of seminars.
The most difficult task we have is to get in front of qualified prospects on a day-to-day basis. We spend thousands of dollars and countless hours, as well as perform constant experiments, on perfecting the systems that we use to get prospects through the door. In early 2008, before the financial crisis, my firm began to experience diminishing returns from our core marketing system, which consisted of educational seminar dinners and lunches. We knew that a change was needed, so we started to explore other marketing solutions. The result was extraordinary. Because of what we were able to do, we have not held a seminar since 2009.
Prospects now come to us, where we previously had to go to their homes or to restaurants in order to meet them. In addition, we have limited our services to 100 new clients a year. Instead of the prospective client choosing us, we choose them. So how did we do it?
In 2008, we decided to launch a radio show called “The Money Guys” on a local FM station in the Baltimore area. “The Money Guys” consisted of three financial professionals discussing retirement planning issues. We took calls from listeners during this live, fast-paced show.
But, at first, the show did not generate the prospects that we had anticipated.
What we found was that the show was full of great information – we discussed everything from Roth conversions to tax-saving strategies to retirement planning – but it was not getting our office phone to ring. Three months into the show, we revamped the content and noticed an immediate change. We went from setting one or two appointments per show to setting an astounding 10 appointments in the hour in which the show aired. This was by far the most critical moment in the development of our current marketing strategy. It continues to drive what we are doing now, five years later.
So what was the change?
We fine-tuned our content to discuss living benefit riders, indexed annuity features such as “annual resets,” and investing for protection from the downside risk. We didn’t veer off this topic. Instead of discussing all areas of retirement planning, we focused on educating the public about how annuities work. The funny thing is that, once the public understood the features and benefits provided by fixed annuities, they were no longer afraid to put part of their life savings into this type of investment.
We also ran radio commercials during morning and afternoon drive times. During these commercials, we offered no-obligation retirement checkups our flagship station’s listeners.
Within one year of starting the show, we were able to retire seminar marketing completely. What’s more, our prospective clients were more than happy to come into our office and meet “The Money Guys” in person, instead of us having to take our consultations on the road.
The next step in branding your firm and yourself in the community is to break into television. In 2010, we decided to leap from the airwaves to the small screen. We worked with a local production company that had some big-name clients, and we began to plan, shoot and edit television commercials. This took about a year from conception to completion. We hired actors, built sets and developed a script. We ultimately decided to shoot three different commercials that would brand our firm locally as “the retirement planning firm you call when you finish your working years.” The production and final outcome of these commercials was nothing short of breathtaking. We had commercials worthy of any Fortune 500 company’s national ad campaign, with voiceovers, graphics, high-quality storytelling and a call to action.
Unfortunately, the results were less than spectacular. We would receive about one call each time a commercial aired. Although this is certainly better than nothing, the production cost of these commercials made this type of marketing a money-losing venture. The one thing the commercials accomplished was branding our firm. Our dry cleaners, clients, family and friends knew the name of our company and what we stood for. However, the commercials were not doing what we needed them to do; they were not attracting prospective clients. After three months of airing the advertisements at different times and on different networks, we pulled the plug and went back to the drawing board to revamp our TV strategy.
We knew what worked was the content on our radio show, “The Money Guys.” Instead of doing a scripted show, we simply would bring some notes about current economic issues to the studio and discuss those issues as they related to fixed indexed annuities. This led to a much more natural flow. The public enjoyed the educational format as well as the passion and assurance that we provided when it came to discussing retirement planning. Rather than pull the plug on television altogether, we decided to hire the same firm that created the TV commercials to produce “The Money Guys” in a new format suited for television.
It took about eight weeks to build the set and edit the show. This time, instead of hiring actors to promote our services, we decided to use ourselves and to do exactly what we had been doing on radio: discuss retirement income planning as well as annuity living benefits and riders. What happened after that first show aired was what we had hoped would happen from the beginning. We have had to expand our offices twice in less than 12 months. We also have doubled our employee base just to keep up with the leads generated by our shows. As a result, we no longer have to take every prospective client who walks in the door; we can focus on working with those who will be impacted most meaningfully by working with us.
We did not start this branding and marketing campaign with the idea of ending seminars, but that was the end result. We no longer can go out to dinner without someone recognizing us as “The Money Guys.” We have successfully branded our firm and marketed to prospective clients, which is everything that we set out to accomplish with this campaign. We not only wanted to brand our firm, but we wanted to inspire those who could use our services to pick up the phone and call.
If you want to take your firm to the next level, you have to do things differently. “The Money Guys” now airs on multiple television and radio stations weekly in our market, and continues to be a lucrative venture for our firm. If you are not using radio and TV to promote your practice, perhaps it is time that you gave them a second look.