Each month, Senior Market Advisor packs its issues chock full of hot marketing and sales tips and strategies. If you find that information helpful, then you're in for a treat. But before I go any further, let me say we couldn't have pulled this off without your input, which runs the gamut from straight out of the pages of a Marketing 101 textbook to first-person narratives to a quote from the English playwright William Shakespeare (didn't know he was a marketing guru?).
Inside, you'll find we have pull out sections that highlight Suitability issues, Web marketing and Insiders' Views, just to name a few. You'll see some commonality in the ideas, but the details in those entries reveal different ways to approach topics such as direct mail.
We believe we've compiled a terrific list of marketing ideas to help your business thrive. By no means do we feel it is the final word on the subject. If, after you've read it, you have new ideas to add, please send me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll be sure to add it to our ongoing list at www.seniormarketadvisor.com
See our 2012 list at: LifeHealthPro's 100 Best Sales & Marketing Ideas Ever
1. Pick up the phone. I have yet to find a better way of "marketing oneself" then speaking with a prospect on the phone -- it's way better than direct mailings and cheaper too. Looking for folks to call? Try whitepages.com or do a search on neighborhoods -- it's free.
- Allen E. Shea, independent advisor
2. Referrals. My best marketing plan is this: Friends telling friends of my services and products.
- Sam Hacek, Sr. Affordable Insurance Concepts
3. Identify your target customers. Create a three-tier or dartboard approach to profiling sales prospects. The top tier or bull's-eye of the dartboard represents the prime target audience. Spend the most time with the tier in the bull's-eye and the least amount of time with the third tier. The marketing strategy should focus on a message to address the needs of each group.
4. Establish and understand your primary geographical market area. Identify your geographic area by zip code, county, neighborhood or other parameter and understand the prospects who live there. Then develop marketing campaigns to promote relevant product offerings based on life triggers and other events that may be happening in your community, including new homebuyers, births, marriages within this area and target products and services to the event.
5. Develop a "drip" list. Create a list of your best prospects that you contact on a monthly (even weekly) basis with key information. Keep your name out in front of your target audience.
6. Sponsor or organize high-profile events. Invite your first and second tier prospects to speaking engagements, which highlight industry leaders. Often organizations sponsor quarterly or bi-annual speaking engagements with industry leaders from your organization. By inviting your best prospects, you establish credibility and show them that you appreciate them.
7. Use newsletters. Newsletters create credibility and stimulate interest in your products/services.
8. Create a bio sheet. Use a professional photo and share both your professional resume as well as personal information on what makes you unique within the industry and why prospects should work with you.
9. Develop an integrated marketing strategy. Contact your prospects through a number of marketing channels including direct marketing, Web site information, email, telemarketing and, of course, personal meetings. For example, you can use direct mail to drive traffic online to your Web site for product information, rate calculators and financial goals worksheets. Promote your online resources with direct mail and in other print media.
10. Have a true marketing plan. Develop a contact strategy consisting of direct mail, telemarketing, newsletters and special events such as seminars and other educational formats that is designed to build a relationship with their prospects over time.
- ChoicePoint Precision Marketing
11. Get published or speak. If there is a way to either author an article in a local publication or newspaper or participate in a speaking engagement - do it. Nothing creates credibility faster than getting published or speaking.
- Melissa Baker, Kathy Weaver and Brian Lara of ChoicePoint Precision Marketing contributed these marketing ideas.
12. "Don't Miss the Boat" event. One of the most successful strategies I've seen for raising the awareness of referrals and bringing in a stream of new business is called the "Don't Miss the Boat" event. Yes, it may be a little gimmicky, but this is an event we've never seen fail -- it has consistently produced referrals and results. This event is similar to a client appreciation event, however the only people that are invited to this event are clients that have referred others to your firm.
- Maribeth Kuzmeski, MBA Red Zone Marketing
13. Buying lists of people turning 65 to 66. Many people are confused that even though the age for full benefits under social security has risen to 66, this year the age to join Medicare A & B is still 65. A lot of people are continuing to work and pay higher-than-necessary costs for health coverage due to this confusion. A quick call to offer to mail info regarding the real deal, and then a follow-up call to explain, has proved invaluable in gaining access to people's lives at a time when so many needs are changing.
- Roger T. Nickel, CSA, CLTC Bankers Life & Casualty Company
14. An insider's view: The Asian market For the last 30 years of my sales career, I have sold aviation services. One thing I learned is it takes time to earn the Asian population's trust but once you have, they are truly loyal customers who are quick to refer you to other potential customers. While I have only been selling FIAs for just over one year, I have begun earning that trust in this field as well. Living in the San Francisco Bay area, we have a heavy Asian population attending my seminars. These attendees are slow to commit and required patience in appointments as they are very diligent in their research.
Consider selling to ethnic specific markets and you will find a tight knit community that will follow recommendations from their friends and family.
- George Stark, life insurance and annuity advisor
15. Radio, radio. I host and produce a live, weekly financial radio program. This has enabled me to establish credibility and define myself as a financial resource. It has also been a platform to advertise my financial workshops. In addition, it has provided a forum for people to ask questions and for listeners to call and arrange for individual consultations.
- Stefanos Loisou, Financial Workshops/Strategies for Life
16. Upsell. When an applicant is approved at the top rate, make the suggestion that he take advantage of increasing the amount because he has qualified for the very best rate. Point out that he may not be able to qualify again for this rate in the future and that the premium for a greater amount is quite a bit less on an overall basis because there is no additional policy fee, and higher amounts are banded resulting in a lower cost per $1, 000.
- James (Jim) Carow, AIC
17. Knocking on doors. When I started in this business, I ran out of my initial market within 60 days. I decided to cold call and began knocking on business doors. I would also send out a letter that focused on the magic of tax deferral with current rates. I discovered that, in some cases, by following up with a phone call to inquire the receipt of the mailing ultimately gave me a few daytime appointments.
Today, 60 percent of my new business comes from my existing clients that introduce me to their friends, family and business associates.
- Thomas Doncaster, CLU, CWM, Doncaster Insurance & Financial Services, Inc.
18. Referrals are priceless... By making yourself known, either through local organizations or just by being an active member of your community, people tend to ask, "What is it that you do?" From there you will receive not only clients, but an endless supply of referrals. People want to do business with someone local. This is what has driven me to qualify as an MDRT member.
- Fred Claghorn, CLTC, USV Financial Advisor
19. The ad approach. I use a statement in my advertisements and materials that says: "Financial planning? Long term care may be the only asset you own that affords you the ability of never going to a nursing home. What asset are you missing in your portfolio?"
- Curtis V. Cloke, CLTC, LUTCF Financial advisor/agent
20. Biography. Develop a strong biography and fact sheet that describes your accomplishments and experience.
- Larry Klein, author of "Marketing Financial Services to Seniors"
21. Networking. Recently, I was invited to join the local Chamber of Commerce. Much of what we accomplish is by marketing and networking and these organizations offer great opportunities for us as financial professionals to meet more people and promote our services.
22. Don't spend your entire marketing budget at once. Marketing works on repetition. The more a consumer sees your ad, the greater the chance that consumer will buy your product or service. And understand that advertising is salesmanship. When you create an advertisement, it must sell just as a salesperson would. Use conversational language and words.
23. Write and distribute a press release at least four times a year. The media, particularly your local media, is always on the lookout for a great story, so write one for them. Use these stories to tell customers why you are different, and why that difference is a benefit. This must be done in every aspect of your marketing.
24. Speed networking. The local Chamber of Commerce recently hosted a speed-networking event. As a result, there were several alliances that appear to be in development for me including an estate planning law firm that wishes to employ my services on behalf of their clients and a large property and casualty, multi-office group that wishes to allow me to offer financial workshops.
25. Keep plugging away. We must continuously market and introduce ourselves and display to others the enthusiasm and dedication that we share for the important work that we do.
26. Suitability spotlight Don't try to make your client fit a product. Find a product to fit your client. Too many agents have a favorite product due to its commission structure, bonus opportunity or crediting style. Then, they try to make each client fit into that product. Yes, you can have a favorite and if it fits, sell it. But many times, the client will tell you what they want. Don't be afraid to search out a product that most closely resembles what they want without sacrificing what you believe they need.
- Kevin Wedmore, president, A2Z Annuity Marketing, Inc.
27. Co-op your talents. For those of us that offer financial workshops or would like to start doing so and may have limited funding, offer to stage a workshop at a local Council on Aging. If you can convince the council director that you are sincere and knowledgeable, he or she will be very grateful to allow you to offer a valuable informational service to their senior community. This way you will not have the need for any cost involved except for refreshments.
- Stefanos Loisou, independent agent
28. Building a nest. It pays to know your territory, or more specifically the large-scale employers in your area. Very often these entities will have at the very least a 401K plan and sometimes a traditional, defined contribution/benefit plan as well.
Obtaining a favorable appointment with a handful of employees nearing retirement can yield big dividends. Also, obtaining referrals to co-workers will not require much effort and will provide an ongoing stream of prospects.
- Jim Medici, CLU, ChFC, CLTC, Senior VP of marketing, Zenith Marketing Group
29. The magic of the Web. I started doing online Web site marketing many years ago and, very truthfully, did it all wrong. Now, I clearly see the future in my practice has to be one that places my electronic business card, photo, information and ideas in front of people on the other end who are searching for me.
Finally, clients and I started to meet over the Web, even doing business world wide in some cases, and having never personally met many of my clients who find me on the Internet.
- M.D. Anderson, president, Financial Strategies, Inc.
30. Speak the language. Poor communication leads to poor sales. Understand your clients, know what motivates them and speak to that end.
31. Use daily newspapers. Ask the publisher what day of the week most seniors read the paper. That's the day you want to advertise.
32. Avoid the junk trap. If it looks like junk mail, it's headed for the garbage. Avoid the junk mail trap by sending mail in plain white window envelopes with a first-class stamp.
- Larry Klein Author, "Marketing Financial Services to Seniors"
33. Dinner time An idea that has worked out extremely well for our firm is taking our best clients at least once a year out to dinner along with the spouses. The clients meet my wife and this has taken our relationship to a new level. Now when I speak to these clients, their first comment is usually, "How is Linda?" Furthermore, it seems that this process involving the spouse has opened up new sources of referrals.
Stuart J. Pastrich,CFP managing director, Compass Financial Group
The drip approach
34. We mail birthday cards to existing clients; anniversary cards if we know that info.
35. Send an email blast regarding recent tax changes. In fact, we do a lot of marketing toward tax season with many different types of direct mail flyers.
36. We also hold client appreciation parties with our clients and their friends throughout the year, which include a seminar.
37. During the summer months we organize a golf tournament and give a short seminar before the event.
38. We are always getting our image branded (building brand name recognition). The image for our logo is something I feel the seniors can relate to.
39. We also host a monthly educational dinner 2-3 times per month for new prospects.
40. The most important thing to remember is that you always need to be marketing.
- Darian Andreson, president, Senior Tax Advisory Group, Inc.
41. Set appointments at your seminars. Sign up people while the information and desire is fresh; a cooling-off period will leave you with fewer appointments set and kept.
42. Change is good. We are always willing to try new things. For example, an invitation that worked well for you over the past three years may not work well for you in the fourth.
43. Although change is good, make sure your changes are tested and that there is a review process to determine if the change was beneficial.
44. Make your own confirmation calls for seminars. Although most direct mail marketing firms provide a confirmation call service, you may want to make them yourself.
45. Tax check Just ask each client to review their form 1040 with you to uncover who's needlessly paying taxes on money they aren't using. An annuity may be an ideal solution for these clients.
- Michael Harrison, VP, annuity sales and marketing, AIG American General
The Wedmore way
46. Stop prospecting for clients! Spend your time prospecting with people who associate with the type of client you are looking for. For example, if you are looking for clients who are transitioning into long term health care environments, network with people in that field. They are dealing with hundreds of your ideal prospects every year.
47. Use what you know best to become the local expert on that subject. Use that knowledge to write a column in at least one local senior publication. Many of the free senior newspapers that are available outside discount and grocery stores will let you write an article if you purchase a small ad.
48. Plan to prospect. Pick a time each week where you schedule appointments, don't accept incoming phone calls and can't be interrupted.
49. Learn to use the computer. I know it sounds trite, but using the technology available to you is important. Research and communication are the two primary areas to focus on, but being computer-savvy may just save you a case or two because of your ability to quickly get the information the client needs.
50. Find a niche and position yourself within it. If you know a lot about one thing compared to a little about a lot of things, you will be more focused and most likely, more successful.
51. Practice, practice, practice. After years in this business, it is easy to become complacent. Prepare your presentation, prepare your close and prepare your follow-up.
52. Review your sales call ... both good and bad. Too many times we play the "ones that got away" over and over in our minds. But what about the sales calls that go right? We can learn as much from them as from those unsuccessful calls.
53. Stay current on the issues affecting your clients. Follow trends in the industry by faithfully reading leading industry publications and learn what others are doing in the market.
54. Be creative! Your senior clients will remember the little things that you do if they are original and creative. For example, a monthly calendar of local events is a good way to stay in touch. It can be mailed or emailed, depending upon the client.
55. Solidify the sale. Don't just deliver the policy you wrote. Reinforce the reasons your client trusted you enough to part with their money and choose you over the other advisors who have tried before you.
- Kevin Wedmore, president, A2Z Annuity Marketing, Inc.
56. Maintain a database of the people attending your seminars. This information can be very useful in determining whether a registrant needs to be removed from your mailing list.
57. Use queries in your database to determine which locations are providing you with the greatest or lowest returns on your marketing investments and then increase or decrease expenditures accordingly.
58. Have a client appreciation dinner for the purpose of building rapport with your clients.
59. Use client referral dinners to provide opportunities for clients to send referrals.
- Richard Berry, Berry Financial Group, Inc.
A committee approach
60. For years, we have utilized a group of independent, financial professionals to serve all of the needs of our clients. In effect, this is wealth management by committee, with one professional serving as the captain of the team and as the go-between with the other professionals. This has allowed us to successfully compete with large financial brokerages and the "jack of all trades" financial planner.
The key is finding the right professionals to team up with: You need an attorney, an accountant, an insurance professional and a financial advisor to start. We now have four attorneys, three accountants, one asset manager, three financial advisors, an IRA specialist, two long term care agents, three annuity specialists and various other professionals.
- Steven G. Johnson, director, Retirement Solutions Group, Inc.
61.The Electronic database. It's very important to get email addresses from all your clients, with their permission to accept your information from time-to-time. Use this to send them tips and solutions up to twice per month. The info can be directly related to a product or service you wish to offer, or totally unrelated. This serves both to keep your name in front of them and also to maintain a "trusted advisor" status.
- Kal Reece, Freedom Equity Group
Frequent Senior Market Advisor contributor Jeffrey Dobkin has a unique perspective on the world of marketing. Following are a short list of some of his best tips.
62. The most valuable tool in marketing at the lowest cost is a letter. Write one business-getting letter every day.
63. The best formula for creating headlines in marketing is: "New product offers benefit, benefit, benefit." Use this to create the headline of your press releases and advertisements, etc.
64. The most valuable single sheet of paper you can create in marketing is a press release. You should be sending press releases every month.
65. When you are having a tough time writing, just start writing anything, then go back and cross out your first sentence.
- Jeffrey Dobkin
66. Follow up serious inquiries and sales leads with more than one piece of mail.
67. The 11 most valuable words to get any press release published are: "Are you the person I should send this press release to?" Before sending any important press release, call the magazine or newspaper editor and say those words.
68. Create a letter series in advance to get new business. Mail one letter a month.
69. Always acknowledge when something nice is done for you with a thank-you letter. No, a call is not the same.
70. Before you start to write any business communication, always write your objective first. Knowing this objective gives your writing more focus.
71. If you'd really like a response from a personal letter, include a return envelope in it with a live stamp on it. It'll either increase your response or it'll drive them nuts.
72. Anytime you run a successful long-term direct mail campaign, test the variables in subsequent mailings. Testing price is the most important; higher prices may sell better.
73. Take your time writing. No one will ever know the one-page letter they received took you three weeks to write. Just make sure when you send it, it's perfect.
74. In a direct mail solicitation, don't be afraid to ask for the order several times. If the recipient doesn't call or send an order, the piece fails. For best results, be very explicit and tell the reader exactly what you want him to do twice in the body copy, and again in the PS.
- Jeffrey Dobkin, www.dobkin.com
75. Be a joiner. The more you get your name out there the better. Join clubs and organizations. Belong to the local Chamber of Commerce. Put yourself and your company in the Yellow Pages. Some inexpensive, even free ways of getting your name noticed are to send in your picture along with a short letter about what you do to the business briefs section of the Sunday newspaper. Most papers have this and most are free.
76. Gas station approach. Also, make up some flyers with pull tabs on them with your name and phone number and ask every 7-11, convenience store, gas station etc. that you can find if you can hang one on their bulletin board; most will let you. Do as many of these as you can and you will start getting calls.
- Mike Shaver, independent agent
77. Pay it forward. Pay others in complimentary businesses a finder's fee to give you business.
- Source: 301 Do-It-Yourself Marketing Ideas: From America's Most Innovative Small Companies
78. Brown bag it. My best marketing idea so far has been a monthly program called Women and Investing Brown Bag Lunches. One day each month I hold a free, no-sales meeting for women only, who want to learn more about investing, in my office conference room. They bring their own lunches and we meet for an hour on a specific topic that I briefly "teach" and then we all discuss. It's very interactive. They bring their real life examples and questions.
It's easy to put together, it's low-cost and helps the public view you as an expert. I never know how many I will have but since it,s in my office, that's OK. The women bring their friends and help with spreading the word.
- Drue McCracken, McCracken Financial Group
79. Back to the Yellow Pages. Have defunct companies' phone messages refer customers to your business (with you paying the balance of the Yellow Pages fee in return).
- Source: 301 Do-It-Yourself Marketing Ideas: From America's Most Innovative Small Companies
80. Card-carrying marketer. I started carrying a few cards for people I meet who do not have a business card. They fill it out with their name, address and phone, and I can write what they are interested in on the back.
- Tom Chaffin, Freedom Equity Group
81. The rotation method. If you are in the seminar marketing business you must work a "rotation" of venues to keep it successful. Working one market over and over will saturate rapidly and reduce your results.
- W. Andrew Unkefer, president & CEO, Unkefer & Associates
82. Customer > Computer. Use your IMO to create technical analysis and illustrations for each case you work so you can stay focused on your business and your customer relationships. Don't get stuck in front of the computer grinding out numbers; stay in front of your customers.
- W. Andrew Unkefer
Tips for the Web
Cristian Mezei, SEM consultant, SeoPedia contributed the Web tips.
83. Put the accent on visitor experience, not traffic. Traffic is useless if you can't convert it into paying customers. A visitor experience optimized Web site with 500 visits/day can bring you twice the income than an un-optimized one with 10,000 visits/day.
84. Suggest related Web sites in your own Web site's information area. That will bring some traffic.
85. Use sitemap services on Google, Yahoo and MSN. Not only will it provide you with invaluable server and Web site data, but it will get your pages in their index faster.
86. Use a pen and paper. Always have an agenda and a pen around. Jot down every crazy idea you think of ... most of us have truly great subjects to write about, but during the day we forget as we get busy with other issues.
87. For a business not to advertise is like winking at a girl in the dark. You know what you are doing but no one else does
- Stuart H. Britt, U.S. advertising consultant
88. Don't be a copycat. Don't write news or posts just to have something for the big Google. Nowadays, duplicate-content filters are continuously evolving, and even if you gain something on the short term you will lose it later. Try to be innovative.
From the vault
Classic marketing ideas never go out of style. Below are a list of great quips from leading business innovators.
89. You can have brilliant ideas, but if you cannot get them across, your ideas will not get you anywhere.
- Lee Iacocca, former Chrysler CEO
90. A brand for a company is like a reputation for a person. You earn reputation by trying to do hard things well.
- Jeff Bezos, Amazon.com
91. Your premium brand had better be delivering something special, or it's not going to get the business.
- Warren Buffett, Berkshire Hathaway
92. Google actually relies on our users to help with our marketing. We have a very high percentage of our users who often tell others about our search engine.
- Sergey Brin, Google
93. Early to bed, early to rise, advertise, advertise, advertise.
- Ray Kroc, McDonald's
94. Now we understand that the most important thing we do is market the product. We've come around to saying that Nike is a marketing-oriented company, and the product is our most important marketing tool.
- Phil Knight, Nike
95. The purest treasure mortal times can afford is a spotless reputation.
- William Shakespeare, English dramatist
96. Next to doing the right thing, the most important thing is to let people know you are doing the right thing.
- John Rockefeller
97. Financial advisors must follow the legal rules that apply to marketing to seniors as well as promoting financial instruments. We are legally required to meet these standards.
- Kathy Weaver, ChoicePoint Precision Marketing
98. It is time in the insurance/investment business for advisors to stop focusing on making money for themselves and start focusing on the client. Sales is simple if you do the right thing for all of your clients. If you focus completely on helping a client without worrying about the commissions, you will build your practice better.
- John Gotschall, CLU, Coaching Financial Concepts, Inc.
99. I tell clients that I diagnose financial ailments. I explain that people self-administer their financial health as they do their own health. I further explain that I look at all the "over-the-counter" products they have purchased and see if any are in opposition to another, and if they work in harmony with company and government benefits.
I say there can be a misdiagnosis that needs to be addressed by a professional. I ask if they want their physician to prescribe a medication without hearing their symptoms. I then request an appointment to review their financial concerns, as I feel prescription, without diagnosis, is malpractice.
- Donald R. Beck, Provident Financial Corporation
100. Using your tool box
I find it best to explain to my client and prospective clients financial products in a way they can comprehend. I use what I call the "tool box analogy." Every tool was designed to perform a certain task and when used as it was designed for, it works perfectly for the job. Such are the products provided for use by the financial industry. It would be ridiculous to try to use a low-yielding checking account at a bank to achieve a long-term, tax-deferred growth plan, such as it would be to create an immediate liquidity need by placing one's assets into an annuity.
Find out how your clients and prospects understand things and use these analogies.
- R.C. Rompala, independent agent
For more sales & marketing tips, see LifeHealthPro's 100 Best Sales & Marketing Ideas Ever.