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Thursday, December 12, 2013

Prospecting: The Advisor's Definition of Insanity

I titled this blog post, Prospecting: The Advisor's Definition of Insanity because it holds true for both successful and struggling producers:

For successful advisors: If they always do, what they always did, they always get what they always got – a perpetual flow of prospects to see every single month of the year.

For struggling advisors: If they always do, what they always did, they always get what they always got – feeling frustrated, empty appointment calendars and constant pressure to close the few prospects they do see.

I’ve been in the financial services industry for almost 25 years and if there’s one thing that continues to amaze me it’s how so many financial advisors struggle with (and it goes by many names): lead generation, prospecting, marketing, etc.

Every year, financial professionals are surveyed and every year prospecting tops the list of biggest challenges or concerns. And every year I sit back in my chair, scratch my head and say out loud – “Why?”

There are several lead generation programs, like seminar marketing and direct mail, which have been working for decades. They are proven and effective ways to present your value proposition and services to a specific, targeted group of prospects. If done correctly and consistently (and I’ve seen the proof of this for the last 13 years), direct marketing is the best way to generate a constant flow of prospects – every month!

Now, I know times have changed and rapid growth of the internet and social media have added a new layer to the “marketing mix.” While having an active presence on social media and an optimized web page are now critical parts of a successful financial practice, they do have one major weakness when compared to direct mail: there are no financial “filters” on the world-wide-web. Yes, prospects can read an email you send them. They can search (and hopefully) find you when they do a Google search for a financial advisor. They can even “like” or “follow you on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. But I have yet to see if these platforms filter by financial group, if they have money to invest or buy a life insurance or annuity product. That means when you do get an internet-generated lead. You, or a staff member specially trained to manage these types of leads, will have to pre-qualify each prospect.

With direct mail, you can target your message and offer to a specific demographic profile: age, household income, zip code, IPA (income producing asset) and dozens of other “selects.” Does this profile guarantee that this prospect will buy from you? Nope. Do you know a lot more about them, demographically, than an internet-generated lead. Absolutely! (Note: Having an active social media and web presence is still critical with direct mail because most of the prospects will “Google you” before they respond – so don’t abandon social media and your website all together!)

So, back to the core question: Why do so many financial advisors struggle with generating leads? There are several ancillary reasons, but in my experience the primary reason is – generating leads costs MONEY!

Marketing is an investment – not an expense! If you ask a fellow advisor who has been consistently successful and has a growing practice, they will all have one thing in common when it comes to marketing and lead generation: they invest money every month to make sure they have a consistent flow of prospects. They might have different models, but they understand there’s a direct correlation between their firm’s success and consistently funding their marketing and lead generation plan.

The new year is quickly approaching. This is a great opportunity to infuse a new mindset about marketing, prospecting and lead generation. Ask yourself this final question: A year from today, which definition of insanity would YOU want applied to your firm – then make it happen.

Bob Wilgus is the Director of Corporate Communications and Social Community Manager for RME360. You can reach him at: bob.wilgus@rme360.com