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Feast or Famine?

Sales & Marketing

Here’s how to create a business development process that avoids the feast-to-famine cycle.

Each spring, farmers diligently plow the land and plant seeds. Throughout the warm summer months, these plants are nurtured, and they grow. Then in the fall, the farmers harvest the bounty and enjoy the rewards of their labor.

Now, depending upon the type of crop, the farmers must repeat this seed-to-harvest cycle each year. Or they may have perennial crops—like apple trees, for example—that automatically produce so the farmer can harvest more and more fruit with each passing year.

Looking within your business, which type of farmer are you? Does your business struggle with planting a fresh crop each year? Or do you have a perennial business development strategy that enriches over time?

Let’s explore two different advisor scenarios and how they can implement an ongoing, consistent and scalable business development process.

Planting the Seeds of Prospecting

Alex Advisor is a senior vice president at a large office who manages a team of retirement plan advisors. Even though he is part of a large firm, where many of the advisors have business owner clients, Alex is struggling because internal referrals are slow in coming. He has years of experience and holds the CPFA designation. Business owner introductions should be blossoming left and right. But no…

Alex is caught in the famine part of the cycle. To get out of it, he needs to plant seeds. Here’s how:

Story time. Each month when the entire office meets, Alex needs to tell a five-minute client success story. He needs to share a before-and-after story that describes the value he has brought to the table.

Communicate within the company. Treat coworkers like centers of influence and communicate with them in the same way. Simply put, Alex needs to add his co-workers to his email campaigns. Each week, as he shares industry news, updates, articles, plan sponsor guides, newsletters, videos and more, his colleagues are gaining new knowledge about what Alex does. This gives the other advisors an inside view of what it would be like for their clients to work with him.

Coffee connect. The goal of a coffee meeting is to get to know one another better and deepen relationships. Plus, as the lead retirement plan advisor, Alex may be able to help his coworkers with cross-selling opportunities.

By planting seeds within the company and cultivating them through communication and nurturing relationships, Alex is strengthening his colleagues’ confidence while giving them the assurance that he is the right retirement plan advisor for their clients.

Read more commentary by Rebecca Hourihan here.

Withering on the Vine

Jamie Independent owns her own practice and employs a team of five. She has loyal, longtime clients. Right now, she is taking on five new retirement plan clients. Everyone is busy with new business paperwork, conversion coordination and employee enrollment meetings. The meetings, phone calls and emails are nonstop.

The team needs to buckle down and handle the work in front of them. There simply isn’t enough time to get everything done. So the business development campaigns stop. The weekly emails are placed on the backburner. The blog articles go dormant. Social media activity is quiet. And, just like that, all marketing activities go into a deep freeze.

It is said that if we don’t learn from our past, we’re doomed to repeat our mistakes.

Jamie is in the feast portion of the cycle. She is enjoying the harvest. However, she is turning a blind eye toward the next rotation of growth.

To enjoy the feast and prevent the famine, here are some ideas:

Don’t reinvent the wheel. If everything you’re doing for clients is custom, then you’re doing too much. Why not repurpose existing materials? For example, at enrollment meetings, the majority of Jamie’s presentation should be on a template. That way, she only needs to edit 10-15% of the deck to address the specific plan and company. This saves time and helps her present a unified message to all clients. 

Automation is your best friend. Regular communication is a business requirement. Jamie’s team should take the stress out of the weekly shuffles and automate their email campaigns. Block one to two hours at the beginning of each quarter and then pre-schedule communication campaigns, including value-add content such as articles, newsletters, guides, infographics, videos, etc. This reduces weekly stress, maintains consistent communication and keeps Jamie’s firm top of mind for future business opportunities.

Feed the machine. Every client, center of influence, team member and prospect should be on your email list and connected to you via LinkedIn. As Jamie onboards new clients, she should request email addresses from each decision-maker at the company. From the President, CEO, CFO and Controller on down to the entire total rewards team, all should be part of Jamie’s digital communication network. This way, Jamie is always nurturing relationships, so if/when a decision-maker moves on to a new company, she has an easy introduction opportunity.

As Jamie reaps the rewards of hard work, it is important not to lose sight of the long term. By templating, automating and connecting, she is running a perennial business. These practice management efficiencies allow Jamie and the team to focus on new growth while nurturing existing business relationships.

May You Have Bountiful Harvests

From one seedling can come hundreds of fruits; the same is true with clients. It takes time for relationships to grow and mature. That is why marketing is a process; it needs to be consistent and evergreen.

Whether you are part of a large team or an independent, it’s about creating a business development process that avoids the feast-to-famine cycle. So, if you’ve found yourself in either quagmire, take the time to look within your business and find opportunities for improvement. Think about how you can keep planting, nurturing and harvesting by using communication strategies, sales enablement templates and automation to manage a bountiful business.

Thanks for reading and happy marketing!

Rebecca Hourihan, AIF, PPC, is the founder and CMO of 401(k) Marketing, which she founded to assist qualified experts operate a professional business with professional marketing materials and ongoing awareness campaigns. This column originally appeared in the Fall issue of NAPA Net the Magazine.