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How to Own Your Own Back Yard

About six months ago, I decided to put my rental condo up for sale. However, after too many lowball offers and back-and-forth negotiations, I got frustrated and took it off the market. To add to the annoyance, as an unintended consequence, my name and contact information became publically available to real estate agents, all of whom I now get daily phone calls from.

If I answer the cold call, the conversation goes like this virtually every single time:

“Hi, is this Rebecca?”

“Yes, it is.”

“Hi, this is [realtor] with [real estate company]. I am calling about your condo on Market St. I see that it didn’t sell. Ughhhh… did you not get the price you wanted? I can relist it for you.”

“Thanks, I’m all set.”

“Okay! Thanks for your time.”

I would like to say that this is a fluke example. It’s not. It’s happened at least 20 times. So much so that I now wonder: What did the cold caller expect? Was I supposed to jump for joy and exclaim, “Yes! That is exactly why I didn’t sell the condo — and OMG, yes! Can you relist it?!”

This is a classic example of failed marketing-sales tactics. Lack of preparation, unprepared for rebuttals, and no sales-nurturing pipeline.

What if the conversation went like this instead:

“Hi Rebecca, this is [realtor] with [real estate company]. We specialize in working with downtown real estate. We noticed that your condo didn’t sell. Did you know that home prices have improved in recent months? It’s becoming a great sellers’ market. Is there any chance, you would be interested in looking at your local comps to learn if it’s worth reevaluating?”

Now, I’m still going to reply with, “Thanks, I’m all set,” because I took it off the market to have a tenant move in. However, that approach is way better than the first. Also, in the second call, they are offering me value. By offering a list of local comparables, since I don’t have access to the MLS system, that information might be valuable if and when I decide to reevaluate. Then, they might ask: “Would you mind if I send you information to review?” At that point, I’m going to say, “Sure,” and provide them my email address.

Okay, this may work for realtors, but how does this apply to you, the retirement plan expert? Advisors face these similar obstacles and the same steps can be taken to overcome the “all set” objection. Use your knowledge and expertise to offer something unique that goes above the poorly thought out “Can we have your business?” call.

Read more commentary by Rebecca Hourihan here

What if you approached your retirement plan prospects through a lead-nurturing email campaign? Then you can educate, inform and demonstrate your retirement plan experience, so when the plan sponsor is ready to make a buying decision, you are there and have been consistently in front of them developing a trusted relationship.

How to Be Proactive through Email Marketing

Every day, the average professional sees over 5,000 advertisements, spends 116 minutes on social media, and receives 88 emails. We are being bombarded with information. However, you need to be part of the conversation. Wherever and whenever your clients, prospects and centers of influence are seeking retirement plan information, you need to be there. Here are some email pro tips to become the authority in your area as the retirement plan expert.

Create a Prospect List

It all starts with your contact list. You need to have a target audience. As a retirement plan advisor, you could search the Form 5500 database and cultivate a list of ideal retirement plan prospects. Download plan pertinent information to understand your plan sponsor buyer personas. Take a couple of moments and see if there are trends. Ask yourself:

  • What is my target audience?

  • What size plans do I want to work with?

  • Do I want to specialize in a certain industry?

We recommend that your distribution list includes one to three professionals per company. Search for titles such as CFO, CEO, Director of HR, Controller, President, Owner and other authoritative headings. These are the professionals who are most likely involved in the buying decisions of the company’s retirement plan.

Also, don’t forget to include your current clients and centers of influence.

Segment Your List

This is a component of email marketing that is often overlooked by retirement plan advisors; however, it is crucial. Segmentation is about organizing your list in a way that helps funnel contacts through the buying cycle. Segmented email marketing campaigns outperform non-segmented campaigns and have the ability to increase open and click rates and decrease “unsubscribes.”

Start simple. If you have not done so already, be sure to organize your email list into three major categories: plan sponsor prospects, current clients and centers of influence. This is a great way to get started with personalization, and it will come in handy when you want to send something special to your clients or invite COIs to a networking event.

Then it is time to have some fun! Each time you send an email, is an opportunity for segmentation. Drop the contacts who positively engaged with the campaign into a separate list; this includes opens and clicks. It also gives you the chance to clean up your master list by removing bounced emails, and it will automatically quarantine those who have unsubscribed.

Automate to Innovate

Most email marketing systems have an automate feature. Below are two examples of email automation flows that you might consider incorporating into your retirement plan practice.

Let’s say you want your contacts to read your newsletter about financial wellness. Great! Start by sending it to your full email distribution list. Then based on their response, the email automation system will send out the next series of value-add emails. For the “Opened” emails, that might include an infographic about the benefits of financial wellness.

For the “Unopened” emails, your automation will send a teaser excerpt from your newsletter. If they still don’t open the email, that’s okay. Now the system will send them the Infographic that discusses financial wellness. Maybe that will get their attention — what employer doesn’t want to decrease health insurance premiums, decrease presenteeism, and increase productivity?

Since you built out the email chain in advance, you get to relax as the automated system keeps you consistently in front of your target audience and freeing up your time to focus on other aspects of your business.

Stand Out in the Inbox

Did you know that email is the No. 1 preferred method of communication? Approximately 7 out of 10 contacts prefer it. Also, the average open rate for our industry is 17.9%. So, let’s give them something to open!

“Reserve Your Seat,” “LEARN MORE” and “Download Your Free…” are all great examples of action-packed phrases in subject lines that inspire open rates. You can pair these with your contacts first name, icon images, or by addressing their wants and needs — for example, [First Name], Do You Want Financially Fit Employees?

Then, make your offer tempting! Who can withstand the urge to press a beautiful, shiny, candy-like button?! We have been programmed from an early age to press buttons, so why not place your CTA in a bright color right at the top of your email that beckons your readers to click?

Give, Give, Give, Ask

For maximum email success, remember “Give, Give, Give, Ask.” That means you “give away” three items before you ask for anything in return. For example, give a newsletter, give an infographic, give a webinar, and then ask for a meeting.

Modern plan sponsors aren’t going to buy the first time. Gone are the days of going out with a broker of record change form. Additionally, with the DOL’s conflict-of-interest rule, you wouldn’t want that. You want your plan fiduciaries to do research and to exercise prudence when selecting their retirement plan advisor. A compelling way that you can demonstrate your expert knowledge is through consistent retirement plan marketing. Teach plan sponsors what they need to know and why they should hire you.

Did you know that 23% of plan sponsors are seeking a new advisor? The No. 1 most cited reason is that they want a more knowledgeable advisor. By taking the time to educate your audience about current events and trends, you are demonstrating your retirement plan knowledge.

Focus on the Experience

Another way to demonstrate your results are through case studies. We all know that in financial services, we cannot use testimonials; however, you can create a compelling case study. As an idea, interview one of your plan sponsor clients and ask them to share their experience working with you.

Did you:

  • Improve plan design?

  • Recommend changes to the investment menu?

  • Implement a financial wellness program?

  • Change recordkeepers?

  • Establish a formal fiduciary process?

Write about it. Promote it through your email automation campaigns. Share it with your COIs to demonstrate the true value of a retirement plan expert. As an industry, we need to demonstrate why human financial advisors are critical. This is one very powerful way for you to show and tell through email about what you do and the ultimate value of your expertise.

Consistency is King

There is no silver bullet and marketing is never one and done. It’s consistency over time that yields the best results. Take the time to create an email marketing calendar — and be creative. Have some fun. It doesn’t always have to be alpha, beta, standard deviation, facts and figures; do something that is interesting and, most importantly, delivers value.

As the conflict-of-interest rule ebbs and flows, we have a golden opportunity. It is for leadership. Take the reins. You have knowledge, experience, and ethical standards to separate yourself. By implementing a consistent email marketing program that educates, demonstrates and informs, you can stand out from other advisors as the retirement plan expert in your community.

If there is ever a time to own your back yard, it is now — because you are the authority.

Thanks for reading and happy marketing!

Rebecca Hourihan, AIF, PPC, is the founder and CMO of 401(k) Marketing. This column originally appeared in the Fall issue of NAPA Net the Magazine.