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Putting in the Work

Sales Process Development

At one of my first jobs, I had to cold call – and to be honest, I hated it. Nervous ring after nervous ring, I hoped the person on the other end didn’t pick up. It was time consuming, anxiety ridden and sometimes embarrassing. 

But I did it. However, I didn’t do it well. Our managing partner said, “You need to make 40 dials per day,” so I did exactly that – 40 dials per day. If no one answered, I breathed a sigh of relief. 

However, the hitch in this story is that I was at a commission-only job. So if no one answered, I wouldn’t get the opportunity to schedule an appointment. No appointments meant no chance of gaining clients. I think you know where I’m going here: no chance of earning a paycheck. Needless to say, I wasn’t at that job very long – especially if I wanted to eat! 

Fast forward to my next job. I still had to cold call, but something had changed. 

Work and Effort

I wasn’t as terrified. Each dial got easier. I started working on a script. I’d tweak it, refine it and practice it until I had curated the right balance. It had a polite introduction, specific opening questions that evoked curiosity, and then an intentionally worded sales pitch. It took months to find the right combination to the conversation lock. 

But once I had figured it out, it almost became exciting to speak with prospects. Then I didn’t shy away from the 80 required dials, and I wanted them to answer. It became thrilling to spark a conversation. I had begun to put in the work and effort. 

Work, Effort and Curiosity

Once the dials and conversations didn’t petrify me, it was time to get curious. 

What were we selling? Retirement plans. Why? To help people save for retirement. How? Through awesome retirement plan advisors. 

Once the foundation was in place, the next series of questions arrived: How are we doing it? What kind of marketing helps our clients? How do we communicate our clients’ value propositions to prospects? Each answered question supplied nourishment for my curiosity. 

After the work, effort and curiosity, the next challenge arose: Could we do more?

Enter the Advent of Content Marketing

Content marketing is a way to amplify your voice. It is a way to do more. You can share your message with thousands of contacts with the click of a button. That makes it highly efficient and when done properly, it is incredibly effective. 

It is important to call out that we are still in a relationship-based business. Approximately 70% of new client introductions come from a client referral or center of influence. However, implementing a content marketing strategy is a new age opportunity for you to stand out, efficiently nurture your prospects through your pipeline, and, ultimately, win more business. 

Read more commentary by Rebecca Hourihan here.

When a plan sponsor goes through the buying decision-making process, they go through the following four stages.

1. AWARENESS. “I know our retirement plan needs attention.” 

  • Goal: generate buzz and create brand awareness
  • Examples of content to promote you: blog articles, curated lists, eail campaigns, social media posts and webinars.

2. INTEREST. “Who do we know that works with retirement plans? Can I get an introduction?”

  • Goal: prospect introductions 
  • Examples of content to promote you: website, social media profile, newsletters, best practice guides, gated materials, case studies, infographics, events. 

3. DECISION. “I’m asking for RFPs. I’m interviewing advisors. I’m gathering information.” 

  • Goal: meet with prospects, wow them, and convert them to clients.
  • Examples of content to promote you: pitch decks, brochures, reports, service calendar and RPF response.

4. ACTION. “I want to hire you as our company’s retirement plan advisor.”

  • Goal: service happy clients, have them become raving fans, and then they refer you to more retirement plan prospects.
  • Examples of content to promote you: case studies, client appreciation events, newsletters, email campaigns, social media, webinars, educational resources, thank you notes.

As the plan sponsor goes through each stage, content marketing becomes a strategy that will nurture prospects through your pipeline. With your content, try to educate, inform and entertain them. Through your materials, share your experiences and how you help your clients so that when it’s time for the plan sponsor to make a decision, it’s a hands-down, without a doubt, easy decision that you are the right advisor, and they need to immediately hire you!

Remember, it wasn’t until I had put in the work, effort and curiosity that I was ready to begin a content marketing strategy. Start small and you build up your marketing capabilities over time. Content marketing takes work, effort and insatiable curiosity, which we know you have in spades. 

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