By Maribeth Kuzmeski
InsuranceNewsNet Magazine, February 2012
I delivered a presentation on marketing strategies at MDRT’s Annual Meeting. Today, just six years later, that presentation would be very different—including aspects of marketing that didn’t even exist then.
Today, marketing includes new media, social media, viral marketing, video, virtual seminars and managing your online reputation. If you’re thinking that your marketing doesn’t have to change and new strategies like social media and viral marketing don’t affect you—I’d like to share that times truly are changing and continue to progress. Even the way we get our “bread and butter” referrals has changed. And the reality is that, without adding some of these new aspects of marketing into your plan, the results you are having may begin (or already have begun) to dwindle. I believe that change in marketing is good and here are four examples:
1) Referral acquisition is no longer reliant on word of mouth: Just a few short years ago, in order to cultivate referrals, financial and insurance professionals needed to deliver good products and service, communicate consistently and give clients an experience to talk with others about. Today all of that is still true, but it becomes meaningless unless what people are ultimately saying about you matches what can be found online.
If someone says, “You have to go see my agent, she will help find the right solutions,” you have only reached the first step. Before coming in to see you, that person will likely search for you online and that is where it gets critical and very different from the past. Today, nine out of 10 people will search for you online before coming in to visit with you. Why? Because they can (and should) do some due diligence before sharing personal financial information with someone. The problem begins if they can’t locate you online or what they find is not up-to-date, clear and shares about you and your firm. Or, even worse, if what can be found out about you after a Google search doesn’t come close to matching the perception that they had in their mind of you after being referred. It is a big reason for not converting referrals into appointments and sales. Ask yourself; does my online presence, including my website and online bio, match with who I really am?
2) Diminishing attention spans require standing out like never before: The attention span today is 17 seconds. That means that it is more important than ever to share what makes you unique to attract the attention of potential prospects. You need to give yourself a fighting chance to have someone pay attention and remember you—otherwise you become a gray suit on a gray wall and blend in with the rest.
Standing out from the crowd for an advisor is not an easy task. There are countless financial professionals trying to differentiate. Most have similar offerings and compliance requirements that keep descriptions of products and services fairly black and white. It’s true that standing out from the crowd is risky, but it may be equally risky to run a conservative, “under-the-radar” firm these days because you risk becoming an anachronism. While successful firms stick to their values, they also find ways to be so exciting that people don’t have a choice but to pay attention—and buy.
Following are a few questions you can use to define your uniqueness:
• What do your current clients say about you? (if you don’t know, ask)
• What do you do that no one else does (or few others do)?
• What target market do you focus on serving?
• What expertise do you have?
• Do you have a named service system that others do not?
• What is offered that could be considered “above and beyond?”
3) Direct marketing has been replaced with viral, social marketing: A viral message is an idea, notion or practice that’s transmitted from person to person. It ignites and motivates people to move the message. Most viral marketing begins with information that is attractive to share with others. Today, viral marketing is happening primarily in social media.
You may think that social media is a fad and will go away or will not affect financial professionals. The truth is that social media is here to stay—in one form or another. There are more than 800 million people on Facebook sharing and passing along information to one another. The fastest growing segment on Facebook is the over-65 age group. LinkedIn has more than 120 million users—most of which are executives and businesspeople, actively using the medium.
Social media helps to build your unique and individual brand, giving you the exposure that simply could not be afforded a few years ago. It is a standout tool for communicating with clients and prospects that will help you to build a larger network of business contacts. And it is incredibly beneficial in converting referrals you have received into appointments at a higher percentage than ever before. And finally, social media can be very effective at building trust. People are skeptical—but having a Facebook business page and a LinkedIn profile can warm them to who you are, including the firm’s personality, style, knowledge and expertise.
Yes, there are limitations for social media due to compliance challenges in retaining online conversations. But, by following best practices and guidelines, social media can become a powerful tool to spread the word about you.
4) Managing your reputation today includes online: Whether you have actively developed an online presence or not, one of the most important tasks in 2012 is protecting your reputation. Just like you would protect your credit, regularly check for activity connected to your name and your business. Anyone can post information about you whether you have a strong web and social media presence or not. Ultimately, it’s better to develop your own online reputation so you are in control of generating positive search results through your online posts and profiles.
One of the easiest ways to monitor your reputation is by setting up a Google Alert which will inform you of anything that has appeared about you online. Google Alerts are email updates of the latest relevant Google results based on your choice of query or topic. Go to www.Google.com/Alerts and set up a free alert on your name and your firm’s name. Whenever anything appears online that you or someone else has posted about you, an email will be sent to you with a link to the online occurrence.
It can be overwhelming to reflect on how much has changed in marketing over the past few years. And it can be even more overwhelming to think that marketing continues to change. If you want positive change in your business it may be time to stop ignoring the changes in marketing and embrace them. The smartest move you make in 2012 may be eliminating your old marketing plan and drafting a new, fresh roadmap to winning all the business that you deserve.
1. Have a prepared statement that describes the uniqueness of your business. Avoid the features and get to the benefits. Think from someone else’s perspective: “Why does this business matter to me?”
2. Spend some time determining what really makes you unique. However, think about this not from your perspective, but from your clients’. Ask or survey them to find out what they believe makes you unique. It can be a very insightful exercise either positively or negatively.
3. Give people the help they need to spread the word about you. Develop a robust online presence starting with a compelling website. People will search for you online—what they find needs to match what others are saying about you. And, give your fans something they can share with others—an interesting article that can be downloaded from your website or a feature on your business’ Facebook page. Help your clients to send you viral.
The key is to have something that is unique, let others know about it, and give them ways to share it with others. Without these, you may seem surprisingly unexceptional.
Maribeth Kuzmeski, MBA, CSP, is president of Red Zone Marketing, a consulting firm helping agents, advisors and teams continue to grow their businesses. She is a frequent national media contributor and international speaker and is the author of five books. She can be reached at [email protected].