Business Refinement, Why the Words Matter, and Defining Your Brand

On this episode of 16 Ways from Sunday, I’m joined by Steve Phillips, founder of the Advisor Protocol.  Steve is also a Certified Practice Management Consultant at Pareto Systems and has spent over 25 years in the financial services industry as a speaker, trainer and educator working with advisors, product development firms and carriers.

Steve has trained and led successful wholesale consultant teams whose role it was to support and assist individual advisors, broker dealers and RIAs. As a speaker, team leader and passionate educator, Steve’s passion is to help successful advisors become efficient adapters of improved processes around practice management, business refinement and client acquisition.

This episode is all about business refinement. Steve and I discuss how to get out of the rat race of the ever-increasing budget to generate new relationships and convince new people and focus on how to teach the already convinced to convince others on your behalf.

We discuss the difference between referrals and introductions, as well as how to think about defining your brand.

  • As a special bonus, Steve has made available a one-page download titled “The Words Matter.” This is a foundational piece he uses during the coaching and branding process with advisors. It will help you begin to wrap your arms around how to think differently about your practice. It’s free-of-charge for 16 Ways from Sunday listeners.

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Funnel Flipping, Account Based Marketing, and The Secret Formula for Category Leadership

In this episode of 16 Ways from Sunday, Mark Mersman interviews Sangram Vajre, co-founder and Chief Evangelist of Terminus. As you’ll quickly uncover, Sangram is a marketing thought leader. He is the author of Account-Based Marketing for Dummies and is the mastermind behind the #FlipMyFunnel community.

In this episode, Sangram shares a very basic, yet profound formula for what it takes to become a category leader.

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The Integration of a Tax Practice and Insurance Agency with Wealth Management

In this episode, Jeff Leppert and Kevin Holt discuss the evolution of their practice and how they executed on a vision to have multiple services under one roof. They detail their strategy behind building a wealth management firm that also marries together a full service insurance agency (property/casualty, health, medicare), tax practice, along with a strategic legal partnership all under one roof. They discuss acquisition, transition, and their commitment to the ultimate client experience.

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The Financial Wellness Gap – What it Means to be UnNiched

In this episode of 16 Ways from Sunday, Mark Mersman is on the receiving end of an interview with Andrea McGrew, CCO, and CLO of USA Financial. Their discussion centers around the Financial Wellness Gap facing women. Andrea is the host of UnNiched, a podcast and initiative focused on dismantling the notion that women are a small, specialized segment of the population. She is building a community that raises awareness and fosters dialogue about some of the biggest challenges facing women, both in the financial industry and within the investor community. Mersman_Ad-Podcast-Cover_Ep012 If you haven’t subscribed to the podcast, you can do so here: itunes-280Google Spotify      
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Official launch of 16 Ways from Sunday podcast : Exploring Financial Advisor Marketing From Every Angle

I’m thrilled to share with you the official launch of the 16 Ways from Sunday podcast. This podcast is a podcast for high-performing financial planning professionals that are committed to improving their craft. It takes a rifle-approach with a focus on financial advisor marketing and business building.

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Each episode provides actionable marketing ideas and insights, typically delivered through candid interviews with some of the top thought leaders in marketing and/or the financial advice industry. From digital marketing to traditional direct-response marketing, each episode delivers straight-forward and engaging content that any financial professional can use to improve their bottom line and grow their practice.

You can subscribe via iTunes, Google play, and a number of other podcast apps.

Visit my podcast home page to get all the details and check out past episodes.

The first three episode titles and links are below:

Episode 01: Mark Mersman: On the Sales and Marketing Funnel for High Performing Advisors

Episode 02: Mike Lover: On the Imporance of Process and Elevating the Client Experience

Episode 03: Brian Hart: On Turning Press into Profits: Simplifying Public Relations for Financial Advisors

I’m looking forward to this endeavor and anticipate at least two new podcasts to be released each month.

All the best,

Mark Mersman

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FMG Suite acquires Peter Montoya’s MarketingLibrary & MarketingPro, Platinum Advisor Strategies: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.

Seemingly in the middle of the night, FMG Suite made two significant “competitor” acquisitions last quarter. According to their website, the mission of FMG Suite is as follows:

“At FMG Suite, our business centers on helping you build yours. Through lead-generation websites and digital marketing tools, we help you accomplish more with your marketing, from retaining current clients to gaining more referrals.”

Their first acquisition was that of Platinum Advisor Strategies. This company was established in 2009 by brothers Robert and Thomas Fross. According to their website, their mission statement is “to create the financial industry’s finest branding, practice management, and marketing materials, while adhering to uncompromising levels of professionalism and service, both inside and outside our organization.”

FMG Suite’s second acquisition, which took place approximately a month after acquiring Platinum Advisor Strategies, was that of long time financial advisor marketing “guru” Peter Montoya’s company, MarketingPro. This company had two primary services, a library of marketing content for financial advisors (known as MarketingLibrary) and then a print/email automation solution that helped distribute that conent (known as the MarketingPro upgrade.)

Image result for financial advisor marketing

I’ve spend the past 15 years involved with financial advisor marketing, and have seen each of these companies evolve their business models, especially as the digital age has made its way into the financial services industry. Here’s my take on what this acquisition means to the industry and individual advisors (from the good and the bad to the ugly).

Setting the stage:

  • I don’t know anything about the financial details of the transactions. However, it’s safe to say that the two entities that were acquired are worth more to FMG Suite as a result of cross-selling possibilities than they would to entities that weren’t already entrenched in that space. More on the later
  • Interesting observation – I’ve seen Peter Montoya speak a few times over the years. I’ve always found his talks informative with some good ideas presented. There was, however, one thing that I always questioned about his philosophy (and now I find it extremely ironic). One of the central themes to his talk and his branding approach was “the brand called you.” His main point was that your clients do business with you (a true statement). As as a result, he was a huge proponent of you naming your firm after yourself. If your last name was “Maple,” then your company should be named “Maple Financial Services” or something to that effect. When Montoya named his company, it followed this same thought pattern: Peter Montoya was the brand. A few years back, he slowly faded away from using his name in the brand. He did an initial transition where it was “Marketing Library-Peter Montoya,” and then shifted entirely to “MarketingLibrary,” and then “MarketingPro.” I found a whole lot of irony in it while I watched the brand changes slowly take place. It’s long been my belief that a company is worth more to a buyer when the seller’s name isn’t embedded within it. Who knows how long Montoya had been staging an exit. It begs the question – if asked today, would he give different advice to the hundreds of advisors who he encouraged to use their name in the branding of their firm?
  • I don’t know a whole lot about Platinum Advisor Strategies. I’ve not heard much positive or negative about them, so my review of the impact of the acquisition takes this into account.
  • I’ve had extensive experience with MarketingLibrary and MarketingPro. They’ve been an entity that has been tied into our technology offering for years.
  • My knowledge about FMG Suite comes from a handful of interactions I’ve had with their team, my review of dozens of videos they’ve created, and feedback I’ve received from advisors over the years.

Let’s get to it:

The Good:

Each of these three entities bring complementary services to the table. In theory, this should provide for a more comprehensive offering made available to advisors. Each of the three entities has certain strengths; if each of these strengths can be harnessed and integrated effectively, it could be an impressive offering for advisors.

Each of the entities likely has relationships and connections with an extensive network of broker-dealers. As a result, this could provide access to new services to an a larger number of broker-dealer affiliated representatives. With that said, it could present new challenges (covered in a bit).

With FMG Suite’s service offering lineup being enhanced, it likely means that competitors will look to step up their games. Regardless of what provider(s) you select for websites, marketing content, and/or marketing automation services, this is a good thing.

The Bad:

Too much : with the higher volume of services being made available, this could invite confusion as to what services make the most sense for you to invest in for your practice. In addition, it will be interesting to see how the merging of three firm’s services and user interfaces come together. Change is difficult, and there’s no doubt the user interface will change soon.

Compliance issues: Our firm owns and operates three RIAs in addition to an independent broker-dealer. Compliance is a big deal to us, and finding marketing tools that are easy for our compliance department to work with make the lives of our advisors easier. MarketingPro’s compliance interface was a tool that was very compliance/advisor friendly system. FMG Suite’s compliance interface leaves A LOT to be desired. Our sense has always been that FMG Suite was built more for the advisor that didn’t have an active entity operating in a compliance review capacity. If they can take a queue from the user interface of MarketingPro, this could be a boon for advisors working with an entity that reviews content from a compliance standpoint (broker-dealers and/or corporate RIAs).

Isolating integrations: Software tools like FMG Suite, MarketingPro, and Platinum Advisor Strategies rely upon their ability to integrate with other software platforms that are used by its customers. One example of this is AdvisorWebsites, one of the leading providers of websites for financial advisors. Prior to the acquisition, there was an integration in place between MarketingLibrary/Pro and AdvisorWebsites. This made the lives of advisors’ easier. Since FMG Suite offers websites, this integration will undoubtedly be shut off. Who knows what other integrations may be discontinued as a result of this acquisition. Advisors lose here.

Volume isn’t always a good thing: typically speaking, volume is a good thing. It can result in lower costs and improved services. My suspicion is that the increased volume could water down the website offering, forcing a more cookie-cutter approach in order to keep up with the higher numbers. As of today, it’s not hard to tell what is an FMG Suite website. That’s not necessarily a knock on them, as they are professionally done, but the amount of unique content vs. “universal” content is pretty limited. In order to differentiate ourselves in the financial services space, unique content is critical.

The Ugly:

Cost: If I were a betting man, costs will go up. Costs for MarketingPro services and Platinum Advisor Services. The’ll also likely be pushing hard to sway advisors who don’t have an FMG website over to use their services, arguing that they need to “bundle” their services. I’ll be curious to see what services they’ll continue to offer a la carte.

Questionable business practices: As an independent broker-dealer and three corporate RIAs, we were shocked that we were given no heads up that this acquisition was taking place. In fact, we didn’t even find out until an advisor of ours brought it to our attention. We immediately worked to have a call with our contacts at the company. We had a conversation with the President of FMG Suite, and were promised that we would be notified in advance before they started to make changes in their offerings. Within two weeks of that phone call, two things took place:

  • One of the critical integrations our advisors relied upon was eliminated, despite us being told that it would take place until 2019. There was no warning or communication made about this.
  • We heard from multiple advisors that FMG Suite’s sales representatives were targeting our advisors pitching them to change their website platforms. To be honest, we expected that. Why else would FMG make the acquisition? However, we didn’t expect them to use our compliance person’s name as a part of their sales pitch, stating that “NAME HERE approved the transition to FMG” and basically implying that it was going to happen anyways. To say that it was a deceptive sales practice is probably being kind. This is the sort of thing that other firms will have a difficult time accepting when they are seeking partners they can trust.

 

There’s a lot that we’ll want to keep an eye on in the months to come with this acquisition. My personal opinion is that it could be a good thing for the industry, but has been poorly executed thus far, and there’s a long way to go before trust and confidence can be restored.

 

 

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The three questions you must answer for prospective clients (and the two questions to answer to keep them as clients)

The three questions you must answer for prospective clients (and the two questions to answer to keep them as clients)

Many will argue that “sales is sales.” I’ll contend that the financial services industry has two paths that professionals can take when approaching new client acquisition (sales): the transaction-based sales path or the consultative sales path.

In a transactional sales model, the value is found within the product and price is often the focus. The consultative approach to sales puts the value emphasis on the planning services offered, with the product and price being secondary.

The transactional relies more on emotion and solving “a problem.” In the financial services world, it tends to be very short sighted and singularly focused. People who do business with these types of financial services providers tend to be customers, not clients.

The consultative approach tends to have a much longer sales cycle, puts a heavier focus on a the relationship, and results in a relationship that is more aptly categorized as a client.

Prospective clients who follow an advisor-driven consultative approach to sales have three primary questions they want answered from an advisor:

  1. Do I like this person? It sounds simple, but a prospective client needs to like you if they plan to do business with you from a consultative standpoint. A transaction customer puts far less importance on the answer to this question. Think about it like this… when I go to buy a new stove or pair of jeans, I don’t really care that much about whether I like the salesperson. Don’t get me wrong, it helps… but it’s not the basis for my decision
  2. Do I trust this person? Trust is at the core of any relationship, especially when it has to do with money. There are plenty of things you can do to earn one’s trust. Third party validation and credibility are one. Quality time is another. Study after study suggests that you need to spend a certain number of hours with somebody before you can trust them. Translation: the one or two call close just ain’t gonna get it done.
  3. Do I think they can get me to the bright, sunny future that I hope for? This is far more important than you may realize. This is where honesty is important. You can tell them that it can happen, but if you aren’t being honest with them, they won’t remain a client for long (keep reading to find out way. Show them how to help them reach their future goals… but don’t start doing this until questions number one and two have been answered yes.

 

Once they’ve become a client… they need you to continually answer two questions:

  1. Am I still OK? 
  2. Is my bright, sunny future still in tact?

Those two questions have plenty of overlap, but those need to be the focus of every review you have with your clients if you want them to remain clients. I’ve oversimplified things a bit, but if you can put your focus on being able to continually answer these questions for prospective clients and existing clients, you’ll be in a much better spot to continue to build a referral culture within your practice. At the end of the day, a clearly defined sales process can be one of the most important marketing tools you possess.

Enjoy!

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Cutting through the noise part 2 – the best marketing email I’ve received in the past 12 months

If you haven’t had the chance to read my previous post about the best direct mail piece I’ve seen this year, I invite you do so, as it ties in closely with why I loved this email.

The subject line was as follows: Michigan State vs. the Buckeyes.. Friendly wager?

This email came from a gentleman I had never heard of, nor did I know of his company. He sent it on the Wednesday before a big football game between my alma mater (Michigan State) and Ohio State. Here was the first paragraph of his email to me:

Hey Mark,

As a lifelong Buckeyes fan, I wanted to reach out with a friendly wager. I’ll give you the Spartans to cover the spread as of game time Saturday and I’ll take the Ohio State to beat it. If you win, I’ll send you some Michigan State swag or make a donation to a charity of your choice. If I win, I’d like the chance to have a short call to introduce Tenfold.

He then shared a quick sentence about his company, and then above his signature, he signed off by saying:

Let me know if we have a bet!

Here’s what I know…  he probably sent that same email to a list of other MSU grads in a similar business/job capacity. As you can see from his email, he didn’t even go to school there… so it could have even been totally made up that he was a fan. BUT… he got my attention. I replied to him and explored what his company did. Here’s what I loved about this strategy:

  • Highly personalized. I’m an MSU alum and football fan. He did his homework (that homework isn’t that hard to do, especially with LinkedIn and all the other data sources out there).
  • It was different. It was completely outside the box and not the same old company pitch I get ALL THE TIME.
  • The subject line FORCED me to open it. Enough said. That’s the name of the game.
  • It was a win-win for him. Even if he had to send me “swag” as he put it, it was a drop in the bucket for his company to continue engagement with a potential client.
  • His signature line had a direct link where I could schedule a call with him. Highly effective use of his time and I’d betcha he got a bunch of calls scheduled as a result of it.
  • It was time sensitive and highly opportunistic – I responded to him before the game (within a day or two of his email being sent). He capitalized on a big event.
  • It gave him an immediate icebreaker conversation that wasn’t about business. Let’s face it, people prefer to do business with people they enjoy talking with (especially things that aren’t business related).
  • It’s highly repeatable. His favorite school has a dozen football games a year and even more basketball games.

So… can you get creative with something like this in your practice?

Here’s my action steps/thoughts for you:

  1. Find your team/sport/passion. It helps to be genuine with this one.
  2. Have fun with the offer/challenge/bet (and make sure your compliance folks are OK with it).
  3. Use Linkedin as a starting point for finding the people you may want to do this with. (Translation: don’t buy an email list).

If I can be of any assistance to you with your efforts, feel free to contact me.

In the meantime… GO GREEN!

All the best!

Mark

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Cutting through the noise part 2 – the best marketing email I’ve received in the past 12 months

If you haven’t had the chance to read my previous post about the best direct mail piece I’ve seen this year, I invite you do so, as it ties in closely with why I loved this email.

The subject line was as follows: Michigan State vs. the Buckeyes.. Friendly wager?

This email came from a gentleman I had never heard of, nor did I know of his company. He sent it on the Wednesday before a big football game between my alma mater (Michigan State) and Ohio State. Here was the first paragraph of his email to me:

Hey Mark,

As a lifelong Buckeyes fan, I wanted to reach out with a friendly wager. I’ll give you the Spartans to cover the spread as of game time Saturday and I’ll take the Ohio State to beat it. If you win, I’ll send you some Michigan State swag or make a donation to a charity of your choice. If I win, I’d like the chance to have a short call to introduce Tenfold.

He then shared a quick sentence about his company, and then above his signature, he signed off by saying:

Let me know if we have a bet!

Here’s what I know…  he probably sent that same email to a list of other MSU grads in a similar business/job capacity. As you can see from his email, he didn’t even go to school there… so it could have even been totally made up that he was a fan. BUT… he got my attention. I replied to him and explored what his company did. Here’s what I loved about this strategy:

  • Highly personalized. I’m an MSU alum and football fan. He did his homework (that homework isn’t that hard to do, especially with LinkedIn and all the other data sources out there).
  • It was different. It was completely outside the box and not the same old company pitch I get ALL THE TIME.
  • The subject line FORCED me to open it. Enough said. That’s the name of the game.
  • It was a win-win for him. Even if he had to send me “swag” as he put it, it was a drop in the bucket for his company to continue engagement with a potential client.
  • His signature line had a direct link where I could schedule a call with him. Highly effective use of his time and I’d betcha he got a bunch of calls scheduled as a result of it.
  • It was time sensitive and highly opportunistic – I responded to him before the game (within a day or two of his email being sent). He capitalized on a big event.
  • It gave him an immediate icebreaker conversation that wasn’t about business. Let’s face it, people prefer to do business with people they enjoy talking with (especially things that aren’t business related).
  • It’s highly repeatable. His favorite school has a dozen football games a year and even more basketball games.

So… can you get creative with something like this in your practice?

Here’s my action steps/thoughts for you:

  1. Find your team/sport/passion. It helps to be genuine with this one.
  2. Have fun with the offer/challenge/bet (and make sure your compliance folks are OK with it).
  3. Use Linkedin as a starting point for finding the people you may want to do this with. (Translation: don’t buy an email list).

If I can be of any assistance to you with your efforts, feel free to contact me.

In the meantime… GO GREEN!

All the best!

Mark

The post Cutting through the noise part 2 – the best marketing email I’ve received in the past 12 months appeared first on 16 Ways from Sunday.

Cutting through the noise – The best direct mail marketing I’ve received this year

At least once a week I hear expressions like “direct mail is dead” or “there is so much junk mail.”

If you know anything about me, you know I’m a fan of direct mail. If there is one thing that I focus on when it comes to direct mail (regardless of quantity or the call to action) is that a message to market match is the most critical aspect to direct response marketing. This is true whether you’re a financial advisor or an automobile dealership.

I love receiving mail and reviewing the “gut impact” it has on me (and others). Frankly, most of it sucks. And the reason why people may utter the words “direct mail is dead” is because there is a lot more noise today and far more people and things vying for our attention than there was 20 years ago (on top of the fact that we all have shorter attention spans nowadays).

So when I receive something that stands out amidst the sea of mail, it warms my marketing heart. Earlier this week I received a piece of direct mail marketing that is currently sitting atop my personal list of impactful marketing efforts for 2018.

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I received this in a UPS box, so it certainly made it to my desk. It came from somebody who had sent me a couple of emails previously, but I had not responded to him. My guess is that he knew that I opened them, and he may have even known that I forwarded one of his emails to a colleague of mine. This is likely what triggered in his system that I might be a somewhat interested prospect (even though I hadn’t reached out to him).

Inside the UPS box was a hand written envelope with my name on it, along with a short note to me. The gentleman is selling suite packages for concerts and sports events being held in New York City. He likely targeted me as the CMO of a financial institution that may host events where we would use suites to entertain clients and/or prospective clients.

The really cool part of this was that he included an autographed picture of Magic Johnson dunking in the NCAA championship game. What makes that particularly impactful is that I’m a Michigan State Alum and a fairly big MSU sports fan. This immediately increased the perceived value of the “gift.” He even included the certificate of authenticity.

Talk about cool. In the grand scheme of things, the autographed picture wasn’t likely that expensive (I found them online for around $50-100). But because of who I am, the value is far higher… and I certainly shared the story with colleagues of mine.

You might be asking… will we do business with him? I have no idea. To be honest, we don’t do that much in the way of suites (especially not in NYC). But I can assure you that I feel a sense of obligation to reply to his next email or call. I’m likely even going to send him a thank you note, and may even keep my eyes peeled for a way to “repay” him in some way.

I realize you won’t spend this kind of money for a big group of people, but I would encourage you to think about creative ways that can break through the noise of all the junk mail your ideal clients receive.

And since it’s football season, there’s only one fitting way to end this post… GO GREEN!

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