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Posts from the ‘Marketing’ Category


5 Easy Things You Can Do To DIfferentiate Yourself In The 401k Market

A guest Blog Post from Sharon A. Pivirotto – CEO


In 1998 I lost an opportunity to help a company manage their 401k plan because the fees on the American Funds platform (only offered A-shares at the time), were way more expensive than the free (hidden) fees offered by the other advisor competing for the business (or so the investment committee was led to believe).

“Price is only an issue in the absence of value.” I’ve heard that quote (no attribution found) many times before and it wasn’t until I got the call in 1998 telling me I did not win the business that I realized what that quote actually meant to me.

“Maybe the reason it seems that price is all your customers care about is…

… that you haven’t given them anything else to care about.” ~ Seth Godin

If you want to stop competing on fees (and funds and fiduciary status), you must be able to identify the value you actually bring to the table and clearly articulate in a way that helps plan sponsors understand why they’d want to hire you (as opposed to a product or vendor you might be able to represent).

One: Specialize and advertise.

If you’ve been working in the qualified plan space for any length of time you understand how complex ERISA and 401k plan management compliance can get. Specialization is important to your ability to service your plans properly, but is also a great way to differentiate yourself and show prospects that you are better equipped to help them than the advisor with no specialized training. In a survey I conducted (Financial Service Standards) a few years ago, 95% of plan sponsors said it was important that the advisor they work with have specialized retirement training. Get educated. Get a retirement-specific designation. Download a free guide that lists 24 different retirement credentials and pick which one you will start with, then advertise it. Let plan sponsors know you’re qualified to help them manage their plan and explain the importance of specialization in this complex area of the market.

Two: Be very specific about who you serve.

If you are the owner of a chiropractic office in Pittsburgh and the doctors in your practice want a self-directed option in their 401k plan, and I told you that “I specialize in offering self-directed options for small medical practices in Pittsburgh”, I would be exactly who you’d want to work with over the advisor that says “I work with companies whose plan size is between 2 and 10 million in assets.” Think about it. Specialists make more than generalists and you bring true value when you can narrow your customer base to serve, exceptionally well, a specific demographic. Identify specifically who you will serve and you’ll win a much higher percentage of cases when you start focusing on a specific client type rather than trying to accommodate anyone that might need help with their 401k plan.

Three: Be clear on how you’re different.

In the book “How to Get Your Competition Fired” Randy Schwantz describes the three ways you can have a competitive advantage through differentiation. First, you can provide a service that is unique, that no one else provides. Second, you can provide a service that others provide, but you have a better process for it that gets better results. Or third, you can describe the service you offer in such a clear and compelling way that prospects are motivated to buy from you rather than from your competition. Identify what your competitive advantage is and articulate it a way that shows your prospects why and how it benefits them.

Four: Make sure your unique value differentiator is front and center on your homepage.

I can’t tell you how many advisors have spent tons of money on their websites, and nowhere on their home page can a client actually learn the who, what and why of the firm (Who is this page about, what’s in it for me, and why would I want to do business with this firm). Go to your website right now and put yourself in the shoes of your prospect and ask those three questions. Chances are you can tweak your homepage so your potential clients know they’re right place and they’ve found a solution to their unique situation, if you’ve done a good job in identifying your target marketing and crafting your unique value proposition.

Five: Use LinkedIn to attract your ideal client.

LinkedIn can be so much more than a plain, boring business card if you use the features LinkedIn offers its members to your advantage. Make sure your summary explains your who, what and why (just like your home page). Give a clear call to action, such as “download your free 10-point checklist on how to avoid the common 401k mistakes from my homepage at this link”. Use the new publishing option to write about things your prospects and clients should pay attention to (while raising your visibility and credibility).

There are many ways that you can compete more effectively in the 401k market but they all begin with understanding the landscape and deciding on a focus for your business.

If you’d like more strategies and tips for growing a successful and compliant 401k practices, you can download a free special report titled “3 Steps to Developing a Marketing Strategy that Doesn’t Suck” on my blog at


About: Sharon Pivirotto is the founder of the 401k Best Practices Blog and Managing Director of Financial Service Standards, a division of fi360, Inc. She’s developed numerous products and presentations for 401k professionals including the 401k Service Training Program and the 401k Service Solution turn-key sales and service documents.


Learn about her newest program to help you find, nurture and convert 401k prospects into raving referral sources with Jane Murphy of Acceleration Retirement and Stephen Wershing of the Client Driven Practice at


Pick One And GO!

Do you enjoy committee work or participant facing activity? Pick one and GO! Are you a composer or a conductor? Pick one and GO!

Check your Broker/Dealer agreements with plan sponsors. What do they allow you to do? Pick one and GO!


If they don’t have clear agreements then you really gotta GO!


Don’t Be a Snob


I would venture a guess and say that most Financial Advisors have read the Peter Lynch book titled, “Beating the Street”.  I would also venture to guess that most Financial Advisors have NOT read the Gary Vaynerchuk book titled, “Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook”.

Both men are “Best Selling” authors.  Both men are highly respected in their  industries.  They are also worlds apart in those industries, right?  The former manager of the massive Fidelity Magellan Fund, and the founder of Wine Library can’t have that much in common, can they?  Not sure if Mr. Lynch likes wine, they may have that in common.  But based on my knowledge of Gary, he is not looking for stalwart blue chip stocks.  So maybe the similarities end with wine.

After reading both books I was reminded that they have both leaned on kids they observe or come in contact with on a regular basis.  In Peter Lynch’s case it was his own children.  He writes, “Mary had initiated her coverage of the Gap in the summer of 1990”.  He also writes similarly about his family’s patronage of Clearly Canadian, The Body Shop and Chili’s.  You can find these on pages 152-159.  He writes that missed the powerful “buy” signals on “Chili’s”, “Gap” and “Clearly Canadian”.  Clearly the teen attraction was not enough to sway him.  He “was determined not to make the mistake in 1992”.

Gary, on the other hand quite plainly states (on page 9-10) that “Just because your teenage daughter and her friends are excited about a new platform does not mean that the platform is irrelevant to your brand”.  Just because you don’t see any value in it does not mean it is not worth looking into.  Furthermore, Gary states that when “20 million other people do, you need to do something with that information.”

Advisors need to pay attention to changes in social media platforms.  They may all not resonate with you immediately but you should pay attention.  The “teen effect” should not scare you away from nor discount their ability to impact your brand.

The one thing I hope you take away from this is that “Do not put your principles above the reality of the market” (Gary Vaynerchuk).  If 20 million people are using it, you may want to take a peak, even if your teenager and their friends are using it.

Photo Attribution to Jason A. Howie via Flickr by CC-4.0


Giant Benjamin’s!

There are many ways to get someone’s attention.  Some methods work better than others.  For me, a text or something through social networking sites works best.

Calls fall on deaf ears, mail goes in the shredding pile and emails rarely get a reply.

But getting a GIANT $100 bill in the mail gets my attention (see picture, and yes that handsome dude is me).  Now I have seen these types of things before.  I have even used them “back in the day” as a fledgling insurance agent.  But I thought they were almost extinct.


Getting my attention is one thing, having something of use after that is the key.

So Rick Rosenquist from The Creative Juice Agency got my attention.  Then I took a look at the on-demand seminar they have for Financial Advisors.  If you follow the work we do at The 401k Study Group we are real big fans of on-demand content.  We also like to bring things to our membership that helps them scale certain parts of their practices.  They have something that is worth checking out.

Rick was kind enough to set up an interview with the Founder of The Creative Juice.  You can listen to that here.

They also provided me with another piece of content on retirement mistakes you may want to take a look at as well.  Just click here for that.

In the end, if you have run, plan on running or want to run live seminars you really should take a look at the digital solution that Rick and the folks have put together.  You can find that here 

Oh, and reach out to Rick (, you may get a Giant Benjamin too!


Don’t Hide! Please.


LinkedIn is my go to social networking site.  The site has a large number of features I like, the ease of posting, sharing and connecting is very appealing.

Recently I have seen an increase in the number of people viewing my profile anonymously.  I know I am handsome, that award winning smile and the close cropped hair are well, wonderful.  But let’s not be anonymous.  If I post something that gets your attention, connect with me.  If I post something you find useful, let me know.  If I post something you DO NOT agree with, shoot me a message.

The power of being able to connect and share is what this is all about, isn’t it?  Why not be visible?  Why not connect?  If you found me by accident, that’s OK.  Who knows, I would love to connect with a photographer a chef, or a sommelier (or what ever the beer equivalent of that might be)!  Connecting with me does not have to involve 401k plans and Plan Sponsor issues or ERISA.  I think many of my connections have interest outside of the qualified plan space.

So let’s not hide.  If you are on LinkedIn, you are looking to grow your network and grow your business.  Who knows who I might be able to connect you with in my network.

Image credit to:  C.mcbrien Under CC-2.0 


What’s Your Plan?

Featuring a Guest Post from James Holland | MillenniuM Investment & Retirement Advisors


I was recently asked by an Advisor friend what I thought of his new “opener” for prospects. He had the word Coach in there which is now being used more than the word Fiduciary. Everyone today is a “coach.   That led to the always popular topic of Elevator Speeches. Do they really exist?  No one talks on an elevator unless they want everyone to think they are crazy and no elevator rides last 3 minutes.  You have 15 seconds and 15 words to get someone’s attention.  “I help individuals SECURE the Financial Freedom”  “I help people obtain their retirement goals”  “I help people keep more of their own $$” is anyone else yawning?


Catch them off guard.  Retirement Plan Regulatory Changes are a silent killer, much like a heart attack.  HR Departments are swamped with ACA items for the rest of the year.  How will you stay in front of those decision makers?  ACA is a big deal but so are retirement plan changes.


Will you be remembered when they need help?  Will that elevator pitch make them pick up the phone when things go awry?  Stay top of mind because if you don’t the Advisor that has will get the call.  What is your plan to stay top of mind?  Do you have one?  If not, make one. 


Worry less about your elevator pitch, or opening and focus on staying in front of them.  Everything you try won’t work.  But keep doing it.  Remember, no one eats green eggs and ham on the first request. 

Image courtesy of Idea go at