A guest Blog Post from Sharon A. Pivirotto – CEO 401kbestpractices.com
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 http://401kbestpractices.com/free-resources.
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 http://www.401kbestpractices.com/401kstudygroup
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.
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 (Rick.Rosenquist@CreativeJuiceEmail.com), you may get a Giant Benjamin too!
That time of year has rolled around again. I regularly get asked what pieces of technology I am most intrigued by and the ones that make our art here at The 401k Study Group a little easier to create. Here are the first 5. Now there is a catch. My most favorite Thing this year is not on the list. That piece of info will be individually delivered to the first 10 people that email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I will give you a hint: It is very inexpensive and I think it is a must have for anyone who is looking to see if their messaging is reaching their target audience. Thanks to all of you that read, listen, watch and comment on our work. We are thrilled you share your time with us. Now, onto the list.
#1. Clarity.fm | I have written about this separately in another blog post. You can read the details here. I do want to say that the ability for anyone professional (celebrity or not) to have a platform that allows them to take calls, share their expertise and get paid works for me. On the flip side, if you are looking for help, Clarity provides a growing list of experts that you normally wont be able to reach out and call. Check it out.
#2. Trello | This task management platform is simple. Easy to use and intuitive. It works on a simple card system that you can drag and drop. I like simple design and the interface for this is just that. It works on large items and small recurring ones. It can synch with your desktop, phone or tablet. And the basic version is FREE. It also allows for collaboration. There are many task management programs out there, but I really do favor this one.
#3. Scoop.it | Anyone that follows the work we do at The 401k Study Group knows we like to aggregate info and then have the ability to share it easily. Scoop.it is our daily newspaper platform. We find an article that we think the 401k community would benefit from and we tag it and it appears on our news paper. You can highlight, edit the title, add a photo. The page itself can be indexed, searched and allows for comments. It also allows other members of the community to “Re-Scoop” your article and use it for themselves. What a resource if you are trying to provide a one stop shop for news aggregation.
#4. Buffer App | I have mentioned this tool in the past. However in many of my conversations with Advisors I hear them struggling with finding content and then struggling even more with finding the time to post it. Rest assured I do not have a Harry Potter wand. I also do not have more time in the day than anyone else. I use Buffer to tag items for posting to my social networks at a predetermined time. LinkedIn, Google+, Facebook, Twitter. All of those platforms integrate. Find the items you want to post then just load your Buffer. Go way on vacation and items still post. Wait, maybe it is magic?
#5. Klout | There has been a lot of hand wringing and gnashing of the teeth over on line influence sites. There are many opinions both pro and con about their accuracy and validity. I will only say this, just be aware they exist. I will not hypothesize that you can get your dream job if your Klout Score is an 80. I will also not agree that if your score is a 20, you are not influential. Just be aware. Take a few weeks and check one of these sites out. There are many. I favor Klout, but you may chose one of the others. See what makes them tick, if they are important to you work at trying to raise your score. It means you are doing the work.
That’s it. My favorite 5 of 2013 so far. But don’t forget, the tool that I love the most this year is not listed. If you want he dirt on it and why I really do think this is one of the best tools an Advisor can have, shoot me an email. The first 10 get to hear about it. If your number 11 hit me up on Clarity.fm. Schedule a call.
Thanks for reading!
I am not sure what will happen after we post a blog, or a podcast or record something for our on-demand library. I will not be in the room with you when you read, listen or watch. Sometimes we worry. I honestly think that anyone that does this type of work worries (to some degree).
We can’t force anyone to share, or leave comments or like it. We can only post and hope that it improves someone’s day at the moment they consume it.
On the other hand, we could do the work and then edit it, refine it, re-record it, re-edit it and on and on. But then no one would see what we created, the piece that we want to be of value.
Seth Godin calls this creative activity “art”. There is much meaning in that three little word. Especially for someone(s) that have never considered themselves creative, or the slightest bit artistic.
It took us a very long time to realize that we were creative. In our industry it may not be fashionable to be creative. In our industry it’s good to be analytical, where numbers and returns and stars and alpha matter. They are important but isn’t the human side more important?
So here is a small challenge for those of you than fancy yourselves analytical. Make some art (blog, podcast or video) and share it. You share numbers, returns and expense ratios all the time. Can you? Or is something like this really The Fear?
After you create it, send it to me. I love art, especially the non-numerical kind. I get enough of that at my day job.
Image courtesy of chanpipat at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
I am currently reading this book now. It is a game changer if you will act on the premise.
Icarus is a mythological character with incredible staying power. Everyone knows his story — his dad made him wings to help him escape the minotaur’s labyrinth, and warned him not to fly too close to the sun lest his wings melt. Amazed to be flying, however, Icarus didn’t listen and tumbled into the ocean. It’s the classic tale of hubris.
In his new book, The Icarus Deception: How High Will You Fly?, marketing master Seth Godin shares why he thinks this story is manipulative — because it’s all about obedience and reminding us of the dangers of getting too big for our britches. But Godin asks: why should our most valuable skill be our ability to follow orders? And why shouldn’t we fly really high? In The Icarus Deception, Godin calls for us to think and act boldly. He asks us to go about our work as if…
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