It's all the S.A.M.E.

By Brian Lucius

Gradient Financial Group


Throughout the years, I've had the opportunity to train and speak to several hundred advisors about new marketing ideas and business platforms. One thing all top advisors know is that one's practice is either moving forward or backward. There is no maintaining. If you feel you are maintaining, I assure you that your competition is progressing and causing your business to lose ground, much like a money market account being eaten alive by inflation.

Advisors partner with marketing organizations, broker/dealers or other affiliations to help get progressive ideas and stay ahead of industry curves and trends. When attempting to grasp any new marketing campaign or business change, I have found that all things are the same.

S.A.M.E is an acronym I use when developing new business platforms or marketing programs, and it can easily be adapted to your financial services practice as you progress and changes through the years.

There are four key areas you need to know in order to effectively penetrate any marketplace. These areas are important when making any change in your business or demographic marketing. Maybe you are looking to target the baby boomer market and are trying to figure out how to combat the recent trend of "I'm waiting until the market comes back up." Or, you are trying to figure out if you should join a broker/dealer or a registered investment advisor (RIA) firm. Understanding the following four areas will help you quickly see significant results and help you stay well ahead of your local competition:
  • Situation
  • Awareness
  • Marketing
  • Education and persuasion
Situation -- This is probably the easiest to establish. It asks the simple question: What is the issue either affecting my growth or slowing me down from significant growth? Now, let's apply this to the baby boomer scenario. The situation might be that baby boomers feel differently about retirement than their parents did; as a result, your existing marketing campaign is suffering. Similarly, your clients and prospects don't want to change anything in their portfolios because they believe their portfolios will magically return to their once current value. This attitude is having a negative effect on your closing ratio. As illustrated in this paragraph, the first step is obviously assessing the situation and then determining how this impacts you.

Awareness of the situation is the next step in understanding the new change. What is my awareness of the situation? What is my prospect's awareness of the situation? Let's use an example from the 401(k) market.

Here is the situation: Most packaged 401(k) plans have hidden and excessive fees, limited investment choices and an unwanted fiduciary responsibility from their employers. Now that I've told you that, what advantage does that give you? Until you have more awareness, your understanding of the opportunities is limited, and you also need to be able to provide prospect with awareness.

Awareness -- In February of 2008, the Supreme Court ruled that employees can sue their employers for lack of fiduciary duty, which has opened up several options for both active 401(k) takeovers and in-service rollovers. The Department of Labor issued a letter stating:
  • "... Weak fee disclosure requirements under current law are putting American workers' retirement savings at risk."

  • "... According to GAO, 80 percent of workers were not aware of the fees that were being taken out of their accounts."

  • "... According to GAO, a 1 percentage point increase in fees could cut retirement income by almost 20 percent over 20 years."
Do you think, armed with that knowledge, you might better understand how to target this market? Do you think that your prospects or clients have any idea that this happens or that they might have other options for their money? The point here is that you need to have full awareness of this and be able to describe to your clients and prospects why the situation is of importance to them.

Marketing -- Now that you have awareness of the situation, it will be a lot easier to create marketing messages for your target market. This is where most marketing organizations, B/Ds and organizations earn their keep. Sticking with the 401(k) example, you now know that this may be a concern to human resource professionals and business owners. This may also be of concern to prospects and clients with existing clients. Mailing campaigns, prospecting letters, newspaper ads and seminar slides can all be created telling this story. This will demonstrate credibility and out-value your competition by providing information unknown to them.

Education and persuasion -- Game time! You've done your homework, projected your message, generated interest, and now you're sitting down with someone who's willing to listen. Your goal is to get the prospect to see things the way you see them. If you agree, it is only logical to do business together. You'll need sales concepts, analogies and supporting documents to make your case.

If you are looking at tackling any new ventures this year, this is a simple outline of things that need to be addressed for you to maximize the return on your investment. You should also partner with progressive thinkers such as other advisors, marketing organizations or broker/dealers. This business can be lonely for the independent advisors, but I assure you, it's a lot more fun when you are ahead of the curve and ahead of your competition.

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