The future of lead generation: Only the smart survive
By Ben Anderson
When I think of the quintessential annuity lead, the first thing that comes to mind is the Social Security mailer. "Tear off the reply card and drop it in the mailbox because you may being paying too much in taxes on your SSI... and by the way, I'll give you something free (complimentary)." If you send this mailer to 100 people, three to four people may respond asking for more information. Of those four, you may have two that could actually benefit from an annuity, and one that likes you enough to give you some of his retirement savings three months later.
Another very common lead generation program starts with the same concept, but instead of giving them a free gift, you give them dinner. Instead of just mentioning a prospective tax savings, here our message is much broader -- "What concerns you about retirement?" Of the 40 people that may show up, half of them might be good candidates and 10 of them may be willing to give you some type of business. Sounds great!
Not only are both of these projections of the past probably nearly accurate, but throughout the past five years, there must be thousands of producers who used these strategies to build incredibly successful practices. However, nothing seems to last forever. I get the chance to talk to seminar producers very often and I generally hear one clear message: "It doesn't seem to be as easy as it was before." But why?
There are probably 100 reasons, but I think there are some central themes that we can find:
Volume. Clearly there has been a ton of direct mail volume throughout the years. The financial services industry has hammered mailboxes across the country. In the last two to three years in this industry, I have been a part of more than 2 million pieces of sent mail, which is probably nothing compared to many others. Think of your own direct mail -- I know the only type of mail piece I receive more frequently than an insurance advertisement is a credit card application. Envision how many times a 65-year-old with investable assets above $75,000 receives a direct mailer inviting them to a seminar. I can just imagine how many seniors in Tampa have replaced their "Friday night budget" with the weekly retirement seminar. With every mailer that hits the street, one more person "finds out" that they may be able to save taxes by purchasing an annuity. Once they turn in that reply card, though, they'll probably never do it again -- unless they're looking for a free lunch.
Message. When you really think about the traditional seminar and lead generation mailers mentioned in the previous paragraph, you may realize that the message was somewhat counterproductive. Let's use the retirement concerns seminar mailing as an example. What does that little reply card mailer actually say? Well, from my experience, it usually offers free food, highlights a list of things that can go wrong in your life, and makes it sound like some "institution" is trying to help you. Well, if we were trying to attract a "good prospect," I guess that would mean that our ideal client candidate must be under-fed, afraid that something is going to go wrong, and in need of institutional help.
If we take a step back and think outside of the box for a second, shouldn't we be targeting our communication to the people to whom we really want to talk? If a person won't come to our seminar unless we feed them, can't we start to assume that they want to eat our food? If we don't even say who we are and mention our real purpose, isn't it reasonable to think that a person might be skeptical of our offering? Shouldn't we think about who we want at the seminar, and then tailor our message to that person?
Compliance. I'll keep this point very short. State insurance regulators want you to be completely up front and honest about who you are and what you're trying to accomplish with your marketing efforts. So, even if you wanted to be ambiguous with your enticing seminar invite, it could mean a huge headache down the road if you sell something that a client's beneficiary isn't happy with -- at this point, it's probably worth it to start moving our marketing efforts in that direction.
What is insurance lead generation going to look like in the future?
The best way to answer this question is to use process of elimination and think about the approaches we discussed that don't work. In the first section, we realized that sending someone a cheap postcard isn't the best way to get his or her attention. It doesn't call out, "I'm a very important piece of mail, please read me." I don't know about you, but if I were going to make a commitment to speaking with someone about giving them all of my money, I wouldn't be compelled by a blue postcard with a picture of a more mature couple.
We also realized that if our ideal prospect actually looks at the invitation, they probably won't respond if they don't know who we are and what we are asking them to do. Thinking back, what was the first rule of social behavior we learned as children? Don't go anywhere with strange people, especially if they are wearing a trench coat and implying that they work for the government. Shouldn't we expect our educated and affluent client candidates to want to make educated and reasoned decisions? If they show up to the seminar, don't we want to provide value and actually teach them something? If they walk out of your seminar without learning anything new, and without developing any type of relationship with you, why would they want you to be their advisor?
Well, if you are looking for a perfect solution to lead generation, I regret to inform you that I don't have one for you today. I can, however, answer this question: Now that we've eliminated what didn't work, what are we left with?
What's left is this concept: Approach people as if they were intelligent buyers through professional-looking communication (doesn't just need to be mail), clearly telling them who we are and what our objectives are, and giving them compelling reasons why we are qualified to act as their counsel (maybe we write an article in the local paper that the prospect reads). When the prospects finally meet us, they feel like they can trust us and we can provide them with more value than they are currently getting. Under this set of circumstances, shouldn't they be open to working with us? Personally, it might work for me... I do love a free lunch, though.
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