Edging out the competition: Tips for producers looking to set themselves apart
By Michael Weintraub
With each passing year, being new to this industry becomes more difficult. Therefore, it’s increasingly necessary to utilize tried and true tricks of the trade — especially those outside your comfort zone.
Success in this business means finding a unique way to market yourself in order to generate referrals. You must also strive to be an expert in your field if you are to retain and grow your business — particularly in such a hostile market. Through my years in the financial services industry, I’ve learned that edging out the competition is the name of the game, and I have developed techniques to do so. With each passing year, being new to this industry becomes more difficult. Therefore, it’s increasingly necessary to utilize tried and true tricks of the trade — especially those outside your comfort zone.
First, develop specific criteria for your ideal client. It is unrealistic to target anyone and everyone to build up a book of business. Not only is it a waste of time, you will sacrifice your credibility in the process. To keep your competition from having an advantage, find a niche. It’s an invaluable way to hone in on your preferred market and best utilize your abilities. For example, accountants are usually the people who control where a client will do their retirement planning, so I started working through CPAs and using them for referrals.
In this scenario, simply approach an accountant, telling them what you do and asking to be introduced to their clients would not suffice. Instead, I began giving accountants in my area leading edge ideas and marketed myself as an expert in the field of retirement planning; basically, giving them every reason to believe I’d be the best go-to person for their clients’ retirement planning needs. In turn, I’ve been invited to speak on numerous occasions at continuing education seminars for the CPAs in my area, thus exposing me to even more professionals with clients who would benefit from my services. The added bonus of these events was I did not have the hassle of setting them up myself from both a logistical and financial standpoint. All I had to do was show up!
As part of my presentation at these seminars, I referenced my monthly newsletter at the end, which, at the time, was mailed out the old-fashioned way. Sending a newsletter electronically today would be even more cost-effective. I offered a free subscription to my newsletter in exchange for business cards. I always walked out of these events with 40 to 50 business cards, adding to my database of accountants. My business really took off from this easy tactic and gave me a leg up on fellow advisors in my area. Another niche I targeted early on in my career was auto dealers. For example, I’d plan a minimum of two meetings a year with a Toyota dealer in my area. Once a business relationship had been established, one of these meetings would involve trying to sell the head of the dealer something else, while the other meeting was really just to have an informal lunch — typically around their birthday — as an excuse to get together.
At lunch meetings, my objective was always to get referrals to other dealers. Instead of simply asking to be referred, I would bring a list of other Toyota, Ford, or Mercedes dealers, for instance, with the names of the owners or human resources personnel. I’d tell the person I was lunching with that my plan was to connect with these individuals and would inquire whether they knew them and if they’d mind my mentioning them as a current client. No one ever minded, especially because it made the referral process so hassle-free. My goal was to be the first advisor that auto dealers thought of when it came to their financial needs.
Establishing yourself as an expert is another key element to success. Creating and leveraging materials like a newsletter can make your presence known in your community. But marketing yourself as an expert is easier said than done. With all of today’s litigation and compliance concerns, if you declare yourself an expert, you’d better truly be an expert.
If you’re a younger agent and lack experience, align yourself with a local third-party administrator who does have the experience, skills and talent to assist you in developing your credibility. Or, partner with a senior agent who shares your specialty. Doing so will catapult you beyond your peers in the business.
And, I can not say enough about joining trade associations and attending the seminars these associations host to rub shoulders with others already in the marketplace. I remember early on it was so nice to know somebody from an MDRT meeting who I could approach with a question or work-related difficulty. It was just a matter of making a phone call to that person. Joining associations will really challenge a younger agent to grow and learn more and work with people who have already proven themselves in the industry. What better way to become an expert and edge out the competition.