Marketing tactics to capture the 87 percent of seniors who will not attend a workshopArticle added by Michael Kaselnak on July 3, 2012
Michael Kaselnak

Michael Kaselnak

Rochester, MN

Joined: May 16, 2012

My Company

The most phenomenal marketing concept ever to be developed has been under our noses from the day we understood compound interest. Make sure that every dollar you spend, every invite you send out, every contact with your client and every time you speak in public all compounds on itself instead of being treated like isolated events.

As Malcolm Gladwell points out in his bestselling book "The Tipping Point," there is a way to market that costs little or nothing and yet can be as fast moving and overwhelming as an epidemic. He notes that many social phenomena—the popularity of certain shoe styles, the rate of crime, the dissemination of political messages — rise and fall according to the rules of epidemics. Epidemics occur when a system in equilibrium receives a particular jolt. That jolt, when delivered by the right sort of person carrying the right message, disrupts the equilibrium and leads to a rapid and sometimes geometric expansion of behaviors.

Before we talk about the marketing solution, let’s touch briefly on the marketing problem.

Beating a dead horse

It is has been stated in many studies about the senior market that, depending on the study you look at, only 13 percent to 17 percent of seniors will ever attend a seminar. This fact has been staring us in the face for years now, and we’ve been ignoring it. We only get a 1 percent or 2 percent response rate to our mailers (if we’re lucky), and the people who attend tell us that they have been to 10 or 15 seminars over the last year or so. That means it’s the same small percentage of seniors attending seminars over and over.

We’ve been beating that horse to death for years now!

What about the untouchables?

I'm assuming that you are in the financial industry, so you must have crunched the numbers by now — that means we are missing the other 87 percent! These are the same people that have put their names on the do not call list. The same people that throw three thousand dollars in the trash every time you do a seminar mailing: 5,000 household mailing * 62 cents per piece = $3,100

Only 50 reserve a spot, meaning that 4,950 do not: 4,950 * 62 cents = $3,069 of your mailing went right in the garbage.

They have completely isolated themselves from you and your message. That’s the bad news. The good news, though, is they’ve isolated themselves from everyone else too.

They have never heard of any of the things that we are talking about. If you were dating again, would you rather see a girl who hasn't seen a man in five years or one who is out in the dance clubs every night? If you’re as ugly as me, you want the one who hasn’t seen a man in five years. To her, I’m the nicest, best-looking man and coincidentally, the only man she has seen in a while.

If she’s in the dance clubs every night, I’m not going to hold up as well compared to all the other charming, handsome men available.

Stop ignoring the 87 percent that will be extremely receptive to your message

Why does 87 percent of the senior population make themselves untouchable? They don’t want to be bothered. They don’t want to be screwed. And they don’t want to talk to anyone who might do either to them. They also feel that what they don’t know won’t hurt them. That is why they are such a great market.

We can have the biggest impact on them. We can help them fix and achieve things that they never knew were possible. We will be the first people to share concepts that have been around for some time and that we consider basic. But to them, these concepts will be eye-opening and extremely impressive.

To us, who are surrounded by everyday conveniences, a microwave may not be impressive. But what would a 1950s housewife think if you popped back in time and gave her one?

"It’s a bloody miracle! How does it do that? I need one of these right now! I can’t wait to tell every single person I know about this godsend!"

What those of us that have been relying on workshops or lame lead programs have failed to recognize is that we have the equivalent of the 1950s housewife staring us in the face and have been ignoring it as a possible market. Again, three times as many seniors as those we have been targeting.

If you could sit down with someone who had ignored all financial messengers for the past 15 years, do you think he or she might be surprised and impressed by a few things? For example:
  • Methods to extend their IRAs for two generations?
  • Techniques to pull money out of their IRAs without increasing their taxes?
  • What kind of mess they would be in if they didn’t have a power of attorney?
  • How to avoid probate without expensive trusts?
Sure, you and I look at this as old hat, but to them it is magic. They are impressed and amazed because not only do they not know how to do it, they didn’t even know it was possible. They have never let an advisor in to inform them of these things. They have never been to a workshop to learn these things even exist.

Not only that, but you can actually feed into their natural skepticism by showing them the tricks of the trade. When you show a skeptical person how someone was trying to take advantage of them, they become your best buddy for life. It’s now you and them against the world; and you form a bond like you’ve known each other for years.

Be the whistle blower

You need to show them all the tricks that bankers, brokers, accountants and attorneys play on them. If a magician shows you how he cuts a lady in half, can he ever trick you with that again? No way! So, for example, if you show them how brokers and bankers purposely do things to harm them for the banker’s or broker’s own benefit, they know that you would never do it to them because you’ve just shown them how the trick works. You wouldn’t try to trick them with something that they already knew about. You look like their knight in shining armor.

Let me give you an example: Let them know that the banker or broker could have easily titled their account to bypass probate but didn’t. No cost. No hassle. But they didn’t do it. Why?

Explain to them that the reason was so that their account would stay with the banker or broker during the six-month to two-year probate process. Why? So the banker and broker could make money on them when they are dead. These skeptical seniors are pissed at everyone but you. Give them some more information that feeds into their conspiracy theory skepticism, such as:
  • the 10 secrets your long-term care salesperson doesn’t want you to know
  • the 11 lies stock brokers tell
By letting them know how the whole system works, you have a friend for life.
How can you tell them if they're part of the untouchable 87 percent?

That is where "TheTipping Point" comes in. The only way to reach these people is to create a marketing system that spreads like an epidemic. Can you ignore the Black Plague by simply not answering your phone or not going to a seminar?

No. If the Black Plague existed today in epidemic proportions, you would not be able to hide from it anywhere. Not in your home, your basement or under your bed. Nowhere. So you must create the equivalent of an epidemic.

Anatomy of an epidemic

Most disease outbreaks never make it to epidemic proportions. So, what actually causes a disease to reach epidemic proportions? If you understand this, you understand how this kind of marketing works.

An epidemic starts with one person. If the conditions are just right, a chain reaction occurs, building slowly at first and ebbing and flowing until reaching a certain plateau. Then, because the conditions change a little bit in favor of the disease, it takes off again. Hundreds of people infecting many hundreds more and those many hundreds more infecting thousands more until it becomes an unstoppable epidemic.

It does not matter that you did not know the first person with the disease, did not run in the same circles as the person with the disease or even that you tried to isolate yourself from the disease (as the nobles attempted to do with the peasants during the Black Plague). You cannot hide! The epidemic will reach you.

Create a marketing epidemic

We know that we cannot reach the untouchable 87 percent by normal means, so we must reach them via an epidemic-like scenario. They must be reached even though they try to isolate themselves from us. The only way to do that is to have your marketing create a sort of epidemic. It must feed on itself and grow exponentially.

Most marketing plans do not grow exponentially. You spend money on a campaign and when it's done, it's done. It does not continue to feed on itself. For example, you spend $4,000 for a seminar. Some people come to the workshop. You bring on some new clients. And then it is done and you start all over again. The original $4,000 has now essentially stopped working for you. Up to now, you could do business that way. Now that the seminar market is in rapid decline, it is no longer good enough.

Your marketing must grow geometrically

The best demonstration I have ever seen for geometric expansion is the penny demonstration. The question is asked, “Would you rather have a million dollars or a penny that doubles every day for a month?"

You all know the answer: the penny that grows geometrically. It compounds on itself and ends up being millions of dollars by the end of the month. When Albert Einstein was asked what the greatest mathematical discovery ever made was, he simply replied, “Compounding interest.”

Isn’t it interesting that as financial advisors, this is considered a fundamental concept that we use every day? What’s even more interesting is the most phenomenal marketing concept ever to be developed has been under our noses from the day we understood compound interest.

Make sure that every dollar you spend, every invite you send out, every contact with your client and every time you speak in public all compounds on itself instead of being treated like isolated events.

By treating your marketing plan as a living, growing phenomenon, you will be able to create geometric growth (similar to an epidemic) by making sure each piece of marketing you use leverages the next piece of marketing you use, building and building until it starts to grow on its own.

This type of marketing does require upfront planning, but after you have the plan in place, it grows by itself with little further monetary or time investment. It expands on its own and no one (including the untouchable 87 percent) will be able to avoid it.

The basics of creating an epidemic
  • Sit down and map out your message. It must contain your unique selling proposition.

  • Determine who you want to receive the message.

  • Research that demographic and determine at least five prime “infection” points for your message — places that have the right environment for the message to grow. You must choose five because not all “germs” will germinate and begin to grow. But if you start with at least five, then three will begin to grow. Perhaps two of them will hit dead ends, but one of them will take off to become a full blown epidemic.

  • Once you have infected the five points you need, begin to nurture them by supporting the message (germ) planted at that point. This will require small investments of time (one to two hours per month per point) and money ($40-$50 per month per point).

  • Monitor each point monthly. As it becomes clear that a point is dying out, move the time and money spent on that point to the other four points and so on and so on until you have just one infection point left.

  • Once you have found the successful germination point, you can either help it to spread or let it spread by itself. With geometric expansion, it really makes little difference once you reach this point as to whether you push it or let it grow by itself. The expansion is so rapid that we have little effect on it individually at this point. It growth becomes out of control, which, in the case of marketing, is absolutely perfect. We do little, but the marketing continues by itself.

  • A campaign like this will generally run its life course in about three years. In other words, it goes from zero to more people coming through your office in a year than you’ve had in your entire professional lifetime. After approximately three years, the stream of clients will slowly trail off if it is not attended to.

  • Ensuring that the epidemic continues for years is quite simple. You simply need to do what the flu bug does. You need to continue to mutate or come out with a different strain. Not a huge change, just enough to make sure that people cannot become immune to the message you are promoting.

As with any major innovation, once developed, the process is quite simple. It is only difficult if you haven’t been privy to all the research, trial-and-error, time and money spent on developing it on the front-end. The easiest way to get started is to simply find a message that has already been developed and “mutate” it to fit your practice.

It’s only a matter of time before seminar marketing sputters and runs its course. It’s ineffective. It cannot reach the 87 percent of those that will never attend. It’s expensive. Every marketing dollar spent dead-ends the day of the seminar. You get what you get, and then it’s over.

Following the steps outlined above enables you to create an epidemic that even the 87 percent of those who don’t respond to seminars can’t ignore or hide from. It leverages every marketing dollar spent so that they compound on themselves and continue to generate leads and clients through the entire year and beyond. And while it requires some effort on the front end, your message begins to spread more and more quickly until it reaches epidemic proportions. Mutating your existing message guarantees that your system will work years and years into the future, making you more money, and making your business more profitable.
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