September 26th, 2012
Despite what the title says, many people find it almost impossible to separate financial planning from talking politics. Then how can you avoid the subject in b2b appointment setting? How much more when your target market is anticipating an incoming election where ideological tensions run high?
Well first off, some might actually contest the idea of refraining from politics in terms of both marketing, appointment setting, and business in general. The reasons go from sheer personal conviction to the belief that it is their right to express their values.
Well, just because you can do something does not mean you really should. You may not face a penalty as grave as getting arrested but there are other consequences that can bother any business. This article from NPR demonstrates a few examples of how dipping into politics can be a double edged sword. To summarize, the consequences can either be:
- Success – Your views are aligned with your target market and are within your scope.
- Failure – You alienate others purely on the grounds of differences that might have nothing to do with business.
In its conclusion, the article cites Cindy Kam, a political science professor at Vanderbilt University:
“And these days, that question of ‘Should I or shouldn’t I?’ is somewhat easier for businesses to answer — because the electorate has become more polarized, she says.
‘Now you have Democrats who sort into going to particular places, buying particular cars, belonging to particular organizations. The same on the Republican side. There isn’t as much crossover as there used to be,’ Kam says.”
Take a step back and read this again for a moment. Would you want this type of division, this segregation? As a financial planning firm, your job is to segregate and manage money, not people! It seems more logical to stay neutral because then, you’ll have both sides comprise a wider market for financial leads. Why limit yourself purely on the grounds of political ideologies?
And don’t forget, you need to weigh the successes and failures in the long-term, not just the short term:
- Views can change – Your target market won’t always sing the same political tune. Higher management can change, work cultures can change etc.
- Lesser relevance to business core – B2B appointment setting implies a long discussion. Take your pick. Would you rather have your marketers and salespeople talk politics or financial planning?
Isn’t it your goal as a financial planner to help simplify the complexities of managing money? Why do you want to complicate it further with political factors?
And speaking of which, this other article from CNNMoney just goes to show hazy the ties between financial subjects like the stock market and that of presidential terms:
“Tempting as it is to tweak my more conservative friends with this fact, it would be wrong to attribute the Clinton and Obama returns to their policies and presidencies. Clinton inherited a great economy (and no, I don’t attribute it to Reagan’s policies as supply-side types do, and neither should you) and left office after the Internet stock bubble burst, but well before it bottomed. Bush inherited a tanking stock market and left amid a financial panic. Does Clinton deserve full credit for everything good during his tenure? Does Bush deserve full blame for everything bad? Yes, if you’re an ideologue. No, if you’re intellectually honest.”
So again, despite all the support you’ve seen, there’s still no denying that jumping on the bandwagon is a double-edged sword. Be more objective and less political.
September 12th, 2012
Some would say financial appointment setting is a result of successful marketing in itself. When you’ve worked hard in identifying (1) a prospect’s money management problems, (2) gaining their interest, (3) nurturing it, and (4) getting them to take action; setting the appointment is simply the final touch.
On further reflection, however, how often do you review the process through which these results came to be? Aside from appointment setting, what are other signs you can look to that indicate success?
This is actually the problem currently faced by online marketing. Many people make the mistake of completely digitizing their tools and only stick closely to things that are happening in the virtual world. This is comparable to the dangers of people spending so much time playing Internet games and are unaware of its effects on their offline life.
Not every ‘Like’ or page view is going to translate into promising financial leads. This is a fact many businesses must face, even those in Internet marketing. You have to stop bemoaning if your online marketing efforts aren’t connecting you with as many clients as you hoped.
Rather, perhaps the reason is that your eyes are only focused on your webpage performance and not the performance of your entire marketing. Ask yourself, what time would you expect a prospect to read your emails or your content? Don’t you think it’s too restrictive to rely solely on the responses and contact forms they send to your company inbox? Why not expand or at least outsource additional channels like telemarketing to help improve your measures?
- You get an additional channel – It allows both you and your market to communicate more. On your end, you can run surveys and similar approaches to see if they’ve really read the material you put on your website. On the market’s end, they have something else they can use to ask questions that they feel aren’t touched upon by your content. Who knows, you may even have prospects that consider it easier talking over the phone rather than going through the trouble of waiting for a text response.
- You verify the value of online results – The value of a view has been greatly diminished even when combined with other actions that could indicate online activity from a prospect. Why not add more to that process by telemarketing a prospect just to be sure? Just as appointment setting services finalize a prospect’s interest, so can a phone call finalize a prospect’s actual identity. At the very least, it can save you the trouble of meeting prospects that end up having multiple online identities.
- You can go beyond the qualified lead – In financial services, you never stop after the sale is made. In fact, the sale is only the start of another business relationship that you need to keep strong. Part of that task requires you to receive feedback outside of what you get in your social media page or email complaints. Electronic surveys via websites can also be too anonymous to completely trust.
Remember, just because some online marketers say they’re the cheaper option, doesn’t mean you’ll get more than what you pay for. The least reputable ones might even give you results that look good at first but are in fact generated with less than ethical methods. Make no mistake, it’s good to lower the costs but just make sure you don’t lower quality along with it. Make sure to consider all your results so that you know you’re successful.
August 29th, 2012
A challenge you will always face in telemarketing (and in fact, any form of marketing in general) is being careful with what you pitch. In financial planning services, one the biggest mistakes you can make is marketing bad advice.
If you need a reminder of how important it is to refrain from such bad telemarketing practices, you need only read this brief slideshow from Time Moneyland. The slideshow is a top ten list of financial advice that people shouldn’t follow. Here are just two excerpts from notable slides that can have clear applications when marketing B2B financial planning.
“Use a Debt-Settlement Company”
“Debt-settlement firms make an appealing pitch: Contract with us and we’ll chop your debts for you. Just funnel monthly payments to them instead of your creditors and they’ll battle the banks on your behalf, they promise.”
As you can see in the rest of the slide, this is a mistake and you need to avoid making similar lies. Honesty is the best policy and you do not want to attract your financial leads with false promises. Business owners (especially more experienced ones) are not likely to buy them anyways. And again, this doesn’t just apply to your telemarketing message. Check the rest of your marketing materials (website, direct mail letters, email templates etc.) and re-evaluate the message that you’re sending. Is it just as outlandish as the one mentioned in the slide? If it is, time to change it.
“Take Investment Advice from Friends”
“‘Any ‘investment’ a friend or family member recommends that could possibly earn the money back is likely way too risky to get involved in — and possibly not legal,’ says Cristy Cash, director of counseling at the Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Central Oklahoma.”
Chances are, you may have already given the same advice to your clients! However, don’t think this just applies to financial planning. Turning this the other way around, you shouldn’t be too eager to encourage your own clients to pitch for you. The message can either get easily distorted or the word might just spread to more well-informed market influencers who will easily point out flaws that you’re still in the midst of eliminating. While it should be a call to keep improving, you should be wary about the negative impact such information will have on your market.
In either case, make sure your telemarketers don’t send the wrong message. You need to attract and convince prospects but it should never be at the expense of integrity. The loss of that integrity could only result in the following consequences:
- Loss of Trust – Losing trust among your B2B customers has got to be one of the most painful experiences for any business. It’s what’s been driving their loyalty towards your services and confidence in your advice. Nothing is worth losing that.
- Ill Reputation – Having a bad reputation in the market will divert its entire attention away from your business. And given the popularity of social media and the wealth of information on the internet, the effects of bad reputation can spread faster than you think (even in B2B).
- Decline in Sales – With fewer market interest, there are fewer leads. With fewer leads, there are fewer sales. It’s not that complicated to understand why and how it could only get worse.
No good business would desire any of the three outcomes. Consider what message is being sent via marketing and be careful with what you pitch!
August 15th, 2012
Big Data. You might have heard or read it somewhere (and most likely, the source was business IT-related). It’s a term that is seeing increased use in all areas of business management from marketing and sales to accounting and manufacturing. However, what does this have to do with financial services and more importantly, what’s the connection to making sales leads?
Well a few months back, Networkworld published a slideshow that might be of some interest to those in the financial services industry:
“When it comes to Big Data, the financial services sector has been somewhat slow on the uptake. Neil Palmer, partner of SunGard Consulting Services’ Advanced Technology Business, explains it as a cautious approach to innovation driven by the heavily regulated nature of the industry. But with data growth becoming a challenge and increasing pressure to bring down operational costs, Big Data is beginning to shape financial services too.”
Notice how the slideshow goes on to describe the rising demands and how it says that Big Data is supposed to meet these demands. If your financial service firm has already understood, then it’s likely you already have (or at least just begun) to incorporate Big Data for your functions.
The question is: Does your client know?
Not just your current clients either, but also the potential ones you’re qualifying and pursuing as financial leads. Going back to the slideshow, there’s a chance that they might understand one or two slides. However, what about the rest?
What you’ll see is the risk posed by Big Data and one of the things it’s supposed to manage: large, and large amounts of information. The problem is that same volume could overload the minds of your prospects and give them an unnecessary headache.
Prior to qualifying your sale leads, your marketing agents should go to the prospects first and ask just what is it that they want to know. Financial services cover a wide array of business functions but the top-most concern for an individual prospect might be a selected few. If not a selected few, they could still rank them all in terms of priority. If you’re going to involve Big Data, you need to prepare for the following questions:
- How does this help? – This is one of the most popular questions posed for Big Data gurus. You don’t have to be at that level but it helps to at least have marketing inform sales that the relevance of Big Data is an issue for the prospect.
- What helps where? – The slide show demonstrates how Big Data assists in the processes of several functions. But as stated before, these functions can have varying priorities for each, individual prospect. Demonstrate how Big Data aligns to these priorities.
Whether the qualification was done via social media engagement or B2B telemarketing, qualified sales leads should be for the purpose of helping sales teams prepare. Your use of Big Data in your own services may not always ring well with your prospect. That doesn’t mean you should reconsider it but it should mean that you must avoid the dangers of data overload.
July 18th, 2012
Risks are inevitable in business. However, one can’t deny the endearing effect of a success story that came out of something that only had a small chance at it. In fact, the Harvard Business Review defines this as the long-shot bias.
“One of the most pervasive of these is a phenomenon called the favourite long-shot bias, first observed by the American Psychologist Richard Griffith in 1949. Since then, numerous studies have found evidence of the bias at racetracks and other sports betting markets all around the world. Indeed, it is probably the most discussed empirical regularity in sports gambling markets, and the literature documenting it now runs to well over a hundred scientific papers.”
Regardless, excesses of this bias are a deadly reality. Just look at the case of Facebook’s IPO. Even though many of its supporters more or less worship the ground that Mark Zuckerberg treads, the disasters surrounding Facebook in the stock market have done more than prove his company’s vulnerability.
Speaking of which, that is just one example of what happens when you have an unhealthy love of risks. Here is a simpler example from the same HBR blog:
“This oversensitivity to small changes in likelihood at both ends of the probability spectrum gives rise to an interesting phenomenon in gambling on horse racing; punters tend to value long shots more than they should, given how rarely they win, while valuing favorites too little given how often they win. The result is that punters make bigger losses over the long run when they bet on long-shots than they do when betting on favorites (they still make losses when betting on favorites because the racetrack takes a percentage of each bet, but the losses are smaller). ”
Given the recent popularity of risk-taking and how more and more people are discouraging reserved positions, one can conclude that there is a small ‘epidemic’ of the long-shot bias. Unfortunately, as shown above, this bias isn’t all that healthy (hence, the ‘epidemic’ label). Now this has both good news and bad news:
- Bad News – It means that more business owners out there are making reckless mistakes all for the sake of their love of the long-shot. What’s worse, such frequency could lead to more mismanagement unless expert steps are taken to put it under control.
- Good News – It’s good news for financial planners who specialize in risk management. Those of you who are looking for financial leads now have an identifiable market. This makes it easier for you to plan out lead generation campaigns and set appointments.
At this point, this doesn’t mean that risks should never be taken. As a matter of fact, there are some cases where taking risks are pretty much a necessity (take career decisions for instance). On the other hand, that might as well be comparing apples to oranges. Though on the bright side, financial planners like yourselves now have a time to shine with a clearly defined source of B2B leads. With this prevalent attitude towards risk, you need to be there to offer aid before an evident long-shot bias starts doing some serious damage. It’s the one edge that you can have over the rest of your competitors!