New 401k Advisor? Start Here…
Every week I field questions from advisors about how to get started in the 401k industry and how to get new business.
So let me cover a few tips I share every time someone asks about how to get started.
First Things First
So I know you want to talk about growing your business, but when you ask where you should get started, where you should begin, here’s what I’m going to say every time, especially if you’re just starting out in the 401k business.
Start with education. Knowledge is king. Knowledge is essential. In the 401k industry, knowledge is critical.
And in this business, if you are not educated, you are not qualified to sell or service 401k plans. That is my soapbox. Start with education. You have to be educated.
There are tons of different programs you can take that’ll give you ERISA training and fiduciary training – and you must have that knowledge if you’re going to be a valuable asset and compete in the 401k industry.
In fact, I’ve even created a free Retirement Plan Professional’s Designation & Certification Guide that lists 24 different designation or training or certification programs for advisors who want to specialize in the 401k industry. Pick one. Any one. That’s where I would start.
401k Marketing Methods for Generating 401k Leads
Now, when we talk about growing your business and lead generation, I would say that there are really two different types of methods of marketing that you can look at. One is called a passive marketing. One is called proactive marketing.
Regardless of which one you pick out of the ones I’m going to describe, the important key to success is that you pick a marketing strategy and you do it consistently. Consistency is key. That’s the key to success.
Passive marketing is basically waiting for people to find you online because of content that you’ve published. Maybe you’re writing articles or blog posts, social media, podcasts, your website that says you’re a 401k specialist, or even a properly positioned LinkedIn profile. Those would be an example of passive marketing. Putting content online so when people find you, they can determine if you’re a qualified 401k specialist.
There is a place for both passive marketing and proactive marketing in every advisor’s marketing playbook.
With passive, it’s just important to produce enough quality content that people will come to you – and to do it consistently.
Having quality content on your online profiles and blog is also important because regardless of what you have on there, someone will Google you – a plan sponsor is going to Google your name and look you up online before meeting with you – so you have to have a certain level of positioning in place that lets them know you’re a 401k advisor and not just a financial advisor, trying to get a 401k plan.
One proactive marketing method would be networking – joining the Chamber of Commerce and joining your local Rotary Club for example.
I was president of the local Rotary Club in Oakmont, Pennsylvania – which is where I started my career as an Edward Jones rep – and there was another advisor in the group. But one thing that I’ve learned is this – don’t let the fact that your potential competition is already in those groups stop you from joining local organizations. The other advisor might not be a 401k advisor – they might specialize in insurance or estate planning or something different. Also – since this is a relationship business, you might find your personality is a better fit for some. and some people might gravitate toward you instead of the other advisor(s) in the group.
Another proactive marketing method to consider is meeting and getting to know local CPAs. Give them a fact sheet on IRA limits, 401k limits, and have lunch with them. See what kind of clients they’re looking for and build a relationship with them, sharing ideas and strategies that can help their small business clients as it pertains to ERISA.
Make sure you give value before asking for anything when it comes to CPAs. And if you refer people to them, don’t expect a one-to-one referral back – that’s not how it works with CPAs. Once they know you well enough, see the value you offer, and trust you, when there’s an opportunity and they see you as the best fit – they’ll send people your way. But it takes time to build that relationship and to build that trust.
Another proactive way is direct mail. Believe it or not direct mail still works to get your foot in the door – if you do it right. Of course, I’m not talking about sending out your brochure and asking for an appointment.
You have to send something of value that gets their attention – a book, a compliance calendar – there are so many ideas. In fact, I put some ideas in the free resource section here titled, 38 Prospecting Ideas – but be creative. And once you send them something, follow up with a call, with an introduction. Don’t give up after the first contact.
Do’s and Don’ts
YOUR PLAN SUCKS – BUT I CAN FIX IT!
When you’re just starting out (or any time for that matter ;-), one of the things I would stress is don’t lead with the bad. Don’t lead with the negative. It’s easy to go in there and say, “Here are all the things that I found that I can help you with.” The person you’re talking to is most likely responsible for those things (for the decisions). So if you go in there pointing out all the “bad” things you identified that need fixed, you’ll probably never get invited back.
It’s all about framing and how you can educate and provide solutions without making them feel like they’ve made poor decisions. So be sure to craft your discussion and solutions so it’s not offending.
THE IRS AGREES…
Another thing that I would suggest to make any case for the recommendations that you might make, is to bring a copy of some independent, substantiated resource that makes the case for you.
If you’re saying they need to have an investment policy statement or a compliance file system or whatever it is, have something to back that up. Maybe it’s a document from an ERISA attorney talking about that particular topic that you found online (an article or a white paper), or one of the DOL guides like, Meeting Your Fiduciary Responsibilities or another independent, third-party piece like that. A third party resource always helps to make the case stronger.
I WANT NEW LEADS BUT HATE COLD CALLING…
As you get your 401k business started (and I would say only if you have a budget for it), then consider a lead generation firm.
One that I’ve had direct experience with is Acceleration Retirement (now called Acceleration One) headed up by Jane Murphy.
And don’t bargain shop lead gen firms when paying for leads or you’ll get leads that only say “yes” to get the calling team off the phone and it’ll be a total waste of your time and theirs.
LOOKING FOR ROLLOVER BUSINESS?
Finally, if you’re not ready to start at the top with the plan sponsor, maybe you’d like to do the participant education side for that rollover business. If that’s the case, then consider offering a free monthly or quarterly financial education class to company employees. It’s not an easy sell necessarily to get companies to let you come in and provide this free education. (I guess actually that depends on how good you are at selling and how passionate you are about financial education). But I knew a local Edward Jones rep back in my day, who would go into a large Pittsburgh company and teach free monthly financial education classes and regularly get $500,000 rollovers as folks retired from that company.
These are just some of the strategies that I’ve shared with new advisors starting out in the 401k industry or (and seasoned advisors who are new to the 401k industry) when it comes to where you start.
I will just go back and reiterate – education is the number one thing I would start with every time.
And then for lead gen pick a strategy that you find easy, enjoyable, and effortless and do it consistently.
Those are my tips. I hope that hopes. If you have any questions, feel free to email me – I’m always happy to chat.
Listen to the Podcast episode of this topic here.
Or watch the video on YouTube here (coming soon).