At InsurMark, we survey thousands of advisors each year to get feedback on various topics. Many comments are clustered around concerns like, “My marketing is on life support” and “I’m struggling to close the client acquisition gap.” The problem for most of these advisors is nobody knows they exist or where to find them. On the upside, plenty of people need financial advice. Struggling advisors just need to do something different.

If it’s broke you’ve gotta fix it, but how?

If you’re an advisor who knows your marketing is on the verge of flatlining and your client acquisition numbers are flat, too, we can probably agree it’s time for a different approach. 

Fortunately, there are plenty of clients to go around. With about 2,000 Baby Boomers dying each day and a record 4.1 million Americans turning 65 in 2024, the great wealth transfer is underway.

Compound that with the mass exodus of financial advisors coming around the bend. According to a 2023 Cerulli Report, “Over the next decade, 109,093 advisors plan to retire, comprising 37.5% of industry headcount and 41.5% of total assets. Meanwhile, the rookie failure rate hovers around 72%.” Rookies need to do something different …

So, what’s the fix? In a recent episode of The Breakthrough Advisor podcast, InsurMark Virtual CMO Jack Martin and Carl Richards, creator of The Behavior Gap and founder of The Society of Advice, discussed how struggling advisors need to: 

  • Narrow their focus. 
  • Conduct problem-solving interviews with potential clients to fine-tune messaging.
  • Stare down fear by scaling back tactics that terrify them.
  • “Play in traffic” and increase their “luck surface area.”

As we like to say here at the Breakthrough Advisor blog … what does that really mean? And does this approach really work?  

Here’s what doesn’t work and holds many advisors back

For most people who are trying to grow a business, learning new things is a must. The problem is most people don’t act on what they learn, so they end up spinning their wheels. Resistance to change is holding them back.

As Martin noted during the podcast, “I heard this great quote during the Founder’s Podcast with Warren Buffet and Charlie Munger. The quote was, ‘Learning is not memorizing information. Learning is changing your behavior.’ There’s no point for you and I to spend all this time reading and listening to podcasts if it doesn’t change what we do. And if it doesn’t change what we do, we didn’t really learn it.”

For struggling advisors, that means you actually have to decide to take action and apply what you learn, so change happens. Now, human nature does dictate that we stick with the status quo and resist change. If that’s working for you great. If it’s not … do something different.

Start by narrowing your focus

We talk a lot about the fact that people don’t care about our solutions, they care about their problems. Richards says, “A better way to say that is people only care about your solutions after they know that you’ve understood their problems. And that’s how advisors should think about marketing. The opportunity in marketing in this space is to be really, really clear about who it’s for and what problem it solves.”

You’ll also hear us talk frequently about niche marketing and how successful advisors tend to find a niche they enjoy serving and take it from there. Richards suggests approaching it this way, “Find a problem that you’re interested in solving and find a group of people who have that problem. It’s really simple … not to be confused with easy.”

Be relevant

One of the traits that sets highly successful advisory firms apart from those that struggle is they found a way to be relevant to their target audience. Think about all of the emails flooding your inbox. Which ones do you delete, which ones do you open and why? Most people only open emails that are relevant to them.

Says Richards, “The firms that have really effective marketing that’s actually working, the key phrase to me is: They’re relevant. Meaning, they’re relevant in their clients’ lives. They’ve defined who it (their solution) is for and what it does.”

What’s the fastest way to go from “nobody knows who I am” to being relevant? Again, you need get really clear about the problem you solve. Richards believes the easiest way to do that is to focus on an occupation or other common interest people share, like a need for tax strategies or people who move to a specific place to retire, like Florida or Arizona. 

“Many people call this niche marketing, and that’s fine. But the way I like to think of it is problem-set marketing. All of your marketing focuses on that problem,” explains Richards. So how does he figure out what type of content and resources will be relevant to a specific audience or niche? He spends time talking with them.

Get to know the people you want to serve VERY WELL

Most advisors who succeed at niche marketing (or problem-set marketing) choose a niche they are familiar with and had success serving in the past. The longer you serve a particular niche, the more you get to know about the clients in that niche. Richards found a way to expedite the learning process.

He invites five to 10 people (sometimes more, sometimes less) from his target audience to join him for coffee, one-on-one. During the podcast, Richards laid out his step-by-step process for doing this, which involves an email or phone call asking people for their help with a research project he’s working on that pertains to people who fit a certain profile, for example anesthesiologists in San Diego with two kids.

These coffee dates aren’t about selling anything. They’re all about learning more about the people the advisor wants to serve and what problems they need to solve. Richards’ approach was to tell folks he would be preparing a white paper on the topic and share a copy with them later if they were interested. As he puts it, “You put on your researcher hat for a bit, and take your sales hat off.”

What happens next? Tune into the podcast to get the details and learn how the process works, like: 

  • What to say in the email invitation. 
  • How to find people to talk to. 
  • What questions to ask during coffee. 
  • Why coffee makes more sense than lunch.
  • How marketing ties into this.
  • How this approach helps close the client acquisition gap and more.

Don’t let fear hold you back. Here’s how to overcome it.

Now, you might be struck with fear because asking a stranger out for coffee can be scary. Here’s the deal, it shouldn’t be scary because people tend to be very receptive to meeting if they know they’re doing something helpful. It should also be clear that the premise of the conversation is to learn about them, not give a sales pitch. 

Still feeling anxious? Richards says, “I use a mindset tactic, where anytime I’m scared to do something or if I’m uncertain about what to do, either one, I make it smaller. So, if I’m scared to do 10 interviews, I’ll do one. Right? Just because micro-actions are micro-scary.” 

For example, if you’re scared to even do one interview, then try to find a relative or friend in that niche to talk to. That’s less scary. And believe it or not, you’ll probably walk away realizing, boy oh boy, that was an interesting experience! Even better, your coffee date probably has colleagues or friends—with similar demographics, problems and goals—who they would gladly refer you to. 

Richards also encourages advisors to expect a positive outcome when they follow his approach, especially those advisors who are passionate about helping people. As he explains, “I’ve never left one of those meetings, usually done in the coffee style, without somebody saying, ‘Thank you.’”

What about this ‘playing in traffic’ and ‘increase your luck surface area’ stuff?

Martin and Richards flesh out those two strategies (and more) during the podcast, so you’ll definitely want to check it out. And if you want to learn more about InsurMark and how we help advisors close the client acquisition gap with our proven Value Engineering Process, contact us. 

To schedule a discovery call, contact our office toll-free at (800) 752-0207 or connect with us online.

As an ADO – Advisor Development Organization™, InsurMark provides solutions to meet the ever-evolving needs of financial professionals with a mission to protect and enhance the financial security of every home in America.