In marketing, there is always a big discussion about which is more effective: direct marketing or branding. Let's make sure we understand the difference between the two and use that in converting annuity leads.
Any type of lead generation is direct marketing. You either have an ad on the Internet or an ad in the newspaper or an ad on the radio and you ask somebody to respond to your offer. You ask them to fill out a form or to call or to send back a card-- some action that generates your new lead. The beauty of direct response marketing is its immediacy. You can run a campaign and within one week you have your payoff.
Branding is much less exact. Branding is the act of building a personal reputation in your field or in your community. It is an exercise in frequency (i.e. repetition) and reach. It is very difficult to measure because you don't get a direct response for your branding efforts. So it is natural, that annuity agents or anyone selling a product or service will focus on direct response marketing because the seller needs to make a living and generate sales today. Branding, however, may not bring additional revenue for weeks or months.
A common example of a branding exercise is what you see the realtors in your community do every week. They send a newsletter or postcard with their picture on it. They send it again and again and again. So you are familiar with their name and their picture. Then you happen to go see a movie and one of the commercials while waiting for the feature film is for that realtor. Again, you see their face in the. A week later you are at the supermarket and there again is their name and photo on your shopping cart. So when it’s time to sell your house if you know no other realtor, would you be inclined to contact this professional or at least be very willing to respond to their direct marketing?
Now let's talk about how these two aspects of marketing leverage each other and why they are both essential. If you run a direct response campaign and your company name or your name are not familiar to the prospect, you are depending on the offer to do all the work. You are depending on the free guide, the free analysis, the free quote-- whatever it is you offer to do the heavy lifting to generate a response. But what if you did the same direct marketing campaign and were also well known in your community? Do you think people might be more likely to respond because of your familiarity (which also means implicit trust)? The answer is of course yes.
Since many agents seek to generate annuity leads from the older baby boomers and seniors (let’s call them leading edge baby boomers and seniors and abbreviate this group as LEB/S), let’s consider what an expert on this group says.
In Dan Kennedy’s marketing book, No B.S. Guide to Marketing to Leading Edge Boomers & Seniors (LEB/S) he writes about branding and LEB/S “They are conditioned and accustomed to accept authority.”
He goes on to write, “This conditioned behavior is useful to the advertiser, marketer, or sales professional who can establish authority and gain acceptance as an authority figure with LEB/S prospects and clientele. In my work with clients in various fields selling to LEB/S clients or patients, with a two-appointment selling process (diagnostic, then prescriptive) I have proven without exception that the acceptance of treatment or financial plan at that second appointment can be substantially improved by bestowing the trappings of authority on the advisor or doctor. These professionals’ conversion percentages go up, and case sizes go up, and fee resistance goes down when we make them authors of books, guest experts seen on local or, better, national TV programs, and heard interviewed on local or, better, national radio programs, published in newspapers and financial magazines, placed on university or charity advisory boards, properly displaying these things in their offices, and sending prospects such material before and between appointments. In short, when the salesman ceases being the salesman and becomes the exalted authority, just like the doctor, his prescription is accepted without quarrel.”
Therefore, while branding by itself does not have an immediate payoff, it can enhance the response rates to your lead generation 200% to 300%. Additionally, it allows you to sell more and sell faster because of the trust that your branding activities have created. Let me provide an example.
Brokerville is a company that to generates annuity leads for annuity agents. Before calling the prospect, the company insists that the agent mail a booklet to the prospect first. The unique aspect of the booklet is that it is personalized with the producer’s photo, name, credentials and background. Although the booklet clearly states the agent did not write it, the recipient’s immediate reaction is to give credibility to the agent whose picture is on the front cover. There's an old saying: hawkers are talkers, writers are experts. (Because most agents talk too much and don’t have the credibility of a writer, you can see how an author of an article, a booklet or a book stands out from the pack as special).
The public generally believes that anyone who can write must be an expert. Again, even though the agent does not write the booklet, most recipients probably gloss over that fine print. Now when the agent calls, he is not just another seller of a commodity product. In fact, he is the local annuity expert in the eyes of the prospect. That perceived expertise allows the agent to more quickly close the appointment and make a much larger sale.
So you see that the question in marketing is not direct response or branding because without the branding, the direct response does not work as well. With the branding and credibility in place, the agents lead generation efforts have a much bigger pay off in terms of appointments and also the size and number of sales
By the way, there is usually a way to convert what seems like a branding exercise into a direct marketing payoff. Think about the card commercials you see on television. Most are pure branding exercises. But what if the commercial also said “and for those who take a test drive before December 31, we will buy your gas for the month whether you buy a car or not.” Why merely promote your image when you get also get prospect in the door?