Business Growth: How do you Develop an Effective Plan? - Financial Fridays #33
Alright good morning everybody Mike Courtney here brokerage director with MassMutual Eastern Pennsylvania and I'm here on a somewhat gloomy and humid Wednesday morning joined by Steve Parisi. We're still coming down and sweating for more early morning workouts just kind of hanging around. Steve, how's everything going today? [STEVE PARISI] Good. It is hot and humid and it's mid-October which is not a characteristic of Pennsylvania. [MIKE COURTNEY] Not at all. So we were just talking offline a little bit about growth and this kind of chase for business growth and business development I think growth can mean a couple of different things.
Number one just to clarify at this stage with IBC and with everything that you guys have developed over there when you talk about growth are you talking about new agents? You're talking about increased premium dollars? Probably both but where do you focus or how do you even develop a plan? I've been with Mass we were just talking about this I've been with Mass for almost 10 years and I feel like I've had a very successful time here by all accounts growth is something I've always struggled with I'm constantly bringing on new relationships I can't say that I've really grown my commissions or my income the way that I've wanted to you would think if you kind of focus on maintaining existing relationships and nurturing existing relationships and also bringing in new relationships that's going to translate into growth for some reason it hasn't so how do you come up with a plan? How do you separate that plan from your day-to-day minutia and business operations? What are your thoughts? [STEVE] Yeah definitely. So the first thing that I always try and not lose focus on because I always want to grow the company of course and have a dominant footprint in the life insurance space when it comes to cash value life insurance which we've talked about before we want IBC Global to be the dominant force when it comes to whole life insurance particularly with people interested in high cash value like that's what we really want to make sure our niche is and it is that's what we focus on with everyone. So the big thing is when we're trying to figure out how do we grow the company what I never want to lose vision of because this will cripple everything is the laser focus on the consumer and making life convenient for them making things transparent. So in our mission statement we've got transparency so there's no buyer's remorse oh I didn't know that after the fact we don't want that because that causes frustration but really making things convenient for them make life as easy as possible if you do that you'll continue to grow Amazon is a case in point, right? [MIKE] So don't lose sight of your core values don't lose sight of that mission statement whatever you laid out at the beginning is like this is most important you got to keep that in mind always. [STEVE] Correct which is easy to lose sight of when you're trying to figure out we just found a great avenue to grow over here because we found out that a lot of individuals in their 40s or in this particular area or engineers like to work with us let's focus on them here's what I said in the meeting or multiple meetings we've had a lot of success in working with this type of individual. [MIKE] Start chasing that.
[STEVE] Correct. So it's good to go where the people that are interested are but at the same time don't lose the main mission the main mission statement focus on the consumer the consumer, the consumer the consumer not the competition none of the mudslinging the consumer you got to stay focused. Now when it comes to actual growth a couple things happen is you and I well you more so would be more focused on sales to say okay what's going to drive growth sales and when I say why I say you more so is your background has been how do we continue to drive sales.
Correct me if I'm wrong just as a brokerage director. [MIKE] Trying to drive revenue, yep. [STEVE] And that's mine as well as a business owner and it's something I've had to to learn how to do only because my background is not in that it's a nerd sitting in a back office designing life insurance illustrations for maximum cash volume. [MIKE] Well Steve I have an accounting degree so we're both nerds. [STEVE] I appreciate that thank you.
So with that said a focus on sales and revenue that is needed at the end of the day that's the only thing that's going to grow the company the revenue has to come in. So what I'll look at from a business owner to go back and answer your question how do you drive that growth? Okay if you said more sales like what does that mean? How do we get more sales? How do we talk to more people? What's the number one reason why people fail out of this business? Not enough people to talk to that's the issue so if you call it a prospecting issue or just I need to talk to more people how can you actually get in contact with more people? There's marketing which we do a ton of there's referrals you can network with other professionals there's a lot of ways to do it but if you want to hit Mass scale you think you're going to be able to do that by network marketing and getting referrals from people? [MIKE] It doesn't feel like it. [STEVE] Do you feel like Amazon does that? [MIKE] No. [STEVE] No.
Now referrals are great I mean that is a high-quality contact it doesn't cost anything from a marketing standpoint and if you do a good job that'll continue to grow your company faster than you anticipate sometimes but marketing that's very very important. So what I have a focus on in growing the company really is marketing and assisting our agents when they're working with people I like to reach out as much as I can to the people that they're working with interested policyholders and really talk to them kind of get a feel as to why they reached out to our company if they have questions on the product the mechanics of it if they want to see any examples I do like connecting with people but my focus is really on marketing how do I get the message out to more people. [MIKE] And how is that look or you've had marketing plans in the past where is that going in the future? How do you decide when to move in a different direction? And when you say marketing are you looking for advisors or clients? [STEVE] Gotcha. So specifically clients. How do we get more clients interested? So for example if I know that we've had a lot of success with real estate investors that put in on average a $100,000 per year into a cash value life insurance policy what I want to know is okay how are we actually (1) getting their attention? How are they finding us? Is it through YouTube? Is it through Google search? Is it through social media? Facebook, LinkedIn whatever it might be so we're constantly testing those different platforms.
[MIKE] You can quantify all that? [STEVE] You can so I'm not an expert there but I've hired people who are that can hit that key and send me the reports to know okay here's where we need to dedicate our attention and when I say dedicate our attention and this goes back to marketing as well I'll look at it and say okay a lot of our stuff is lengthy where we just dig into the detail we're not hitting an audience that just wants quick facts tell me this in 10 seconds tell me this in 15 seconds or 30 seconds whatever it might be. [MIKE] No, they want you to tell them over 10 weeks. [STEVE] Correct I know what you mean but there's an audience in respect to people that you're only going to get their attention if you can create marketing content that's 30 seconds long or 60 seconds long which personally is a struggle of mine so we'll put that together or we'll work on that and then A B test that as we put it out there to see how do we get to that.
[MIKE] The thing is I've always thought that like specifically with MassMutual just because that's who primarily that's really who I represent I'm independent I work with other companies but I've always thought the most effective stuff was like the little 30-second 45-second video. There's a company that a lot of MassMutual agents work with while building cornerstones that does these cartoon and the voice in the background sounds like Morgan Freeman it's not Morgan Freeman but it sounds exactly like him and it's these black and white stick figures or it looks like whiteboard drawings very quickly coming together and they're awesome and it's quick it's very highly conceptual I feel like anything I see that's like over a minute and a half or over 2 minutes you're gonna lose everybody. But what you're talking about who does all that? So if you use your business as an example you come up with a marketing plan that is probably diverse and robust you've got a couple of different areas where you have outreach whether it's YouTube or some form of social media or some form of existing client contact you've got all these spots where you're reaching out and trying to find new clients. Who quantifies all that for you? Is that one person? Is that an outside consultant? Is that someone internally that you train to be your chief marketing officer? How do you navigate through that? Being admittedly as you say you're not an expert in those areas.
[STEVE] Yeah so we have to leverage each other's strengths so what I'll try and do is focus on what the consumer wants what questions are we getting from prospects and clients of our own what do we see competitors asking us what do we see potential clients asking us and competitors so what are the commonly asked questions out there that people want answers to? Like for example the past couple of days this whole week we've been doing a series on how to maximize the internal rate of return of a whole life insurance policy and it got a lot more interest than I thought it would which is fantastic but the reason why is because that question is always asked or a lot of people say hey what if I do this with a policy or what if I do that if I adjust the funding here? And a lot of times they get told an answer but they want to see it and they feel like they're burdening the agent or the advisor because they're asking all these questions. So from a content standpoint that's the kind of stuff I really try to dig into what are they asking and how can I provide that to make it as transparent as possible where they don't have to ask questions it's there in a video already and then they say okay I saw that do that for me personally and that's the process when they come to us. So from a content creation standpoint I'll study that a lot to see what's going on I'll constantly ask our agents what kind of questions what problems are popping up I'll reach out to clients to know what's going on so I can really keep my finger on the pulse of just the feel, the industry, and everything and that's the quality content that I want. But then as far as how to actually market that how do you create the right thumbnails how do you put the right keywords into it all of that back-end stuff that's not my strength and I've tried to figure it out you got to put a lot of time into this. [MIKE] You can't pretend. [STEVE] You can't.
So we've got a media team in-house that does our editing and they also have a calendar where they'll project out here's the next 2 months of the content we're going to drop this way we've got some structure to it. [MIKE] Were they a converted office staff that educated themselves and became good at this or it was true like this is their career? [STEVE] Gotcha. So we used to do that they started out as staff and figured it out but the people we have now I mean they've got a media background with video editing and other things they know what to do that's their strength so I want someone that knows what they're doing there. Transitioning into marketing so we've got 2 individuals one that helps us or one individual I've known him forever he's you know kind of a combination of website development marketing, I.T he knows just all the tech background he'll work very closely with media if we've got a webinar or something like that they'll work on preparing the webinar having everything set up properly so when people register for it we've got the contact information so we can follow up with these people who viewed it did they request more information afterwards you've got to have all that tracked properly it's got to be synced up with your CRM so you can properly follow up otherwise you get all these interested people and you've got no follow-up system there so it just slips through the cracks and it's useless. So we've got someone there and then recently we did hire a large agency that consults with us and helps us with a lot of our marketing to continue to push things forward just because we've got a high amount of resources from a time and monetary standpoint dedicated toward marketing and that we want someone that who can really drive it forward.
[MIKE] Now so is that like a consultative to taking a look at everything globally and then helping you come up with a better strategic plan and implementing that plan or looking at one piece of what you're doing and trying to do it better? How does that work? [STEVE] Yeah So their strength the agency is really with marketing so call it with Google pay-per-click YouTube advertising targeting videos targeting the right audience taking our existing audience and finding a look-alike audience so to give you some context on that... [MIKE] But they will analyze what you're doing to identify who is watching this this is what the audience looks like and then keep moving from there. [STEVE] Yeah and what you can do I mean technology is amazing to me today is we can take for example if we've got 100 people that pay in between a $100,000 and $250,000 per year I can take those people provided to the marketing agency without any sensitive information and say okay here's the basic information on this here's the geographic where they live let's target them and then you can actually just based on what these people do with their social media where they visit and such you can target people very similar to them from a personality from an income level standpoint so now the guys that pay in $200,000 per year if as a business owner you say okay let's target more of them or the guys that pay in $1,000,000 per year let's target more of them to actually get in front of them so they see the content because it attracted you so I know it's likely going to attract the other guy that's very similar just from the look-alike audience so that's the kind of stuff that they'll do they know how to target that specifically. So the nice thing is when you work with an agency like that they need a lot of the information upfront it's tough to do if you're brand new you can but if you have data if you come to me and say hey I've got this book of business ideally I'd like every client to be like these guys over here this group that I've got. So you say okay what's their characteristics you can look at their persona but they can also look at where they live give them their email address and say okay based on their social media habits and what they do you can actually target people very similar to them from a personality standpoint and then this way those other people see your content and will help you drive the business growth. [MIKE] That's pretty cool.
[STEVE] It is and I probably did not give it justice there because it's not my strength by any means. [MIKE] But I don't know I totally understand what you're saying I hadn't heard that that way before that type of marketing I'm the furthest thing from any kind of marketing expert or guru but that type of marketing I've always just kind of heard and thought about making sure your company needs shows up at the top of the list in a Google search it's way more than that. [STEVE] Yeah it is it's very intensive and it also takes time like you're not going to see instant results you see it trickle up gradually. [MIKE] How do they quantify the results at all? [STEVE] When you say quant like how do you tell if it's working? [MIKE] I mean you're 6 months in what does that agency in particular what does their feedback to you look like? To say like hey here's where we think we stand. [STEVE] Yeah so what I look at in that particular case so we'll meet with them weekly or bi-weekly and specifically what we look at is (1) what is their intake the volume of leads.
What was it 2 weeks ago or what we just did is what was it the 1st week the 1st 10 days of September and then what is it now the 1st 10 days of October when we compare it and we find that lead flow is the same plus 34 we've cleaned up our target audience so we've cleared out a lot of the the stuff that wasn't effective and we're just focusing on the filet mignon now if you want to call it that so we've gotten the same lead flow plus 34 over that 10 day period which is great so that means we're getting more volume but then also because we're just laser-focused on who we want it's just not an extra 34 leads it's another 34 people that are very qualified. So how I measure it is (1) through that okay the lead flow's increasing we're getting more leads from other platforms Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram all that stuff which is great but then also what I like to look at is okay from our business or pipeline standpoint business is closing and our numbers continue to go up which should always happen from a business standpoint. But then also what's happening with our back end pipeline meaning when we close cases and someone opens a policy are we having new applications that quickly replace that? Are we staying at 300 pending cases in the pipeline or is it a dip below 300? And what's happened over the past month and a half since we've really dedicated an effort here time and a lot of money there is we're closing more like more people are moving forward and our pipeline's increasing it's getting higher and higher. So how I'll look at it lead flow volume increases but really the indicator to know if the quality is increased or you're getting more people that are saying okay I get this I saw the content I met with the agent let me actually start here's the questionnaire they fill out an application and things move forward. [MIKE] Alright very cool.
Next time I want to talk to you a little bit about agent and employee growth not just agent growth but maybe more effectively build out a team that's gonna help you grow. I think that's a real pain point for a lot of people who might be very good sales and relationship focused professionals but might not be the best managers might not be the best at building a team around them I mean that's just that's a struggle for especially in our business so maybe we can get into a little bit of that next time. [STEVE] Yeah definitely I can start talking about that now but we'll do it next time.
[MIKE] Alright sounds good. Alright, Steve thanks for everything. If anybody wants to check out Steve IBC Global Steve Parisi President and CEO these guys are the best in the business I've been working with them for a long time. All kinds of great things going on at MassMutual I've got a lot to talk to people about so if you are an independent financial advisor who wants to work with one of the best and brightest mutual companies out there with an independent broker contract feel free to reach out to me. I hope you have a great week.
Steve thanks for everything and I'll talk to you soon. [STEVE] Likewise. Thanks so much Mike enjoy.