[We increasingly have become digital denizens – online retail vs. stores, Facebook vs. letters, Google vs. newspapers – creating this new massive wave of personal information we charmingly call “Big Data.” Extracting insights and developing finely-tuned engagement strategies from all this activity is a Holy Grail effort for most marketers today. With so much buzz and pressure around upgrading our marketing approaches, it is well worth the time to explore this new modern blending of marketing and technology and see how it can be applied to financial services and financial advisor community engagement strategies, especially if it happens to come with multiple guarantees.
Exploring this topic has led the Institute for Innovation Development to reach out to financial advisor, seminar marketing expert and Institute member Mike Thurman, Co-Founder of White Glove - a digital marketing company that specializes in planning, managing and promoting educational seminars for financial advisors, among other industry professionals. Aside from White Glove’s 100% done-for-you, turn-key, logistical community engagement strategy through educational seminars – exclusively utilizing digital marketing – it’s the triple guarantee and unique pricing model the company offers that truly is a boldly differentiating value proposition. It makes you wonder what have they uncovered, what do they know that we don’t and how can they isolate the digital pulse of the financial interests of a community?]
Hortz: As a financial advisor for 25 years who built his business exclusively through educational seminars, what was the magic formula you learned and applied to make this such a successful strategy over other advisors who tried seminar marketing?
Thurman: The magic formula was a passion for education and an education-focused seminar – not promoting our business or selling our services at a dinner seminar, which was the industry standard. The dinner seminar can be effective, but my cousin and fellow White Glove Co-Founder, Dean Thurman, and I truly had a passion for teaching the public about important topics related to retirement. So, we decided to host our seminars at educational-focused locations, such as libraries and community centers, versus restaurants. Our seminars were 100% focused on educating and informing the public – not promoting ourselves or our financial practice. We found this strategy to be much more effective in helping us build relationships with community members who needed sound financial advice and retirement strategies…not people who just showed up for a free meal.
Hortz: At what point did you start experimenting with digital marketing and what was the catalyst or experience you had that led you exclusively in this direction?
Thurman: The strategy I outlined above worked for many years, but it started to become very cumbersome for me, Dean and our financial practice team to coordinate all these seminars. We were using the traditional “pay and pray” method of spending thousands of dollars on print mailers and working with a mailhouse to send out those mailers. We started to notice less people were showing up at the seminars, or they weren’t a fit for us to help with retirement planning. Also, more often than I would like to admit, we screwed up by putting the wrong date or address on a mailer – so we were out of luck (and out a lot of money!) when we made a mistake like that and no one showed up. Dean and I knew there had to be a better way, and we believed digital marketing was the catalyst to that better way. In 2015, we decided to put digital marketing to the test by exclusively utilizing digital ads to market a seminar. It worked – and we were amazed. We began building out a business plan from there on how to completely flip the “old school” seminar marketing model on its head. We hosted our first Social Security seminar for an advisor client in September 2015, and our company has exploded in growth since then.
Hortz: What have you learned about this target audience through this digital approach?
Thurman: The one thing we’ve learned over the past 3.5 years is that this target audience wants to be educated on important financial topics – like strategies for claiming Social Security benefits, how to best prepare for a successful retirement and how to potentially reduce taxes in retirement. Many people have received bad advice, or no advice, in the past.They increasingly have been going online actively seeking trusted resources to help them figure out these complicated topics. That’s the mission of White Glove – to find financial advisors who have the expertise the public needs and who share our vision of an education-oriented seminar delivery system where they can teach, advise and consult.
Hortz: What guarantees do you offer and how are you are able to offer them?
Thurman: When Dean and I were building the business model for White Glove, we knew we wanted to give our clients a guarantee. We built White Glove to deliver everything we wished we had when we were hosting these seminars…and a guarantee was at the top of the list. Especially as our positive results have been consistent and repeatable, we are able to offer triple guaranteed educational seminars – guaranteed registrations, guaranteed attendees and guaranteed success.
We say “guaranteed registrations” because at White Glove, we’re paid on performance. If no one signs up for your seminar, you pay $0. This is not the norm, as we’ve discovered most other seminar marketing companies charge a high dollar amount up front with no guarantee of registrants or attendees. With us, you pay nothing upfront.Since our hosts only pay per household attended, they’ll never pay for empty seats. If bad weather results in a canceled seminar, or if an unforeseen event like bad traffic dramatically reduces attendance, the host will not pay for empty seats. We guarantee you’ll only pay for attendees at your seminar.
As part of our success guarantee, if an advisor host meets White Gloves’ established success criteria (following a list of best practices provided by us) but doesn’t secure a new client 120 days after his/her workshop (and he/she ordered at least 50 households), we will give that advisor host a seminar for free. With our triple guarantee, there is zero financial risk to the host. Our value as their seminar marketing partner really hits home. White Glove has the advisor covered, and I can confidently say no other seminar marketing company that caters to financial advisors can offer that same benefit.
Hortz: Are there any other value-adds that you offer advisors as part of your basic services, aside from the triple guarantee?
Thurman: We offer our advisor seminar hosts complimentary access to Frank Maselli, the seminar industry’s most renowned expert. Frank will do everything from providing his training materials free of charge, to reviewing and critiquing presentations – all free for White Glove advisor hosts. We also offer Host University - a value-add event we have annually in Naples, FL. It’s a two-day training event for our advisor hosts featuring presentations from some of the financial industry's top masterminds and experts. Our presenters teach attendees how they can master our triple guaranteed seminars, grow their business, maximize appointments and ROI and much more.
Hortz: I see that you just made a major new announcement about expanded services you will be providing. Can you give us a quick overview?
Thurman: We’re very excited that as of early February, we officially transitioned from White Glove Workshops to White Glove. Educational seminars are still a core part of our business, but we’ve partnered with industry titans in the areas of practice management, training, education, nurturing, social media management and content/websites to offer a comprehensive program to advisors who want to take their business to the next level. We’ve removed the need for an advisor to do a ton of work researching the best companies to work with if they want the above-mentioned services. We’ve already found and partnered with the best of the best – including Bill Good, Ed Slott and Company, Advisorist, Marc Kiner and his National Social Security Association, Frank Maselli, Broadridge Advisor Solutions and Reminder Media. Clients who work with White Glove and two or more of our partners will receive significant discounts on services.
We also launched two new strategic marketing support programs – our Custom Marketing and Post-Event Nurturing (PEN) programs, both of which we are offering free of charge through June 30, 2019. Custom Marketing expands our service footprint by building our hosts’ desired demographic (like local corporations and specific groups, such as federal workers, teachers, etc.) into their seminar marketing campaign. With Our PEN program, we utilize our robust CRM follow-up and digital marketing knowledge to work for advisors after their seminar events, staying in front of seminar no-shows and guests who attended but didn't book an appointment....without the advisor lifting a finger!
Hortz: Is there any further research or experimentation that you will be applying to your digital marketing strategies? Can you share with us what you are learning and where else can we digitally go from here?
Thurman: We’ve spent the last two years making significant investments into a multitude of testing platforms to optimize the delivery of our digital ads. The data from all our research has given us the necessary intel to provide highly-targeted information to people who are the best fit to attend our seminars. We’re able to precisely dial in on the optimal attendee for our advisors to effectively build those ever-important relationships, which ultimately lead to business growth.
Reviewing data and adjusting as needed is a huge component of why we’ve been successful with digital marketing. We aren’t afraid to try new things, but data is the ultimate deciding factor on whether it makes sense to scale a new strategy. We’ve built a powerhouse marketing team with experts on all ends of the marketing spectrum, which enables us to test and apply our learnings to our digital marketing program.
Hortz: What best advice can you give other advisors about how to incorporate digital marketing and community engagement into their practices?
Thurman: We highly suggest that advisors challenge their thinking about traditional marketing approaches, like we did, and actively start incorporating technology in their marketing and community engagement efforts. As more and more active financial inquiries are happening online all around us, we feel there is no better real-time way of capturing and addressing that interest in the community, especially in the way they want to be addressed – educationally. First, aim to build trust and authority by providing immense value. If you gain the community’s trust, you’ll earn the right to provide them with your expert services. The only way to maximally execute that strategy, we have found, is by taking a digital approach to high-quality educational seminars.
Disclosure: I/we have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours. I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it. I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.
Additional disclosure: I wrote this article myself and I am not receiving compensation to write this article but I do have a business relationship with White Glove that is an Institute member. The Institute is a business innovation platform of over 100 innovative firms that are openly sharing their unique perspectives and activities to build awareness and stimulate new approaches/thinking for a financial services operating environment of accelerating change.