April 25, 2007

What's Better? Ultimate or Pure?

Hesitating, I remain caught 'twixt will and will not in my thoughts.
-- Dante
How can clients make decisions about intangibles like life insurance when it's so difficult to decide on common, physical products like computers?

Take a look at a recent Dell ad. Ignore the spelling (which is discussed on my Spark Insight blog). Instead, look at the two notebook computers. They're the same price. So which is better:
  • ultimate business notebook, or
  • pure business power
"Ultimate" sounds like the best. Microsoft calls their $499 ($299 upgrade) version of Windows Vista "Ultimate". But "pure" sounds natural.

How do you decide? The Latitude D620 has a smaller screen, which suggests that it's lighter. So it's probably easier to lug around. The Latitude D820 may be more of a "desktop replacement". Maybe it has a bigger keyboard or better graphics. It's hard to tell

Other Comparisons
Comparing here should be easy:
  • products from the same manufacturer (Dell, not vs HP/Compaq or Toshiba or Lenovo)
  • the same line (Latitude business grade, not vs Inspiron for consumers or XPS for gamers or Precision for specialized needs)
In contrast, financial products like life insurance are compared among companies. How do we decide on one product over another? How do we help our clients understand the advantages? So they aren't caught 'twixt will and will not in their decision to buy.

April 18, 2007

Fax Marketing

I got a chain letter by fax.
It's very simple.
You just fax a dollar bill to everybody on the list.
-- Steven Wright
Do you use your fax machine for marketing? Do you even use a fax machine any more?

I was passing by mine and saw an usually large stack of paper. About 50 pages. The first 23 pages were for me. The rest were garbage.

Here's what I got
  1. Bookkeeping software with a special offer for signing up before Feb. It's already April ...
  2. Getting logos put on clothing
  3. An anger management course ($400)
  4. An accounting course ($700)
  5. Training for supervisors ($800)
  6. Training for office managers ($800)
  7. Car insurance
  8. Mortgages ... no income verification!
  9. Collingwood timeshare ($130 for two full nights) ... what's a partial night?
  10. Water cooler ($20/month)
  11. Public speaking seminar ($280)
  12. Mortgages ... up to 100% financing
  13. Cleaning supplies
  14. Mortgage insurance
  15. Loans for any purpose ... 6% interest ... rates subject to change
  16. Warm leads
  17. Supervisor training ($270)
  18. Florida vacation ($600 for 8 nights and 11 days) ... 3 more days than nights?!?
  19. Florida Disney and Bahamas cruise ($700 for 8 nights and 9 days) ... $5,000 value
Who Pays?
Not only do you get junk faxes, you get to pay for the paper and ink. Doesn't that make you more receptive to the offers?

Opt Out Option

The faxes did give an option to get taken off the distribution. Or so they said. Interestingly, you'd have to phone to be removed. You couldn't just send a fax. So you can't retaliate by sending the senders junk faxes. Their privacy is more important than ours.

Death of Faxes
In the 1980s, fax machines were rare and expensive. At Metropolitan Life in Ottawa, ours was called a "telecopier" and my department had the only one. In the 1990s, fax machines became commonplace. Do you remember the funny or rude covering pages?

Most nights, fax machines would call our voice line. And keep calling back, thinking our (nonexistent) machine was out of paper. Thankfully, those calls have disappeared. Either there are better filters or -- my guess -- fax use has dropped.

In contrast, email spam isn't so bad.

Marketing By Fax
If you're thinking of marketing by fax. One word: DON'T.
Unless you're giving away a free anger management course.

April 9, 2007

Improving Your Introductions

You're in a social gathering. Other attendees may become potential clients. Or not.

Any social occasion,
it's "Hello, how do you do?"
All those introductions,
I never miss my cue
So before a question,
so before a doubt
My hand moves out and ...
I have the touch.
--- Peter Gabriel, I Have The Touch (1982)

How do you introduce yourself?
  • Do you state your profession: advisor, financial planner, estate planning specialist
  • Do you say what you do: I reduce reduce taxes, I invest money for clients
  • Do you say something provocative: I sell death benefit
For years, I'd say "I'm an actuary", which would elicit a blank stare and possibly questions about why car insurance costs so much. Not really a conversation starter.

A typical introduction is too short and puts the onus on the other person to figure out what you do. That can lead to misunderstandings and stereotypes. For example, actuary = probabilities = boring = scram.

An Approach
Here's an approach from Michael Oliver of naturalselling.com. Say the following:
  1. "You know how ..."
  2. "Well, I ..."
  3. "Have you ever ..."
An Example
Let's try it. I'll go first.
You know how we're surrounded by risks we can't do much about (e.g., global warming, air quality, war)? Well, I help tame financial risks -- which we can tackle. I blend actuarial science with business sense to give peace of mind. Have you taken steps to measure and manage your financial worries?
Does that draw you in?

Your Turn
Now it's your turn.

What do you think?

April 2, 2007

Lessons from the Real Estate and Wealth Expo

You can observe a lot just by watching.
--- Yogi Berra
The Metro Toronto Convention Centre is jampacked for the Real Estate and Wealth Expo (Mar 24-25). I splurged on VIP admission but there are hundreds of people in the line at the registration desk. I wonder what general admission is like. Later I learn that 45,000 to 50,000 are attending. At $100 a ticket, that's $4.5 million.

The logistics are handled well. There are guides everywhere --- well-versed and genuinely helpful. Most of them are probably supplied by the venue. Signs abound. Printed programs are plentiful. In the keynote hall which probably seats at least 10,000, there are lots of screens. So everyone can see and hear.

Get Rich Quick
The theme of getting rich quick resonates with the audience. There are many strategies: stock trading (signup for training!), foreclosures (signup for training!), etc (signup for training!). Training for a typical 2-3 day seminar costs $1,000 to $2,000 after the "once in a lifetime" show discounts. There are numerous guarantees (though getting your money back isn't usually one of them). Instead, you can keep attending the seminars. Spouses can usually attend for free.

Get lots of reviews --- mostly negative --- here.

If you're able to hold on to your wallet, it's interesting to see many persuasion techniques in use by masters:

  • scarcity: only so many spots, offer only available now, must act now
  • no risk: lots of guarantees, no skills or money needed (as long as you can pay for their course ...)
  • commonality: started with (less than) nothing and became successful, so you can too
  • simplicity: everything is thought out for you ... you just reel in the money

As the hours pass, the audiences become desensitized to the sales pitches. So more powerful salesmen (and yes they are *all* men) step in. To maintain the audience's interest (and to attract them in the first place) there are presenters like Tony Robbins and Donald Trump. There are short 30 minute breaks with the likes of former boxer George Foreman (the only nonwhite) and author David Bach (The Automatic Millionaire, etc).

It was interesting how each presenter tried to show they were the best.

  • Tony Robbins talks about states, which are temporary. I talk about traits, which are permanent.
  • Unlike other presenters, I'm not here to sell you books and tapes.
  • One commercial real estate deal is better than 50 residential deals.
  • Billionaires bashing billionaires: I'm better than Richard Branson because The Apprentice goat higher ratings than his show. I'm better than Donald Trump because my dad didn't give me $25 million when I turned 21.
  • Getting a mentor is better than taking someone else's course

Various forms of testimonials were used.

  • reading letters
  • having past students tell their stories onstage
  • videos, especially of famous people (eg, Jack Canfield of Chicken Soup fame)
Lessons Learned
I'm glad that we don't use such aggressive techniques.
I don't care what you do.
I wouldn't want to be like you.
--- Alan Parsons, I Robot (1977)