July 27, 2009

Four Marketing Lessons from an Executive Physical

The only equipment lack in the modern hospital? Somebody to meet you at the entrance with a handshake! --- Martin H. Fischer

You've probably heard of executive physicals. I've thought of getting one for years. The range of services varies. I wasn't expecting a massage or a gourmet meal but was looking forward to tests you wouldn't get from your regular doctor. Tests that might spot a life-threatening condition that would not normally surface only when too late for treatment

You can read about my executive physical. Although everything was done professionally in pleasant surroundings, I felt disappointed. Are you disappointing your clients and prospects without even knowing? Probably. Let's look at four actions you can take.

Four Marketing Lessons
Clients and prospects have expectations when they come to your office for the first time. What can you do to manage and exceed their expectations? Clients who don't know what to expect are easy to disappoint: they expect what they expect. That can easily be more than you provide.

Here's what you can do
  1. Position the experience
  2. Personalize the process
  3. Show other options
  4. Stay in touch
Position the Experience
In financial services, you provide an experience --- a service, not a product. You're selling the intangible. The placebo effect says we experience what we expect (even if that doesn't happen). Why not describe what your guest can expect in advance? Answer common questions in an e-mail or online.

Here are some of my unanswered questions prior to my physical.
  1. Will walking to the clinic elevate my heart rate and negate the tests?
  2. When can I eat (you fast for 12 hours)? Is food provided?
  3. Are locks provided for the lockers?
  4. Are towels provided for the showers?
  5. Is the testing so strenuous that a shower is required?
Personalize the Process
You likely provide each client a tailored subset of your services. Does your client know that? Or could your client think you're leaving things out that others routinely get? For example, you omit discussions about disability insurance but your client may not realize this is because they are too old or unhealthy to qualify.

Why not have a checklist to show progress? For example, if you're doing financial planning, you can explain that the fact-finding is taking place now, to be followed by diagnostic tests, recommendations and ongoing follow-up.

Show Other Options
Clients may think they know what they want because they don't until they know what's available.

Why not describe your full range of services with estimated costs. In the case of the medical clinic, this could include
  • physicals for other family members
  • optional tests (e.g., I wanted to go on a treadmill with sensors all over my body but this was not offered. Revenue lost. Disappointment found.)
Stay in Touch
I was not told what to expect after I left. Would there be any follow-up? Would I get a report by mail or email? Did I mean more than money to the clinic?

Why not stay in touch with your clients and prospects to show you care and are organized? How easy and inexpensive to send a monthly eNewsletter with health tips. If the content is truly valuable, recipients might even forward copies and recommend you.

With simple, easy actions, you can achieve results beyond your efforts. And become remarkable in a world of average.


July 20, 2009

eNewsletters Part 4/4: Results

Finally, the Marketing Reflections eNewsletter is ready!

  1. creating the content
  2. preparing the distribution list
  3. pressing the Send button
Creating The Content
You'll find nice templates in Benchmark Email. I selected one that looked like this blog and then fine-tuned. The process is fairly easy but skippable if you're not particular.

Adding content is fairly easy too. Your eNewsletter is divided into sections. You edit a section at a time. You can add new sections by dragging and dropping them. We novices get professional results simply. You can see the results in the screenshot to the right.

You can send yourself test emails until you're satisfied.

Preparing The Distribution List
Originally, only advisors in my Outlook contacts were going to get subscribed automatically. I exported the full list in CSV format into Benchmark Email and started pruning through the names. Over 1/3 of the contacts got chopped.

Yesterday, I realized that two essential groups were overlooked
  1. readers who subscribe to this blog by email
  2. connections in LinkedIn
Each one volunteered to connect to me. How rude to exclude them from the mailing list. I was simply going to invite them to subscribe if they chose. That creates extra work for many, and reduces the potential readership. To be courteous, I decided to subscribe them myself. Luckily, exporting/importing is easy. I made separate distribution lists for each source and then merged them into a master list.

The Puzzle of LinkedIn
My LinkedIn connections come from diverse fields and different countries. I removed the names of those who are not in financial services. Then I remembered the risk of making assumptions about what others want. This is described in excellent book The Invisible Touch by Harry Beckwith, which I finished reading that day.

In the fascinating Trading Up, Michael Silverstein explains how we buy what we want by distorting our spending. Do we read any differently? Twitter shows how eclectic our interests are. Look at someone you Follow and see the diversity in who they Follow. You can also look at Facebook and LinkedIn but you'll see more homogeneity.

What to do?

We appreciate an acquaintance taking the time to send us hand-selected clippings ("I thought you might be interested in ..."). That's what Marketing Reflections does. So I subscribed my entire LinkedIn network. I then sent a note explaining what I'd done, asking for forgiveness if I'd been presumptuous, and offering to remove anyone who asked. A few asked to be removed but more thanked me for thinking of them.

Other Contacts
You know about the 291 business cards I've been processing. I'll add those names to the distribution as time allows. I wish I had an assistant.

Pressing the Send Button
The first issue gets distributed on Thursday morning. My nervousness is subsiding. There's still time to subscribe by clicking below.

Advance response has been favourable. Better connections with connections. Your own eNewsletter can do this too.


July 13, 2009


This week, we're pausing before the fourth and final part of the build-an-eNewsletter project. Why? To get the email addresses ready. Maybe you've already done this.

I scanned the 291 business cards stacked in three unsightly piles on my desk with my year-old-but-still-amazing Fujitsu ScanSnap S300. This saved space and created fuel for our outdoor firepit. What's more, looking at 291 cards in quick succession uncovered ways make your business card better. Less generic. You'll find some overlap with an earlier post on business card etiquette.

If you work in a large organization, you're probably stuck with your business card. The ideas may help your clients or business partners, though.

How Annoying
Business cards are for ... marketing and communication. Why not give complete information in a pleasing, easy-to-read format? Some cards had these annoyances:
  • hard to contact: no email address
  • hard to read: light colours, small text or illegible fonts
  • (playing) hard to get: "by referral" or other words to imply you're too busy to take on new clients. If you truly were, why hand out cards?
Promoting Others
Using email addresses from services like cogeco, gmail, hotmail, on.aibn.com, rogers, sympatico and yahoo hurts you in three ways:
  1. you're advertising another company (maybe one with a less than stellar reputation)
  2. you're making a switch to another email provider more difficult (why limit your options?)
  3. you're showing that you're minor league
Google will manage your email on your own domain for free with Google Apps Standard Edition. You can get a web address for $10 US or less.

Here's what made business cards stand out:
  • a photo (of the advisor)
  • a title (not just a name)
  • a tagline or slogan
  • expanding the cryptic designations
  • a map on the back
Next Step
With an additional 291 names, I've got oodles of potential recipients for the Marketing Reflections eNewsletter. I'll select advisors who warrant a subscription. Stay tuned.

To subscribe, simply click on the button.


July 6, 2009

eNewsletters Part 3/4: The Experiment

We're making progress.

We've seen why you need an email newsletter and addressed your three biggest objections. This time we'll select an eMarketing service to continue our experiment. If you're following along, you'll have your email database in good condition.

The Choices
Web searches for a suitable eMarketing service got confusing. Too many choices with little to distinguish them. I next looked at the eNewsletters I receive.

Major companies like Best Buy/Future Shop use their own systems. That's way beyond our scope. Even so, we can make our emails look as professional while spending very little time or money.

Some companies use intermediaries like the Insurance Brokerage Marketing Company (IBMCO) to send permission-based advertising with a cost per mailing. You won't build a permission-based asset using someone else's mailing list.

Other eNewsletters use services like Aweber, Constant Contact, Industry Mailout, InfusionSoft, MailChimp, ...

TopTenREVIEWS had a good summary of different services. Based on the selection criteria in Part 2, my shortlist was
  • Benchmark Email
  • iContact
  • MailChimp
I was going to pick iContact until I found numerous negative user comments on Bush Mackel. I had many problems sending out this blog with Zookoda in 2007 and am keen to avoid hassles. MailChimp seems a bit limited and has a steep price increase at 501 subscribers. So I picked Benchmark Email. The process wasn't rigorous but I'm satisfied with this decision.

The Winner
Benchmark Email feels friendly and is easy to use. You just click on tabs or buttons. There's a risk-free one month trial that lets you send out 250 emails. You aren't asked to provide a credit card to start your trial. That's ideal. You can send out 1,000 emails a month for $13 US. You can learn more from their website (an affiliate link with all commissions reinvested to help your marketing).

There's one big negative with Benchmark Email. You need nice graphics for your eNewsletters but you're charged a hefty $5 US/month for hosting 20 MB worth. Luckily, you can host your images for free on sites like Google Picassa or Yahoo Flickr. Or on your own website.

Next Time
Next time, we'll see the results of this four-part marketing process by sending out an actual eNewsletter. You can subscribe right now by clicking on the graphic below.
You'll see the mechanics, including the steps to confirm your subscription (double opt-in) and the confirmation emails. How do you like this? Would you like to use the same process? Your feedback is most welcome. Feel free to leave comments below.

The publication is called Marketing Reflections: you pause from your busy schedule to reflect and then plant marketing seeds for future harvest. You can also send a copy to your centres of influence.

Your own eNewsletter might target your clients and prospects.