November 26, 2009

Download The $2,500 Brain Alchemy Masterclass for $0 until Nov 30, 2009

This power-packed program contains some of the best marketing and sales ideas ever discovered.
--- Brian Tracy

The Internet is rife with free offers. This one's real but expires on Nov 30, 2009, which may be based on New Zealand time. So act now.

What Is It?
The Brain Alchemy Masterclass teaches you how to get, keep and grow clients. You get an audio recording of a live three day seminar with notes. The regular price is $2,500 US. Ouch!

Why Bother?
That's what I wondered too. Since I read the Psychotactics blog from Sean D'Souza, I was confident the content would be good. That shows how well blogging establishes credibility. Plus, Sean has an engaging sense of humour.

Excellent Ideas
Some ideas may be new to you or reminders. Either way, you'll benefit.

The attendees actively participate. This makes the sessions much more engaging and valuable than listening to Sean alone.

Even for free, is The Brain Alchemy Masterclass worth your time? Yes.

The beginning is dull. You get the normal self-promotion telling you how good the course is. This is as annoying as the commercials at the movie theatre or the movie trailers at the start of a DVD. Feel free to zip past the boring bits.

Sean writes in an engaging, entertaining way. I never heard him before and did not care for his voice. You may feel the same about my podcasts for Riscario Insider. I continued listening. Either Sean got better or I got more comfortable with him. Or both.

No Time
When can you find time to listen to the course? Worry about that later. Stop. Download the course. Then continue reading this post.

Back already? Great.

We find time for things that matter to us. We also make time for things we're forced to do (like tax returns). I cheated. Since many of the ideas were familiar, I listened and made short notes while spending two days cleaning up my office. You'll get better results by listening more intently and over a longer period.

Too Late?
If you're reading this post after the free offer has ended, don't despair. You can pick up many ideas by reading the Psychotactics blog. Maybe the free offer will be repeated. Back By Popular Demand.

Thanks for sharing, Sean.


November 23, 2009

Ways To Boost Your Sales With Seminars

What do Do Not Call lists and Do Not Spam lists tell you? Strangers don't want you to interrupt them. Advertising also interrupts. That's okay because you can use simpler, cheaper and more effective techniques.

Seminars get you new customers and more business from current customers.

You leverage your time by speaking to many at once. Attendees feel less intimidated than meeting you one-to-one. Yet few advisors conduct seminars or run them optimally.

Let's explore essentials like
  • the perfect delivery
  • the perfect location
  • the perfect topic
  • souvenirs
  • staying in touch
  • getting feedback
  • organizing your seminar
The Perfect Delivery
Seminars work best live in person. However, you can use webcasts or conference calls, which you can record to replay. This is your chance to shine. If you're not comfortable presenting, become the host and invite guest speakers. This isn't as good but gives results if you establish some credibility. You can learn to present over time --- a valuable skill.

The Perfect Location
You can attract audiences to your office if your facilities are suitable. It's better to present where people already gather. Associations and groups need presenters to fill their calendars. Your contacts may know places. You get
  • endorsed by the sponsoring organization
  • an instant audience with no effort or cost
  • invitations to speak elsewhere if you're good
The Perfect Topic
Pick an intriguing topic to attract attendees. Your title and description matter. Pick a topic which subtly shows your expertise. Whatever you do, keep the content simple and entertaining. You want to motivate, not just educate. Your audience forgets the details but remembers how you made them feel.

Do you repeat the same topic or run a series? It's much easier to find a new audience than to hone new presentations. If you want a series, consider getting guest presenters. Audiences have trouble believing that you're an expert on many topics --- even if you are.

Be sure to give the audience ways to remember you.
  • give meaningful handouts
  • have a meaningful website
  • stay in touch with an eNewsletter
Staying In Touch
For best results, show attendees a sample of your eNewsletter and ask them to sign up on a form while they are there. Input their names online later. This works much better than asking attendees to sign up on their own once they get home. They forget or don't bother.

If you have pre-prepared a list of attendees, add a column to indicate whether they want the eNewsletter. If you're bold, you can go further. Make your eNewsletter a free gift for anyone who registers (even if they don't attend). Again be sure to show a sample. To keep your readers, have content that helps them. Show consistent persistent generosity.

Getting Feedback
You can't get better if you don't know what to improve. Be sure to ask the attendees to fill out a feedback form. This can give you quotations to help you promote future seminars. Take a look at the audience responses for
Which affected you more, the typed comments or the scans of actual handwritten comments?

Organizing Your Own Seminar
If you don't pay attention to detail, sloppiness reigns. Your signs are crooked. The coffee is stale. The room is too cold. The screen is too small.

Your audience can sense when everything is well organized. They infer that you'll also pay attention to their needs. You may need help organizing.

You can reduce your workload and look more professional by using Eventbrite or Meetup.
Use Eventbrite for online bookings (an example). Eventbrite will
  • show the location (address and map)
  • email tickets
  • send reminders
  • create an attendee list
  • let you send a post-event feedback form
You select the information you want to capture. By default, you get the email address because that's needed to register. You'll probably want the first name and last name also. You can export the data collected into your client management system.
If you want to create a community, use instead. Since members can see other members, there is less privacy, which may be an advantage or disadvantage. Meetup is better for an ongoing series of events.

Meetup will even market for you by sending invitations to members who expressed interest in a topic like yours.

To establish credibility, participate in meetups and show enough information on your profile to reduce suspicions about your motives. Most organizers don't bother doing this and come across as self-serving.

Seminars work without much work.


November 16, 2009

Waving, Not Drowning: Career Options for an unMarketing Actuary

It does not take much strength to do things, but it requires great strength to decide on what to do.
Elbert Hubbard

As you may know, Industrial Alliance (IA) shut down the National Accounts division across Canada on Nov 12, 2009. [Update on Nov 18: officially, these are structural changes and the division continues to exist] I was part of that team and am now self-employed. You'll find the details on Riscario Insider in a blog post and podcast. I've been getting condolences, congratulations and questions about my career plans. I'll share my current thinking here.

Thanks to a nice severance package, there's no pressure to grab the first position available. So I'm taking my first-ever sabbatical before considering the possibilities.

We're going to India from December 6 to January 1. This was preplanned --- my first visit since 1972. Now we can plan and enjoy our trip without the added pressure of work during this busy time of year. I'll also skip the holiday lunches and parties, which will help with my waistline.

When National Life was getting harmonized into IA during 2004-2005, I was the product actuary. My nine staff lost their jobs over two downsizings. That's when I was most vulnerable since my old job disappeared.

Fortunately, IA saw unmined potential and I became a field-based marketing actuary supporting National Accounts, Managing General Agencies (MGAs) and MD Life. How could I help increase sales? To find out, I visited advisors across Western Canada. This lead to a well-received presentation tool, which I named Conceptia. The output was developed in Excel in collaboration with leading advisors. We made insurance strategies fast, flexible and friendly.

I concentrated on two major unserved needs:
  1. helping consumers understand by chiseling away complexity
  2. helping advisors stop marketing like it's 1999
Which other company would have given me such opportunities? If you've known me over the years, you know how much I've grown. Thanks for your help too.

I've focused my entire career on helping consumers tame their financial risks. I had this goal as a product actuary when developing flexible products, drafting accountable policy contracts and designing effective presentation tools.

As a marketing actuary, I directly help advisors help their clients. I want to remain close to advisors and consumers in person and via technology. Blogging since February 2007 is an example of this commitment to consistent persistent generosity. You'll find 267 posts here and on Riscario Insider.

Mastering new portable skills expands career opportunities. I've now got numerous ideas for the future, each with pros and cons. Some options may not be available or practical. This list is no particular order.
  1. advanced marketing for another insurer: continue providing case support, marketing tips, training
  2. product actuary: use field experience to develop products, strategies and tools to increase sales
  3. advisor support role at a distributor: help advisors and build the organization
  4. insurance specialist at a National Account: apply techniques developed while volunteering at IA Securities for 16 months; resulted in higher sales of IA products than most other National Accounts in Ontario
  5. insurance specialist in an independent team: ideally partnering with an investment advisor and/or accountant
  6. insurance specialist solo: perhaps helping advisors with their larger cases
  7. apprenticing with a seasoned advisor: learn proven techniques and modernize the marketing to ensure future growth
  8. marketing coach: helping advisors or distributors boost sales by marketing better
  9. writer / presenter: turning words, ideas and the stage into a business
Wait, there's more. A cashier at a gas station asked if I was a chauffeur. So many possibilities.

Your Thoughts
Are there other options? I'd like to narrow the list in January. I'd welcome your suggestions as comments below or email sent to

If you can get paid for things you'd do for free, you'll have a happy life.

The future looks friendly and bright. I'm neck deep in water but waving, not drowning.


November 9, 2009

How To Prepare, Promote and Practice A Brand-New Presentation

Lieutenant Dan got me invested in some kind of fruit company. So then I got a call from him, saying we don't have to worry about money no more. And I said, that's good! One less thing.
--- Forrest Gump referring to Apple

Have you ever walked along the edge of a cliff without noticing and later marveled that you didn't fall off?

I got invited to kickoff Day 2 of the IFB Summit from the mainstage. What an opportunity. That's where I've seen excellent keynotes from
I gladly accepted since I rarely address an audience of several hundred. This time I had an ideal, rehearsed presentation. That's when the trouble started. My topic, How To Succeed With Entrepreneurs Part 1: Be The One They Want, overlapped with another presenter.

Sell Before Making
I quickly came up with a brand new presentation. Or rather, the title and description.
Do You Market Like It's 1999?
Change with the times. You know plenty about products and sales strategies. What about this real challenge: how do you entice prospects to pick you over your competitors? How do you stay in touch before and after a sale? How do you create a powerful first impression without needing to be there? Discover simple, inexpensive ways to market better. Explore a market yearning for your help … if you stand out. Discover what works in this timely new presentation from a marketing actuary with the passion for simple. Copy the concrete real-life examples to stop marketing like it's 1999. Or 1989.
That was enough to entice registrants to pick my breakout session. Selling before making works well. I used the same approach when launching Marketing Reflections: subscribers agreed to receive an eNewsletter that didn't exist. I then tailored content to suit them.

Next came the wrong end of the 80/20 rule: 80% of your time creates 20% of the outcome. There's no synergy here. Only work and attention to detail. That's fine.

By the time the content was ready, the presentation was hours away. That's when I realized that I wouldn't have time to practice even once. Oops. What was I thinking?

Mental Rehearsal
I knew how the presentation would flow and roughly what to say for each slide. I'd mentally rehearsed the sections while drafting the content. Dr. Maxwell Maltz unveiled this now well-understood approach in Psycho-Cybernetics in 1960. It works beautifully.

The trickiest section related to the importance of a having a proper email address. To ensure the words flowed and had punch, I wrote down bullet points and turned them into last week's blog post. How's that for recycling?

One insurmountable problem remained: pacing. I did not know how long the presentation would run. I had 75 minutes and could easily be off by 15-30 minutes if nervous energy sped me up.

Arrive Early
I arrived early and coordinated with the audio/video crew. I wanted them to play a video clip. You got a sneak peek in How to apply consistent persistent generosity. As a precaution, I had my presentation on my computer, a memory stick and a portable hard drive. I had the video clip on a DVD and in two other formats (MP4 and AVI).

This preparation paid off. A technical glitch prevented my computer from projecting. That's just as well because I forgot my trusty wireless presenter mouse in the car. I would have been forced to stand in the worst possible spot: behind the podium. There was enough time to put my presentation on their equipment via the memory stick. The formatting got messed up on the title slide, which was easy to fix. I could now use their wireless slide advancer, which allowed mobility. To drain nervous energy, I walked to the AV booth and back to the stage. My voice was ready since I'd avoided milk, caffeine and sugar. While John Dargie introduced me, I took deep breaths from stage right (with the microphone off).

I found my rhythm within minutes of starting. The presentation went much better than an unrehearsed mainstage presentation deserved.
You never know what you're gonna get.
--- Forrest Gump referring to a box of chocolates

November 2, 2009

Does Your Email Address Say You're Cheap, Generic and Inattentive?

T-shirts give you comfort, convenience, and choice. Unless you're in a specialized field, you wouldn't wear one to a client meeting. You might like to, but wouldn't.

T-shirts are walking billboards.

You're more likely to wear clothing with hidden or subtle branding. You want to project the right image.

So why promote another company with your email address? If you're in a big company, you probably have email in the format If you're independent, you may have a generic email address makes you look like a small company. Like having a PO Box instead of a street address.

Message Transmitted | Message Received
If you're using an email domain from another company, you might as well wear a t-shirt. You're advertising that company, which makes you look cheap, generic and inattentive. Businesses outside Toronto often have phone numbers starting with area code 905. Yet, their mobile numbers often start with Toronto's more prestigious 416. That's the same idea. You'll see women carrying fancy shopping bags from Gucci or Chanel. The packaging matters even if the bag holds today's lunch.

Here are perceptions your email domain may create
  • AOL pollutes (remember the landfill-clogging deluge of CDs years ago) and symbolizes 11 years of failure
  • Gmail from Google annoys Microsoft lovers
  • Hotmail from Microsoft annoys Apple fans
  • Rogers (cable Internet) symbolizes high prices and lousy customer service
  • Sympatico (Internet from your phone company) also symbolizes high prices and lousy customer service
  • Yahoo means unprofessional: a yahoo is a yokel, rube or hick
The perceptions may be wrong. For example, I once got great customer service from Rogers. So what? You don't know what your clients think and only that matters. Why put yourself at a disadvantage you can easily overcome?

Why Get Email At Your Own Web Domain
Having your own web address for email helps in several ways (even if you don't have a website)
  • pride: you feel good with a professional email address
  • portable: you can move to different Internet providers without losing your email
  • memorable: you won't have to put up with; you can use instead
  • branded: you advertise your own domain wherever your email address appears
  • web-based: for anytime, anywhere access
  • inexpensive: can even be free with Google Apps Standard Edition
A .COM domain costs about $10 US a year. If you need help with the configuration, ask your email provider. Or a teenager. Pay them with a t-shirt.