For benefit advisers marketing has become a whole new ballgame

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It’s difficult for benefits agencies to wrap their heads around the idea of systematically marketing themselves, because up until now it hasn’t really been necessary for so many of them. But times are changing and agency marketing needs to become a more consistent and systematic activity with its own budget line and dedicated resources.

Depending on how long your agency has been in business, you may have run a Yellow Pages ad or taken some prospects golfing. But those types of marketing activities are very different from what we’re seeing today.

One-to-one marketing activities like golf, or shotgun approaches like yellow pages ads that reach a broad but less targeted audience, have been displaced by robust informational strategies that seek to target and educate small groups of highly qualified prospects. These require a very different mindset and need time, money and attention to succeed.

Adding these activities to your agency’s marketing budget is a good place to start:

1. An up-to-date website that addresses potential clients about their needs and how your agency can help fulfill them. If your site is visually or technologically outdated, or your message is simply about the products that you sell, you’re missing the marketing boat.

To do this effectively requires professional copywriting and website development. The aim is to create a modern web platform that you can modify and add to over time, so expect to pay some ongoing maintenance fees and make changes to your site on a regular basis.

2. A strong LinkedIn presence. LinkedIn has become a de rigueur marketing tool and is routinely used by prospects doing due diligence on your agency. Every member of your team needs to create an impressive profile that they update regularly, and your top execs and sales leaders need to be especially active.

To do this properly, your management and sales team will need to purchase the professional version of LinkedIn, which provides more information about contacts and tools for better prospecting.

3. Informative content in a variety of formats. In order to engage and educate your target audience, you need to present compelling information in a wide assortment of ways. Regular speaking engagements and article and blog postings are a great way to start.
To get the most mileage from this, you may have to purchase technology that supports regular blogging and email outreach. And to ensure that you have a steady stream of compelling content to provide, you may need the services of a professional writer. Consider this a long-term investment, because the material you developed can be recycled in different formats over an extended period of time.

Face-to-face presentations require their own set of resources, including event venues, promotional materials and, in some cases, professional speakers to serve as marketing draws.

To help manage and oversee all of these activities, you’ll either need to hire a marketing professional or pay a marketing agency to get the job done. And there are other items that will have to be covered by your marketing budget as well, such as graphics and design for your spiffy new web site.

The good news is that once you have the basics in place, there are many other types of marketing activities you can engage in, ranging from online ads and radio sports to direct marketing, media PR and event sponsorships.

Does all this strike you as expensive and a bit over the top? Then consider the full scope of your competition and how products and services are promoted today. Advisers who ignore the need for this type of marketing will find themselves on the fringes of their prospects’ awareness and won’t make their short list when they consider bringing in an agency.

To get your prospects’ attention, you need highly visible marketing. And to impress your buyers, you need to speak to their needs.

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