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Digital Strategies to Shift Your Annuity Sales into High Gear

In order for a financial advisor to increase their sales they must continuously generate new leads. Leads are the lifeblood of your business and if you’re waiting for potential clients to call your office or stumble across your website, you’re probably losing out on missed opportunities.

While you still may use offline methods to prospect like direct mail, newspaper ads or cold calling, it may be time to “shift” your efforts towards a more cost effective and proven method to fill your calendar using digital marketing.

Fifteen years ago, we saw the beginning of the SHIFT in the insurance and financial services arena when I started generating insurance leads over the internet using nothing more than a simple landing page and paying 10 cents per click on Yahoo.
Around the year 2000, it was rare to hear of any agent meeting with people over the phone to close business. Connecting with clients over the Internet was virtually unheard of. We did everything at kitchen tables, around living room chairs, in coffee shops, or in our offices.

Internet Leads Were Novel

The idea of running complicated financial formulas from a device that weighs less than half a pound and is thinner than a quarter of an inch sounded like nonsense (the iPad). We proudly presented our quotes, projections, and formulas in acetate-bound presentation folders. Being able to show your computer screen to a person hundreds of miles away was a fantasy. Yet, today, we do these things without thinking.

At the turn of the millennium, I was part of a six-person company providing insurance quotes to five insurance agents. That company became a forerunner among Internet lead companies, generating 250,000 consumer insurance quote requests every single month.
Over time, I’ve seen the SHIFT in the way consumers want to buy insurance and financial products. Unfortunately, brokers are still reluctant to adapt to that SHIFT.

But, I’m Thrilled to Say…The Tide is Turning!

More and more frequently, if you listen carefully, you hear of agents and advisors doing incredible things that we used to think were impossible. Financial advisors are switching from group seminars to one-on-one screen-sharing webinars.

Young agents are coming out of nowhere and growing multi-million-dollar agencies in a few years, using nothing but the Internet. LinkedIn has become a hub for the highest-net-worth prospects you can find. Facebook is turning into a hunting ground for ideal prospects, for pennies on the dollar.

OK, So What is a SHIFT?

In Chicago, we have these massive train systems. Everybody gets around on the train or “el”— short for “elevated”— that runs throughout the city.

If you ever look down at the tracks, you’ll notice a series of switches that send the trains in different directions depending on their route.

As you ride along and the train will SHIFT a bit here and there, it doesn’t seem to be deviating much. But if you stay on the train for one mile, five miles, ten miles… inevitably, it ends up going in a completely different direction than when it started out.
That train isn’t using any more energy than it would if it stayed on its original course.
But one SHIFT might take you to O’Hare airport in the far northwest corner of the city, while another SHIFT might take you deep into the South Side of Chicago, the birthplace of blues.

The two paths couldn’t be more different.

Today, innovation is key, and even though it is sometimes hard to move on, it is time to say goodbye to your old marketing habits if you want to improve lead generation with the right prospects. Given the wealth of data generated on the internet, advisors are now able to segment and target their leads by examining the social and web surfing habits of their potential customers.

Facebook advertising has become a worthy rival of generating leads online with more than one billion daily active users, becoming the ultimate platform for finding new business.
A good marketing campaign is more than something that accurately represents your product or service. It’s something that takes advantage of the platform it is on.

Writing a good campaign that connects with the right target audience is a vital component of all aspects of Facebook ads.

Seminar marketing can be an effective way to sift an audience for the right prospects. However, it can be brutally expensive, especially if you’re paying for the meal.
It’s not uncommon for financial advisors to pay $3-8,000 to fill a room of 30 prospects—with a cost per attendee upwards of $200. This is because most advisors use only ONE method to fill up a seminar.

But with the advent of geographic and demographic targeting on YouTube and Facebook, it’s possible to supplement your direct-response efforts with digital marketing techniques.

Here’s an incredibly inexpensive way you can generate highly qualified leads in your precise market for a fraction of what you’d pay using direct-response methods.

The Incredible Facebook Seminar Marketing Hack

One of my clients – we’ll call him ‘Gary’ – is an affable, gregarious, and amazing human being—to know him is to love him. On our consulting video sessions, he starts off with a warm “Aloha!” and, as a Million-dollar Round Table member, he’s experienced years of our seminar marketing techniques, many of which have helped him build his practice.

Like most advisors, Gary’s typical strategy when I first met him was to work with his FMO to market seminars using direct-response postcards. This resulted in a cost-per-attendee of more than $200.

We helped him try something different—and his results were groundbreaking. The important SHIFT we made was to supplement his offline postcard seminar-marketing technique with a complementary online marketing strategy.

Gary started using Facebook and YouTube ads to promote his seminars right along with his regular direct-response marketing. So, if you were within his desired zip code and looking at a video on YouTube, you would see Gary’s ad before your own video.

Within Facebook, we selected a custom audience of his ideal targets that would see a small ad directly in their Facebook stream. These were people living within 15 miles of his ZIP code, over the age of 55, and with a net worth of over $200,000. That gave Gary 30,000 people to market to on a small test budget of $25 a day.

We were a bit late running the ad due to technical issues with Facebook, but we were able to start five days before the event—definitely a short window of time.

The cost of the ad for five days, at a cap of $25 per day, was $125.

Here Are the Results

For a Tuesday seminar, we began marketing on Sunday and had two signups and no show ups.

That didn’t surprise us. But it was a good test piece to see whether people were at least willing to sign up for a local event they’d learned about on Facebook a mere day before it occurred!

For a Saturday seminar, we began marketing on the previous Sunday (giving us five days total, since we didn’t market on the day of the event).

We had 12 signups. And a whopping 50 percent attendance rate!

Fifty percent attendance with minimal marketing via a Facebook ad? That’s phenomenal! And since six people showed up, our cost per attendee was just $20.19— 958 percent LOWER than industry standards from traditional postcards!

All of this was because Gary made the SHIFT from purely offline to a hybrid of digital and offline. Isn’t this a beautiful example of how a new way of marketing can complement a traditional model? What hybrid possibilities can you take advantage of in your own marketing, to drastically reduce your costs and open up a whole new market?

Another benefit we enjoyed, though we couldn’t track it statistically, was the potentially increased response rate from the postcards—because people received the postcard PLUS saw the ad online. Did this influence attendance? The test was too small to tell, but it is a bedrock principle of marketing that multiple contact points can only help conversions.


Gary’s inspiring story is a wonderful example of how you can blend digital with traditional offline marketing strategies that are already working. Though much of my documented breakthroughs have been in the digital space, I’ve never advocated throwing out the old. As you start to think like a strategic marketer, you know that it’s about using all of the available assets at your disposal.

In this case, taking a modern twist on an old problem—filling seminars—led to an unprecedented breakthrough of hyper-targeting. And that led to an almost 1000 percent reduction in cost per lead!

What SHIFT in your thinking about marketing could you make right now that would open up doors of opportunity?

The Takeaway
  • Be willing to try new marketing methods, or supplement methods that are working with new ones. Test the possibilities and see what happens.
  • YouTube and Facebook ads work well to supplement a direct-response seminar marketing model, if you have enough lead time.
  • Test different formats, media, and lead times.

Once you discover the power of Facebook Ads to generate leads, you can easily duplicate the methods on other social platforms like LinkedIn, Instagram etc.

About Jeremiah Desmarais (De-ma-ray)
Labeled “one of the greatest marketing minds in the insurance industry” by insurance executives, Desmarais teaches insurance and financial advisors to generate more leads and commissions using digital marketing strategies in less than 37 days. A TED speaker to a standing ovation and ranked among the Top 40 Direct Marketers Under 40, he’s been cited on Worth, CNN, Fox and has helped over 100,000 agents generate two million leads. He’s keynoted national events and high level mastermind retreats, as well as authored several important white papers. Download his free digital marketing jump start course for advisors at