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Not your father’s marketing: Constructing a post-pandemic pipeline

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I have friends who are old enough to remember not only Oldsmobile cars, but also their final big marketing tagline — the one that killed the brand, according to some experts:

“This is not your father’s Oldsmobile.”

The idea behind the campaign was that Oldsmobile had reinvented itself, exchanging a stodgy, “Father Knows Best” image for an exciting, edgy identity tied to youthful energy. “This is the new generation of Olds,” went the hard-driving jingle in the 1989 commercial. Did you catch the irony in that line? Ultimately the concept failed to inject enough vitality into the brand to save the automobile manufacturing company founded by R. E. Olds in 1897. Too bad the founder didn’t have a more timeless surname like Ford or Tesla, maybe.

But although the ad campaign fell short, the tagline achieved a permanent place in our lexicon. It’s hard to pick up a newspaper — or should I say read a newsfeed — without seeing a reference to “not your father’s/mother’s” something or other. You can find the phrase connected to everything from sewing machines to computer programming languages.

It makes sense, right? If the only constant is change, then paradigms have to shift; the old methods and modes have to give way to the new.

During the past pandemic year — and let’s all offer hopes, prayers, and positive energy that 2021 doesn’t fall into that same category — I’ve done a lot of thinking about shifting paradigms. We all have. Every financial planning professional I know has learned more about how to stay connected with team members, clients and prospects without the actual, face-to-face contact. We’ve had to learn how make a Zoom call feel personal, how to create enticing social media posts (I barely knew how to spell “Instagram” before COVID-19), how to find and capture new business in a time when our most trusted prospecting tools had suddenly been yanked out of our hands.

Strangers on a plane
Two personal before-and-after pandemic prospecting stories illustrate the marketing paradigm our sector has undergone.

"I’m expecting good things in 2021. After all, just putting 2020 behind us is a victory, right?" Kimberly Foss writes
"I’m expecting good things in 2021. After all, just putting 2020 behind us is a victory, right?"

Last January, just before the world changed and you could sit on an airplane next to someone you didn’t know and not think twice about it, I found myself on a flight next to a stranger. We were both headed to conferences: she to a meeting of executives in a major service sector industry, and I to a gathering of women financial advisors. In the course of the usual seatmate chatter, we exchanged job information. I talked about what I do as a fiduciary advisor and she became interested. Long story short: we agreed to meet when we returned home and today she is a client with a portfolio in excess of $2 million under management at my firm.

My second story is one I’ve discussed before in these pages — the prospect who reached out to me after our state’s mandatory lockdown. I had been trying to coax him back into the market for years — ever since he pulled out during the 2008 meltdown — and now, seeing virtually every equity investment suddenly at clearance-sale prices, he was eager to for my guidance on re-entering.

With not a single in-person meeting; with everything done online, by phone, or through mail and delivery service (and, if you recall, this was early in the pandemic, when we were still inventing remote workflow procedures on the fly), I able to secure a significant block of assets from this new client. Not only that, I have also since opened accounts with his attorney, his CPA and a golfing buddy who owns a chain of retail stores.

In the pre-COVID instance, I’d met the prospect by virtue of being placed together in a low-key setting.

In the second, the prospect reached out to me as a result of both years of cultivation and unexpected, dramatic market conditions. I had to build and maintain rapport solely through remote means. It was not driving “your father’s Oldsmobile,” but we still arrived at our destination — with three additional satisfied passengers on board!

Same problems, new solutions
But perhaps more important than the differences between the two experiences is their similarities. Regardless of your prospecting method, you have to be able to recognize an opportunity when it presents itself. Whether you are sitting across the table or meeting with them via Zoom, you have to be able to listen to prospects in order to learn their unique problems and pain points if you expect to offer a solution that will interest them.

In other words, the fundamentals of prospecting are still the same — it’s only the method of delivery that has changed.

“I diverged from the generic ‘dialing for dollars’ path to advancement and set out to learn from entrepreneurs and leaders from books,” writes advisor Chip Munn.
December 29

I’m expecting good things in 2021. After all, just putting 2020 behind us is a victory, right? As we move forward into the post-COVID-19 future, many things will be different. Genies have been released into the world and they aren’t going back in the bottle. But many things will be the same as always, especially the need of investors for reliable, professional counsel that puts their needs ahead of everything else. We’ve got the solutions to their problems. Let’s keep finding new ways to let them know that.

Here’s to more fun in ’21!

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