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12 Growing Your Business with Maribeth Kuzmeski

Steve Seid & Kurt Dupuis
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The Whole Truth Podcast Episode 12

Steve Seid:
And welcome everybody to The Whole Truth from the Bay Area, California. I am Steve Seid.

Kurt Dupuis:
And from the city in the forest of Atlanta, Georgia, I'm Kurt Dupuis.

Disclosure:
The views expressed herein are those of the participants and not those Touchstone Investments.

Kurt Dupuis:
So Seid we're going to start this episode off a little bit different way and talk about something that you and I have discussed. And I think a lot of our audience would appreciate. And we're to call this segment How To Have A Crappy Meeting With A Wholesaler.

Steve Seid:
Oh, good one.

Kurt Dupuis:
Have you ever had a crappy meeting with a financial professional?

Steve Seid:
I've had many Kurt. I've had many.

Kurt Dupuis:
I can imagine.

Steve Seid:
Yeah, I know. I'm that good, but I've had many.

Kurt Dupuis:
So if we were to build the 10 commandments for how to ensure that we're going to have a bad meeting, what would be on that list-

Steve Seid:
Oh, wow.

Kurt Dupuis:
... that we'd take down from the mountains?

Steve Seid:
I would say probably the first immediate thing that comes to mind is when you walk in and they say, "What you got?” “What you got?”

Kurt Dupuis:
I love the “what you got?”

Steve Seid:
... you know?

Kurt Dupuis:
Oh yes. It's really hard to disarm that one too, because you're saying clearly, "I don't know why I took this meeting, but you're here. What do you want to talk about? Because there's no way we're going to have a back and forth joint conversation. This is just you spouting, whatever you came here to spout." Right?

Steve Seid:
Yeah. It's go. Pitch go.

Kurt Dupuis:
Which is the opposite way that you and I approach this whole thing.

Steve Seid:
Yeah. I mean, part of it is that's how the majority of wholesalers probably approach the meeting and so their just…

Kurt Dupuis:
It must be.

Steve Seid:
... which is a sad commentary on our profession but ...

Kurt Dupuis:
Well, and I turn it around on them and I said, what would that look if you walked up with a prospect and that's what you opened with.

Steve Seid:
Have you said that to someone?

Kurt Dupuis:
What you got? Yes.

Steve Seid:
Oh my God-

Kurt Dupuis:
It's the same thing. This is our first meeting-

Steve Seid:
That's great.

Kurt Dupuis:
I'm here for discovery to figure out whether it even makes sense to work together because if you're not going to use our products and our personality types are completely against each other, this doesn't make sense. Why do we need to do this anymore? But you don't know until you ask the questions, you can't just start with what you got?

Steve Seid:
What you got. Yeah, you're already off to a pretty, pretty poor start. What's one from you Kurt? I've got a few that I wrote down. What's one from you?

Kurt Dupuis:
Well, one just general rule is just, don't be a jerk. And one of the tools that really enables jerkiness today are people's phones. So I have literally walked out of lunch meetings where people refuse to get off their phone because-

Steve Seid:
Or look at their screen the whole time. Do you ever get?

Kurt Dupuis:
The entire time. Yeah. And I'm an elder millennial, right? So I am of the generation that grew up as a digital native. I love my phone. I'm on my phone all the time. But if there's even a halfway interesting thing in front of me that I should be talking about or dealing with, I'm not on my phone. It's just a common courtesy that apparently is not very common. So I'll make a snide comment before I would walk out. But I have walked out of meetings where people just refuse to get off their phones.

Steve Seid:
Yeah. I mean, nothing's that important too. They always make it seem that they're doing something that is, “If I don't get this trade in or talk to this person, it's all coming down. Nothing's that important-

Kurt Dupuis:
The whole house of cards.

Steve Seid:
Yeah. I'll throw another one that I thoroughly enjoy that I know we're off to a really bad start. It's like, "What's your target for the S&P before the end of the year. Questions that financial professionals ask wholesalers by habit. Let me solve this for everybody in the industry right now, okay? I'm going to end this today Kurt. No one knows where the S&P is going to be by the end of the year. No one knows. There's a lot of people making money saying they know where it is, but no one knows-

Kurt Dupuis:
Whose-

Steve Seid:
Stop asking.

Kurt Dupuis:
... numbers actually are even worse than the guys that predict the outcomes of football games.

Steve Seid:
That's right.

Kurt Dupuis:
The market pontificators have a worse record than the talking heads on Sunday morning with NFL games. And yeah, these are who people are listening to, I guess.

Steve Seid:
Man, that's crazy.

Kurt Dupuis:
It's like they expect wholesalers to have a laminated index card in their back pockets. It's like, "Oh, well you asked that question. Let me see my number for the S&P is X. My number for the Russell 1000 growth is Y, the number for the FTSE ... " No, that's-

Steve Seid:
And if you're investing based on that, I mean, what kind of decisions are you going to ... I don't know. It's a weird question that so much, our industry has so much what I would describe of are illusions of value, stuff that we do where we ... Because we can sound smart doing it and saying it, then it must be valuable but what is the accuracy of those things? I want to talk about things that are actually of value, not just pretend value-

Kurt Dupuis:
Yeah. The analogy that I often use is signal versus the noise, is there so much noise in this business. It's you need people in your life, you need relationships, you need wholesalers, all of the people in your life should be the signal and not the noise and the people that contribute noise to your life, you should really re-evaluate their place in it.

Steve Seid:
But I like your idea of challenging that and coming back with something really funny back, maybe when they ask what's your target on the S&P I should just say a number.

Kurt Dupuis: A billion

Steve Seid:
And just stop talking and just let it sit there. Just let it and see what they respond. That's another one. What else? Come on, keep them coming. What do you got? What you got?

Kurt Dupuis:
Have you ever scheduled some sort of event or meeting and have someone bring a significant other or a family member that was not communicated before?

Steve Seid:
No. Well, when did that happen to you?

Kurt Dupuis:
I've been to a dinner where someone who brought their kid with them.

Steve Seid:
Wow.

Kurt Dupuis:
Their adolescent kid with them, which honestly, I love my family. I like other people's families, but just not communicating stuff like that, it's just a little glimpse into the fun world that we have where every day multiple situations we’re thrown these curveball social situations that you got to navigate. It’s very fun.

Steve Seid:
It reminds me also when we're out to lunches, I do fewer and fewer of meals and things like that. I think it's a lot of them are kind of a waste of time, but when they're like, "Oh, we're going to order a bunch of stuff for our junior associates and our assistants and our people." Which is fine but isn't that, that's kind of a little bit of a weird thing-

Kurt Dupuis:
Just communicate.

Steve Seid:
Yeah.

Kurt Dupuis:
Ask if that's cool. Maybe it's cool, maybe it's not. There's also compliance and expense considerations. Just communicate people. If you want to buy dinner for your whole block, let's just have a conversation about it.

Steve Seid:
I'll give you another one of how to have a bad meeting. When I sort of give the background on what I am and that we really do try to help people, we try to be a real business consultant. And then I asked about your business and you start talking about how, the first thing out of your mouth is, "Well, we use discretion." And start immediately just talking about the investment piece of it like, "This is how we ... " No, that's not what I asked you.

Kurt Dupuis:
Oh, yeah.

Steve Seid:
That's not I asked you. Tell me about what you're doing with this business.

Kurt Dupuis:
But realize also that's probably a conversation they're having with every wholesaler, especially a new wholesalers like "Oh, well, tell me about your business." Well, most wholesalers are just trying to get input. What platform do you use? Do you use my type of product and am I going to be able to sell to you rather than taking multiple steps back to say, "no, I really want to understand how you think and curate your business, not what platforms you use. So I can tell you what approved funds I have in that platform."

Steve Seid:
Yeah. That's the other one like "What's on the recommended ... What are the five star funds that you have in all this?" All this stuff without having any question of like, "Well, is it positioned to do well moving forward? Or are we just selling ... " I think they have such low opinions of us and that's probably our fault on our side, but man ...

Kurt Dupuis:
And it's our cross to carry to help change those opinions.

Steve Seid:
That's right. That's exactly right. And one of the things I've been working with a couple of folks from our community actually is, what we were describing here of these bad meetings the ways that some wholesalers approach it, how can you change that dynamic because who has all that time to waste? So I've been working with some folks in our community to manage how you communicate and interact with wholesalers and partners. And part of that process is narrowing down. If a wholesaler's whole value or lack thereof is to come in and just start spitting recommended funds, you don't need to waste time-

Kurt Dupuis:
Or their ability to buy a stake.

Steve Seid:
Yeah. Narrow down and just get with the people that actually can add some value because they're out there. They absolutely are. There's good wholesalers out there.

Kurt Dupuis:
Reach out to us at thewholetruth@touchstonefunds.com. We've had these conversations with several of our financial professionals with how do you manage wholesaler interactions and wholesaler meetings and what should I be asking of them? Those are conversations that we have pretty regularly. So feel free to reach out with us on that.

Steve Seid:
Yeah.

Kurt Dupuis:
You got anything else you want to get into?

Steve Seid:
I'll throw one more in there and then we'll get into the heart of it. I know that you've got to have a process and be able to document how you do your investment selection. But if it's like, "Oh, we only look at ... " It gets back to the same thing as star ratings and I only look at five year top decile funds. I can give you those, but don't you want it to even have a discussion about if that's why it's there. And is there a potential opportunity moving forward?

Steve Seid:
I know we got to be careful about investments on this podcast, but just being that rigid and most of the time it's rigid around things that actually could get in your way like past performance and star ratings, which we know is prone to mean reversion and things like that. So that's hard when somebody just ... It's easy as a wholesaler to come in and say, "Okay, this is what you want. Here you go." And take the sale. But man, that's hard. Sometimes if you don't feel that's positioned well to be, continue that.

Kurt Dupuis:
I think what we're getting at is most people are they're asking these questions and they're giving answers based on the how. Yeah, something about their business, they're telling you how they run their business, but I think what we're really asking, is it a why? Why do you do what you're doing? And Simon Sinek, great speaker, great writer. You’ve got to figure out the why first. And I think that's what we're really asking. And many people just approach the question with the how and not the why.

Steve Seid:
Yeah.

Kurt Dupuis:
Does that make sense?

Steve Seid:
It does. And God, you talk and you keep giving ... We're going to have to end the segment at some point because I'll just keep on. What's another bad meeting thing? You come in and all it is a one way vomit of information, where they've got all the answers. Well, great. You've solved all the world and you know what the heck are you having me in here? If you don't want-

Kurt Dupuis:
So you took the meeting to tell me about all the-

Steve Seid:
That's right.

Kurt Dupuis:
... answers that you've already figured out.

Steve Seid:
Just to hear yourself speak. Oh, my God. There's ...

Kurt Dupuis:
That's a good one.

Steve Seid:
There's one coming to mind. I won't say his name of course, but there is one coming to mind where nicest guy, but man, once the meeting started and I sat through a couple of them because I'm at some point, he's going to want to engage. And I don't know that I just stopped going-

Kurt Dupuis:
Never happened.

Steve Seid:
I stopped going because you could put a cardboard cutout of me in his office and the meeting would have gone the exact same.

Kurt Dupuis:
I've had those too.

Steve Seid:
My internals kind of, and all of them have done this. I'm really, really quick though to write people off. If I have one or two bad meetings, I'm like, "Do not put them on." And sometimes they'll put them on anyway and I always see that meeting on the calendar and I get so mad that they did. And a couple of them have worked out though, ultimately, so I just know that about myself. I'm kind of quick to, I've got a itchy trigger finger, I think that's probably the way to think about it. All right, so let's get into the episode here, Kurt.

Today we are honored to have Dr. Maribeth Kuzmeski the founder and president of Red Zone Marketing on the podcast. Her marketing company specializes in helping financial professionals grow, market and brand their business. Growth is the single most mentioned topic that we hear from you all our community. So we're happy to bring a real professional in this space with some concrete ideas that you all can use.

Kurt Dupuis:
And she'll also tell the story how she helped one financial professional, who actually was only her fifth client and had no money, grow his practice from 10 million to 200 million in under five years using low cost niche marketing strategies. And we'll also find out the story behind Red Zone Marketing, where it came from. The don'ts of marketing, why specificity is better than generalities. Why and how second opinion marketing is actually working right now. And we'll give you a template for developing your own value proposition and even have Maribeth give us hers. And make sure to stick around for the end, for the Costanza Corner where we end the show on a high note.

And a couple of other points you can always learn more about us and listen to past episodes by visiting touchstoneinvestments.com/thewholetruth and you can expect a new episode from us every other Tuesday. As always, you can reach out to us at thewholetruth@touchstonefunds.com for any reason, including getting added to our distribution list. And if you haven't already, please consider subscribing on Spotify, Apple Podcast, Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts. And without further ado, here's our conversation with Dr. Kuzmeski.

Steve Seid:
So please welcome Dr. Maribeth Kuzmeski. Thank you for joining us.

Maribeth Kuzmeski:
Well, thank you for having me on. This is exciting.

Steve Seid:
Yeah. It's great to have you. I spent a full day with you yesterday, coaching some teams, which we'll get into that experience and some of the things I heard, but ...

Kurt Dupuis:
Now you guys are best friends by now, aren't you?

Steve Seid:
Yeah, God, how many meetings did we do? I don't know. It was eight or something crazy.

Maribeth Kuzmeski:
We spent a lot of time together.

Steve Seid:
Yeah. And typically people can't spend that much time with me without getting annoyed. So I hope you still have some positive affiliation. But I did an intro on your background and your bio, but tell us a little bit about yourself. Give us your background.

Maribeth Kuzmeski:
Yeah, so I started off when I first graduated from college a million years ago. I thought I wanted to be in politics. And I realized after doing some work in campaigns and going and working in the US Senate, that that was clearly not what I wanted to do. So I went back and got my MBA in marketing and that started sort of my marketing career if you will. And, I mean, long story short, my husband and I were living in Washington, DC and he got transferred to Chicago, which is closer to my family. So that's awesome. We were excited. We were just married. I was just pregnant and there was no way I was going to be able to get a corporate level job like I had in DC. So I just started my own business and it happened to be that my fifth client just happened to be a financial advisor.

Maribeth Kuzmeski:
So this financial advisor had no money under management for the most part. He had $10 million of money under management. He had no money to spend on marketing, but I met him at a networking event and he's like, "I probably need to do some marketing." "Yes, you probably do." He said, "But since I don't have any money and I'm not really sure this marketing thing is going to work, how about I just pay you on performance?" "Pay on performance? What does that mean?"

He goes, "Well in the financial industry that means that if I close any sales, then you get a portion of that." But that's called sharing commissions at the time. And he said, "So you have to get licensed." "Licensed? In the financial industry?" I knew nothing about the financial industry.

Kurt Dupuis:
This sounds like the worst client to start with. A lot of requirements for you-

Maribeth Kuzmeski:
Well, before I met this client, I didn't have a lot to work with. But then I said, "Okay I'll do it." So I literally got licensed. I got my Series 6/65, 63, life accident and health, and started working for him. And we started marketing and just doing things that didn't cost very much money, niche-based strategies. And he went from 10 million to over 200 million in under five years, which then ...

Kurt Dupuis:
Whoa.

Maribeth Kuzmeski:
... put me on the map and I didn't close any of the sales, but he gave me credit for it. And so people started to hear about that and so I got a chance to go speak at his broker dealer and I probably did a three-hour presentation in 40 minutes and just piled it in. But what happened was because I have this success story, a whole bunch of people in this firm wanted to work with me. And there was also a wholesaler in the room that day that said, "Hey, we're rolling out this variable annuity next year with a rider on it, why don't you come and speak with us around the country 20 times." That started my financial services part of the marketing career.

So that's how it started and ever since then, I've been really focused in the financial services industry. I have written books that are outside of financial services. I've written seven books, but they're all about marketing or all about marketing, connecting, engaging those types of things. But the work we do on the consulting side has all been in the financial services industry. And then I also do a lot of speaking not as much anymore since the COVID situation, but a lot of virtual speaking I've been doing. So that's the story. That's the long and short of it.

Kurt Dupuis:
There's something I've heard about how you got started, that I really love that this same client that you referenced, that part of the marketing strategy was doing seminars, which I'd like to ask you about later but what I loved about the story was you did a seminar. You did you put a lot of planning and you figured out what his niche was and how successful was the first seminar?

Maribeth Kuzmeski:
It was not very successful. So this is my big entree into marketing for financial services and he's expecting it not to work and that's exactly what happened. Now he didn't have any money so we were sort of limited in how we could market. So basically he had one client that worked at a big Fortune 500 company. So I sent her a bunch of invitations and said, "Hey, can you tell your friends about this?" And then I called her on the phone and she said, "Absolutely." Because he was doing a seminar on how to retire from that particular company without making big mistakes. So we're all excited. We've got some community center rented out, which I think was for free. He got some Chex Mix from the Sam's club. We were ready to go. And nobody showed up. Not a single person showed up-

Kurt Dupuis:
Well, at least you didn't pay a lot to not have people show up-

Maribeth Kuzmeski:
Oh my gosh. And then, he looked at me and he said, and this is the kind of guy that he is, but he said, "I'm just going to go through the presentation and practice it because I don't think I'm going to be any good at this presentation." So I sat there in the audience, the audience of one and listened to him, do the presentation. Now, the next time we did it, we tried the same thing. I called the same woman and sent her the same long invitation. She goes, "I will make sure that people show up this time."

Eight people the next time. And then it built over time and it started that we did this seminar every single week. And sometimes he'd have eight people there sometimes he'd have 30 people there, but it didn't matter to us because the people that were showing up were getting ready to retire from that company with money in their profit sharing plan. So that was how we did it. And that's how we built the one niche and then we built two and then we built three and that's it because they were low cost opportunities for bringing in new clients.

Steve Seid:
So you're out of graduate school. You almost get in the business. I don't want to say by accident, but it wasn't saying, coming out saying, "I'm going to work in this industry."

Maribeth Kuzmeski:
Oh, it was by accident.

Kurt Dupuis:
She can say it.

Steve Seid:
She can say it, exactly. And then you go down this path, you get licensed and all of a sudden you start, no one shows up to, I mean, does doubt creep in? Do you start to say to yourself, "Hey ... " I mean, what gave you the confidence to keep going? Or did you just know that if we do the reps this'll work or was there no other option? I'm curious what goes through your head at that time?

Maribeth Kuzmeski:
Oh, no. I thought I was a complete failure and everything was a disaster. And the only reason that I did it again is because he was ready to do it. I think he felt like he wasn't ready to present at that first one anyway, so we got a chance to kind of run through his presentation. The next time we did it, he was more confident and I was more hopeful. But I would have, I mean, I don't know, I was younger and I think I might've just said, "You know what? This is not working." And that's what happens with a lot of financial advisors today. You try a strategy one time. It doesn't work out the way you want it to. And so you just scrap it.

But marketing is an art and a science and much of it is the art side and you're just not sure how it's going to work out. You can't really predict. You can over time predict, but if you're doing it for the first time, there's no way you can predict how it's going to turn out.

Steve Seid:
Yeah.

Kurt Dupuis:
I love the resiliency in that story. That's why I wanted to ask about it because who doesn't fall into that trap of, you think you have a great mouse trap, doesn't work the first time, so you throw the entire plan out the window. So I really like that. So I'm going to throw a curveball at you right here at the beginning. And so I did some digging on you and I understand there's a story that you might have an affinity of this place called Buckee's and particularly the bathroom.

Maribeth Kuzmeski:
Well, it's interesting. I was writing a book called And The Clients Went Wild and was published by Wiley several years ago. And they in part of writing the book, I was interviewing a bunch of people and finding out as much as I could about how people create this cult following. And I heard about this place Buckee's, which I had never been to. And so I get on the phone, start conducting some interviews, and I said, "How do you guys have a cult following around a chain of gas stations?" Because I've heard-

Kurt Dupuis:
It's gas station, right?

Maribeth Kuzmeski:
It's a gas station. I mean, a gas station is a gas station. Who remembers the last gas station you went to. They're not memorable and he said, well the owner said, well, a few years ago we asked our customers what they liked least about gas stations, and guess what we found out? And I don't know, I mean, what do you think they found out? The restrooms. So you'd think they would say, "Oh yeah, if you just had lower price of gasoline, then we would just flock there." But they said, "No, if you cleaned up your restrooms. We'd come there all the time."

And so they renovated their locations across the State of Texas and put in these beautiful, wonderful restrooms. They're the Four Seasons and the Ritz Carlton combined and just amazing, right? And the first time I went to a Buckee's, I remember walking through the big location because everything's big in Texas. And I get to the back, I opened the door to the restroom when I take one step in and I literally stopped cold because in front of me there are couches and women sitting around reading and I'm thinking, "Have I just opened ... " If you're older-

Steve Seid:
What is this place?

Maribeth Kuzmeski:
... just opened the door to the Twilight Zone? Like, "What the heck is going on in here?" People, women we do not read in the gas station bathroom. We hold our breath. We breathe out of our mouth, but we certainly don't hang out in there. And so I'm thinking, "This place is different." And what Buckees said was, "Listen, we did not want to let word get around slowly. Just kind of let people start talking about it." He said, "We need to exploit this uniqueness. We knew we had something that people wanted." And so they started putting up billboards all across the State of Texas to this day that say things like "Only 262 miles to Buckee's. You can hold it." And if you think about that, and if you're driving along the roads of Texas and you glance up and you see that billboard and you're like, "What?" And then you get it because it's actually what you want, not what you need.

And I always make the analogy to financial services with this because in financial services, a lot of financial advisors go, "Listen, people need a financial plan." And there is no question that people need a financial plan. There's also no question that they don't want it. There's very few people that want to go, "Yeah, you know what I'd like to do is spend months divulging all of the financial mistakes I've ever made in my life to a person that I barely know. And I'm not even sure that I want to do business with yet. And I'm going to divulge everything in my entire life to him. And I'm going to spend all of this time doing it and I don't really want to do that."

So what people need and what people want is a real key with marketing. And I think that a lot of financial advisors market on what people need, because it makes sense. It's clear, it's present, it's black and white, but we have to market on what they actually want, or they're not going to come.

Steve Seid:
Wow, that's-

Kurt Dupuis:
So they need gas, but they want a clean bathroom.

Maribeth Kuzmeski:
That's right. They could go to a dirty bathroom but they want a clean bathroom.

Steve Seid:
Kurt, I think we're going to have to do a pilgrimage to various Buckee's because this has come up in-

Kurt Dupuis:
Don't make me go to Texas.

Steve Seid:
... multiple podcast episodes. Yeah, I came across that in her book. And I'm like, is Kurt going to bring that up? Kurt brought that up. That's good.

Kurt Dupuis:
We've talk about Buckee's before actually in the context-

Steve Seid:
That's what I mean.

Kurt Dupuis:
... of client service and having an elevated client-

Steve Seid:
The experience, yeah.

Kurt Dupuis:
... experience. So I don't like to give Texas too much credit, but it seems this Buckee's thing keeps coming up.

Maribeth Kuzmeski:
Oh, be nice to Texas.

Kurt Dupuis:
I'm a Louisiana guy. I got to get my digs in where I can.

Maribeth Kuzmeski:
Oh, I see.

Steve Seid:
Red Zone Marketing. So you were working with the advisor now you're at a firm called Red Zone. What is that? How did you get from working with that advisor to starting your own firm? Or was this you had it the whole time?

Maribeth Kuzmeski:
So I had my own firm. He was my fifth client. And then but the firm name Red Zone Marketing was something that was from a core belief that I have. I mean, I grew up with a grandmother that loved football and I was her first born grand child so I got to spend all sorts of time with this woman and she loved football of all things and the Green Bay Packers, especially. And so I grew up a huge football fan breaking down the offense and the defense with my grandma and thinking that that was totally normal, that that's what every little girl did with their grandma. But one of the things that she always taught me about was when it's really important.

When is it really important on the football field? And it's that 20 yards before you score and it's the 20, it's the Red Zone. And we didn't call it the red zone back then when I was growing up but we certainly call it now. And I'm like, "Well, that's what I want my marketing firm to be about. I don't want to do direct mail and hope to get a quarter percent response rate. I think that's a waste of time. What I want to do is things that are important right now and help people find new customers, clients right now, as opposed to let's do these strategies that just don't do things now."

So that's why we focus on all sorts of things like service and referrals and things that happen in the Red Zone because if you're a good financial advisor, you're going to get referrals. You have clients that like you. It's about maximizing that and it's about helping to tell that story. So more people that know what your clients know can be exposed to it.

I mean, there's a huge disconnect in financial services. I think because clients of financial advisors love their financial advisor. They go, "You've changed my life. I mean, I bought a second home. I retired, you helped me do these things." Yet a prospect thinks that that financial advisor is going to try to sell them something. And so there's this huge disconnect between what your client knows and what your prospect thinks. And we got to tighten that up and I think that's part of what the whole Red Zone Marketing philosophy is it's about taking advantage of what you already have not making up new stuff.

Kurt Dupuis:
Well, I'm sure there's a lot of opportunity for you out there because all we hear and actually the feedback we get from the audience is for topics to cover it's growth, growth, growth, growth, growth, right? It's a huge problem in the financial services world and many financial professionals struggle with that. I think Seid what have ... I think it's a 2% net new assets is the average for the industry. I mean, it's awful, but no one seems to have cracked the code. And I think there is a lot of what we talked about before people try one thing for a week, for a month and it doesn't work and we move on to the next thing.

Kurt Dupuis:
So I'm curious since you've been doing this awhile and particularly with financial professionals, instead of focusing on the dos right now because I think we'll get to some dos, can we talk about some don'ts? What are some awful strategies that you've seen people implement that don't work, not fruitful and let's build that list of don'ts.

Maribeth Kuzmeski:
Yeah. I think doing anything that allows someone to believe in the disconnect, right? So what I said before about the client loves you, but the prospect thinks you're going to try to sell them something, the moment you become salesy when you do that. Well, you ask for referrals even to your own client. You're asking for referrals in a very strong way. Now, Steve and I spent a lot of time talking about referrals. There's a lot of ways to acquire and take control over the acquisition of referrals, but it doesn't include, "Hey, do you know anyone who has interest in doing business with a firm like mine?" I mean, not really palatable, especially today in this time of just sort of crisis.

Any kind of salesy things right now do not work. LinkedIn, so you go on LinkedIn, you connect with the person, they connect back with you and you go, "Okay, I'm going to see if he wants to set up an appointment with me." Not good because any very salesy approaches right now, not only do they mostly not work but they really don't work right now because it's almost you don't want to seem you're trying to take advantage of people or take advantage of a situation.

So salesy doesn't work but marketing is designed to get people to want to do business with you. So anything besides having them come to their own conclusion is probably not a great strategy.

Steve Seid:
Yeah. And talk about the language that you used around referrals and you don't have to be exact, but you were talking about this with one of the teams the other day and you used some language that was really good on how to talk about referrals.

Maribeth Kuzmeski:
Yeah. It's the second opinion language. And every financial advisor has heard of second opinions, asked for a second opinion. And the problem is, is that when you ask for a second opinion, when you ask your client, "Hey, if you know anyone who might be struggling with their financial strategy right now, or not sure if they have the right financial advisor, send them our way. I'd love to do a second opinion with them." And just tell them, "Listen, you're on the right track or here's some things you could do differently."

So that second opinion conversation is really important. But the conversation when the market is going straight up does not work. The conversation works when there's volatile markets, when people have uncertainty. It's working right now for top advisors, we just did a study of what top advisors are doing in terms of marketing right now.

I mean, literally the middle of June, what are they doing? And second opinion campaigns are working. So it's things like that, that is based in purpose. So I'm not saying, "Send all the people that you know my way." Or, "I'm going to call and badger them or something like that." It's about, "Hey, listen I'm here as a financial advisor to help people and people have never needed help as much as they need right now with making sure they have a good strategy. If anyone you know who needs a second opinion, I'm here." That's why I became a financial advisor. It's that kind of purposeful talk that is not salesy and that really helps to allow the client to feel comfortable, allows, and even if you're having that conversation with a prospect in a different way, it still works. It just feels better than, "Do you know anyone who might have interest in doing business with a firm like mine?"

Steve Seid:
Yeah, that makes sense to me logically. I mean, I got into Touchstone in '09 and so my whole career was a bull market. And so I think to myself, "Okay, at some point we're going to get some choppiness and what does that look like for me and our business. Turns out it's really good because it makes people rethink things. There's a lot of money in motion. And I think the same thing on the financial professional side, I'm seeing, folks that are really cleaning up marketing wise right now because there's impetus for change. So that makes a ton of sense.

Maribeth Kuzmeski:
Yeah. A lot of advisors have been exposed right now. They haven't contacted their clients when things were really crazy and who knows they might be really crazy today, but when they're really crazy, are you reaching out to your clients or are you not? Are you saying, "We don't need to do anything? And the client just sees the accounts go down or not go up as much as others or whatever it is. But the communication is what makes the client feel better about that? And there's a lot of advisors that have been exposed and there's a lot of advisors that are taking advantage of the exposed advisors.

Kurt Dupuis:
Well, and that's part of what in your communication strategies is where you talk about, "Look, plenty of other people can do this, but this is what I do and this is why we're differentiated." Right? And that language, that small thing and language and how you express something, I think is a big part of what's helping people clean up for those that are cleaning up right now.

Maribeth Kuzmeski:
Yeah, absolutely.

Steve Seid:
Say that language again, Maribeth because I think that's one of the big things I took away and I really liked that from working with you.

Maribeth Kuzmeski:
Yeah. So it's a template that we've used that is sort of a three-part template for having a quick conversation and it could even be in an email where you are separating yourself from others. Now it's not an elevator statement necessarily, it's just sort of a differentiating statement. So it goes like this and I'll give you the template first and then I'll go through and share with you an example of that, but it's any financial advisor can blank, but I blank for example. And so I'll give you an example of that and this is a pretty simple example, but advisors can put in their own sort of fill in the blanks, but any financial advisor can help you invest in the stock market. But I also protect what you have.

For example, we help our clients invest so they can experience gains when the stock market is up without losing it all when the stock market goes down. And so it's something simple like that, but we've seen advisors do this any financial advisor can help you invest in the stock market, but we help you with tax efficiency. For example ... And then you give some number that you helped someone save this much in taxes by just reorganizing their investments. And that is powerful, but it's got to be things that are really interesting to the other person. So follows the markets, protection, taxes, those things are always hot buttons for people that have money.

Kurt Dupuis:
Yeah. And you also get in specifics with examples too, because how many financial professional websites say, "Oh, yeah, we service small business owners, the affluent, families ... " Whatever it is, it's very generic and it's pretty wide, right? It doesn't speak to a specific audience? It doesn't develop that rapport with a particular niche.

Maribeth Kuzmeski:
Yeah. My favorite quote value proposition from financial advisors is we work with individuals and families and businesses, helping them with financial planning and investment management. And the advisor goes, "Wait, I need to write that down. That's exactly what I do." But the problem is it is exactly what you do, but the problem is it doesn't connect with anyone. And it just goes in one ear and out the other. But that's why when you add the but, you're okay, you're going to say something, if you say but you're going to say something that's going to differentiate you. And then when you give the for example, that's what makes it real. Because you could say, "I work with a lot of doctors. Great, for example ... " And that's what's different about it.

Steve Seid:
Yeah. That's a really good point. So let me back up a little bit. There's a couple of subjects we want to ask you about, so you've been in the business what? 20 plus years now, not to date you, but you've got a good 20 plus years working with financial professionals.

Maribeth Kuzmeski:
Yeah, it been a long time. So what I say now is it's been 15 plus years.

Steve Seid:
15, I like that-

Maribeth Kuzmeski:
That’s Because I look younger that I actually am-

Steve Seid:
That's real marketing right there. That's real marketing.

Maribeth Kuzmeski:
I don't want people to know how old I am, anyways.

Steve Seid:
I wonder how much things have changed in terms of your focus. So 15 years ago, were you talking about the same types of things that you are now? How have things changed? Curious about that.

Maribeth Kuzmeski:
Well, when I wrote my first book titled Red Zone Marketing, interestingly titled the same name as my company. I had to take that out of publication because there are strategies in there. It doesn't include social media. There's no social media there. How can you have a marketing strategy without some of the tools that are available now that weren't available 15 plus years ago? So a lot has changed, but what hasn't changed, so the tools have changed and sort of the way that we do it has changed.

Maribeth Kuzmeski:
Blogging came into impact, content marketing came into impact, but the idea is always been that the biggest mistake that we can make in marketing is that we do not message ourselves properly to the other person. And if you look at, "Hey, my marketing's not working." "Well, what do you mean it's not working?" "Well, nobody came to my seminar."

"Well, let's look at the seminar invitation. Let's look at the messaging on that seminar invitation, because it's probably not everybody that you mailed it to, they weren't the right people." Or you get people in the seminar room, I'm just using seminars as an example, and no one decides to sign up for an appointment. Is that because all the wrong people were in the room or it's because that your messaging was wrong.

And so we've always looked at how do you make your messaging more compelling? There just happens to be a lot more ways to do messaging today because we can do messaging, across social media, on our websites, blogs, videos, all sorts of things. Some of that was available a long time ago, but a lot of the tools weren't. So that's what's changed in marketing. I don't think that the core concepts of being compelling and speaking to the person that you're talking to, I don't think that's changed at all.

Kurt Dupuis:
So are you also confirming that seminars still exist and they are, and can be successful still?

Maribeth Kuzmeski:
Seminars do still exist and yes, they can be successful. And right now we're actually seeing a lot of success with virtual seminars. And virtual seminars, I mean, when I first, when this whole COVID thing happened and I had never really coached anyone through doing a virtual seminar necessarily, I mean, we had advisors that were doing webinars and things like that, but a true virtual seminar where you're sending out a lot of invitations to people to come to this. I wasn't sure whether it was going to work or not, which is the whole art and science with marketing.

You don't really know, but the conversion rate is higher at virtual seminars than it is from what we've seen so far in the past three months than it has been in regular dinner seminars because the people that come to a dinner seminar, some of them are coming for the steak or the chicken or whatever it is or the restaurants. But if you're going to attend a seminar online, probably you're interested in the content, which is why we've seen higher conversions in virtual seminar. So they do still work.

Now, a lot of advisors maybe did it earlier in their careers and don't need to do seminars anymore. And I get that because you've been able to cultivate referrals and you just don't need to do that seminar. But if an advisor says, "Listen, I'm not getting referrals because my client base is too old or I'm not getting referrals because I'm changing niches or I'm young and I'm not getting referrals because I don't have very many clients." Seminars are still one of the best way to reach out to prospects that don't know who you are. How else are you going to get in front of a large group of people or a number of people?

Steve Seid:
So this might be something that we keep hearing that COVID will have lasting effects and impacts. Maybe people don't go back to offices in the way they did before. Maybe this is a good medium, even when you can get out there and rent a restaurant, people find, "Hey, I could do this digitally. I've got a lower cost. I have a better conversion rate." I mean, do you think that's a possibility?

Maribeth Kuzmeski:
Oh, I know it's a possibility. It's the same possibility that commercial real estate might be in trouble because people are saying, "Listen, UBS said a third of our people of our staff will never go back to the office." Now, you think UBS is ranked as high. Well, if the third of their people don't come back, they can have smaller office spaces. It's just everything has changed and if you don't need to have all the mahogany around you, you can just do prospecting and marketing virtually and client meetings. You may not need to have that office space. So that's changing the way that we do everything is going through a transition right now. And I think that a lot of it even if COVID completely goes away, I think a lot of it won't go back to the way it was.

Kurt Dupuis:
I want to ask about a new medium, which is LinkedIn. I guess, ideas around how to use it successfully, is that kind of a top of the funnel? Is that the middle of the funnel? Where does that fit in into someone's marketing plan and how do you see people using LinkedIn as a medium successfully?

Maribeth Kuzmeski:
Yeah, it depends. There's a lot of people who use it as their only marketing strategy. And so it is the top of the funnel and it becomes how you fill your funnel up. But most advisors use that along with something else. But LinkedIn prospecting has been ... That's also something else that I think right now, how are we prospecting? We can't get out and meet with people. So maybe I'll try that LinkedIn thing. And we've seen a lot more advisors, kind of dip their toe into the pond of LinkedIn and find that it can be successful. The thing about LinkedIn is that it's not somebody comes to your seminar and then you invite them in for a meeting and you close them next week. Linkedin is a longer process, but it's a process, it's networking.

It's a virtual networking site. So when you meet somebody at a chamber of commerce meeting, you're not going to try to close them that night. I mean, some people might, but you're not going to try to close them that night. It's the same thing with LinkedIn. You're building up a group of connections of people that you're building your own exposure and hopefully they'll want to do business with you. But LinkedIn Sales Navigator has been the key. It's a paid version of LinkedIn, has been the key to success with LinkedIn prospecting for advisors, because it allows you to really mine the data really deeply.

Steve Seid:
Yeah. I've heard you talked about that as it pertains to LinkedIn. So talk a little bit more about Sales Navigator. What are you actually doing with that tool?

Maribeth Kuzmeski:
So in LinkedIn Sales Navigator, you have more options to be able to, I mean you can create a prospect list. You can connect with a lot more people that aren't because if you're in regular LinkedIn, you can only do so many searches. You can only connect with so many people that haven't accepted your connection back. They limit you. They want you to be in the paid version, but the paid version allows you to do as much searching as you want, and really come up with detailed lists of people that you can put on your own prospect list inside of LinkedIn. So let's say that I'm a financial advisor and I'm searching for executives that are in a particular area. I mean, it could be all across the country now, but in a particular area, because I know some clients that work in those companies.

And so I can search specifically for that. I can create a prospect list and then when I open up LinkedIn Sales Navigator in the morning, I'm going to see what happened with the people on my prospect list. Did they change jobs? Do they have a birthday? Did they post something that I could like or comment on? Now you've got a closer view of those people that you're interested in doing business with. You can connect with them. You can start to have conversations with them, but the process takes a little longer because you're not going to immediately ask them for business, but after they start to engage after some time, because you've got to give them some valuable things and connect in a way that's meaningful. It actually turns out that people do say yes to scheduling a call and taking the next step and to doing that. So it works.

Kurt Dupuis:
I know this is a bit like picking your favorite child, but because you've written so many books, but what's one of your favorites?

Maribeth Kuzmeski:
Well I love And The Clients Went Wild. That's probably my favorite book. The Connectors is a better selling book because, And The Clients Went Wild is just about marketing. It's about how you can get more fans, how you can get ... It's the whole philosophy that I have in Red Zone marketing, but The Connectors and I wrote that one first, is really about how you establish better business connections. And that one has sold. I mean, it's in multiple languages, even in Chinese. And so that book has sold a lot more, but my favorite is And The Clients Went Wild.

Kurt Dupuis:
Talk about The Connectors a little bit more. Our good friend Mary Mock is in love with that book. I just ordered it. I haven't read it, but why has that become popular? I mean, you described it at high level, but I'd love to expand a little bit on that book.

Maribeth Kuzmeski:
Well, I think if people are I mean even if you're an extrovert or if you're an introvert, it doesn't really matter. How can I create more business connections? Because we know the way we get jobs is through connections, the way we get dates sometimes is through connections. The way we get new business deals a lot of times is through connections. And so I think it's an area where everyone says, "I can probably get a little bit better at that. If I could get more people to be my advocate, because it really does, it flows right into marketing, but it's how do I make those deeper connections? And one of the things that we found was that in some of the research that we did for that book was that really successful professionals are very different than just the general population of professionals in terms of how many real true advocate-like relationships that they have.

So most people have five powerful business relationships. People you can count on, people that have hired you, people that have mentored you, but five really powerful business connections. The kind of people that you can call in the middle of the night to help you answer a business problem. When we talked to some of the top business people in the world, they had closer to 100. And so what's the difference between five and a hundred and it's not really a math question, it's more of everything answer. Everything, because it changes the way that everything in your life works. If you've got all of these people who you are connected to and who are powerful business relationships. So the book is all about how you cultivate those. But it also sets up how important it is to have these connections. But that's The Connectors. I mean, in a nutshell.

Kurt Dupuis:
I love it. And thank you for that because I was told there would be no math. So we've talked about the importance of your value proposition. What's yours? What's the Red Zone Marketing value-

Steve Seid:
Put her on the spot.

Kurt Dupuis:
... proposition?

Maribeth Kuzmeski:
Yeah. So I think that a value proposition needs to be precisely for the person you're talking to. If it's a real value proposition. So our value proposition is not, we work with financial advisors helping them build their businesses. Our value proposition is we work with million dollar plus producing financial advisors and teams to help them get to their next level of success. So we categorize who we work with and the cool thing about that is that when I use that, when somebody is not a million dollar producer, guess what they want? They want to be a million dollar producer.

Steve Seid:
They want to be one.

Maribeth Kuzmeski:
But that's primarily who we work with is the higher level of advisors who are not looking to break into the business but are looking to get to the next level and getting to the next level, frankly, is a lot harder than getting to the first step. We've a lot of advisors that will say, "Hey, I'm at 500 million. I want to be at a billion." "Oh, that's easy. Sure." That's a lot harder to do almost than getting to the first 500 million and you think that it would be incremental and it shouldn't be as hard, but it is really hard. And so that's where we focus our time, but that's sort of my little value proposition.

Kurt Dupuis:
And I really liked how it's a specific followed by a nonspecific. You're not defining what that next level is, but you're right. I mean, you talk to any branch manager, anybody in management at a broker dealer, growth is the problem, but it's also those pretty well functioning teams and sole contributors that are in that million dollar range. It's getting them to that next level is a huge challenge, but it's where that biggest opportunity is as well.

Maribeth Kuzmeski:
Yep, absolutely.

Steve Seid:
We had a case the other day where we're working with this financial advisor, they were very much worried about their image and how they came off. How am I perceived when I walk into a room? What do my non-verbals project about me? Does that come up much or was that a rare case? I'm curious because you were really good. It sounded like you had experienced something like that before. Is that something that people should be thinking about and improving on or was that kind of a rarity?

Maribeth Kuzmeski:
Well, I think that it is incredibly insightful for that financial advisor to recognize that that was an issue. I think that a lot of advisors don't recognize or pay any attention to that. And one of the stats that I gave is that, 93% of the influence that you have over someone is based on your body language. And when you know that you go, "Wait a minute, all the words I say don't matter that much?" And then it's true. I mean, the tone of your voice and your body language matter more than the words.

So she was very insightful to want to talk about that. I do a lot of work in that area with female professionals, not even in the financial services industry. So but I do a lot of work with female students who are graduated from college. And so I know a lot about that, but I also have my own personal experience in doing it and understanding that as a woman in financial services, when there's mostly men around, I mean, I'll be at a conference and I'm almost the only woman that is there sometimes.

So it's getting better, but it's still about that. So I don't think it's very often that that happens. And it's a very kind of a personal topic. So I think that it was really insightful and I wish that more financial advisors would look at that because they'd be able to close more sales if they knew what their body was doing.

Steve Seid:
Interesting. So that was great. Awesome to talk with you. We appreciate you coming on the show. Thank you.

Maribeth Kuzmeski:
Well, thank you very much.

Kurt Dupuis:
So that was a great interview with Maribeth and let's have some summary because there's a lot to unpack there. One of the first points was resiliency. I love the story of them spending a lot of time and effort developing a marketing plan for this one financial professional. The first meeting did not work at all as they planned, but they just kept at it. And that resiliency really shown through. She talked about wants over needs. She used the example of financial plans. People don't really want to divulge all of their financial secrets, every misstep, they might've made over their entire financial lifetime and pack it into this one financial plan, but they do need it. So explaining why folks do need something might help them actually want, but it's the want that gets people to buy and get engaged.

We also discussed the don'ts of marketing. So don't be salesy. Don't add someone on LinkedIn and then immediately ask for a meeting or their business.

Steve Seid:
Does anyone like salesy? I don't think anybody likes sales.

Kurt Dupuis:
No.

Steve Seid:
There's no situation where salesy.

Kurt Dupuis:
No.

Steve Seid:
Yeah.

Kurt Dupuis:
But back to the beginning, when we talked about how to have a bad meeting, that's what a lot of people expect just to come in guns blazing. She also talked about really being thoughtful with designing your marketing plan, to make people want to do business with you where it's not painful to ask for their business, but they know your values. They know what you're about, and they actually want to engage and do business with you.

Typically, second opinion language doesn't work very well, especially in up markets, but with markets moving up down left and right, right now that sort of language and being thoughtful about that, is really having some benefit for her clients. And then probably one of the biggest takeaways is the power of but, which is what I call it because I'm not a marketing genius.

But how to frame up conversations using this simple template, as it pertains to building your own value proposition. Saying any financial professional can do X, but I do something differently and then give a specific example of how you do some things differently. So she used a few different examples of how people can say any financial advisor can have access to the stock market, but I do it in a tax mitigation way or we, we really help protect on the downside some differentiator and then giving a specific example. I think that's a great template or framework to use really when you're trying to market to anyone.

Steve Seid:
So that's probably out of all the takeaways, I mean a lot of key points here, but maybe we always talk about what you should do when you're done with each episode. Do that framework. Any FA can but I, for example, even if you haven’t fleshed out a value proposition, just go through that exercise.

Kurt Dupuis:
That's right. Well, if you don't have a value proposition, you should reach out to us because we have several tools to help work through and think through what that looks like. And we also have a great relationship with Maribeth. So we might be able to even bring her into those conversations. So reach out to us at thewholetruth@touchdownfunds.com. If you want to start having a chat about any of that, and next we'll have an earth friendly Costanza Corner for you. I'm sure you're excited about that Seid.

Steve Seid:
Yay, I like it.

Kurt Dupuis:
Stick with us, we'll be right back.

Steve Seid:
And welcome back everybody. We are in our uplifting segment the Costanza Corner and Kurt's got something fun for us today. Very environmental, very earth-friendly. You're speaking my inner hippie, Kurt, you're speaking to me. So let's hear it.

Kurt Dupuis:
I'm here for you Seid. I'm just here for you. So the headline of this article says, “These Scientists Are Fighting Ocean Plastic With Biodegradable flip-flops Made From Algae." I don't know about you, I'm a big flip flop guy ...

Steve Seid:
Huge, of course.

Kurt Dupuis:
... to the point where doing yard work, I have almost severed toes by wearing flip flops instead of shoes. It's kind of a problem. So this came out of UC San Diego and a joint partnership between them and a company called Algenesis Materials. So check this out. It says, "The world's most popular shoe, the flip-flop accounts for a huge amount of plastic waste that ends up in the oceans. Some models have suggested they account for a quarter of all of the plastic in our seas."

Steve Seid:
That is crazy to me because I just think about water bottles and how is it that ... It's a mind blowing thing that it's just a lot of flip-flops, that's so weird.

Kurt Dupuis:
Yeah, the big plastic sea out there is all flip-flops. So right now they have a product that says it has a bio mass content of around 52, but they're still entirely biodegradable, but that hasn't stopped the collaboration from looking into creating a 100% bio-mass shoe. So we looked around, I'm not even sure you can buy these right now. I think they're still in the prototype phase, but science is often a topic that comes up in the Costanza Corner because it drives so much innovation that changes our life and our world. So I thought this was a great story, especially you out in the left coast would, would appreciate Seid.

Steve Seid:
Yes. And I will tell you, and I will report back after hearing this, I'm going to see if they are for sale, because if they are I'm buying one and I will own them. And I'll report back into how they look, how they feel, all those things. So thanks everyone for listening. We'll see you next time.

Kurt Dupuis:
See you next time. You can find The Whole Truth and subscribe for free on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or your favorite podcast app. We'd love it if you took the time to rate and review the show on Apple Podcasts, it helps others find the show. And for more episodes of The Whole Truth, go to www.touchstoneinvestments.com/thewholetruth. That's touchstoneinvestments.com/thewholetruth. All one word.

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