Welcome back to the 186th episode of Financial Advisor Success Podcast!
My guest on today's podcast is Samantha Bezar. Samantha is the director of digital marketing for Thrive Financial Services, a hybrid RIA and insurance agency near Philadelphia generating more than $6 million of annual revenue while serving nearly 500 clients. What's unique about Samantha, though, is the way she's built a scalable marketing solution for the firm, with a combination of digital marketing and in-person events that have lifted the revenue of the firm from a few hundred thousand dollars to more than $6 million of revenue in under 3 years.
In this episode, we talk in-depth about Thrive's seminar marketing approach, why they've chosen to do education-only events and not dinner seminars, the way they initially drew participants by relying on buying third-party mailing lists but dropped their cost of client acquisition by more than half by doing their own Facebook digital marketing to fill in-person seminar events, the exact process that Thrive goes through to target their ideal prospects on Facebook, engage them to register for the seminar and confirm they actually attend, and the metrics of how a $3,000 marketing spend can turn into tens of thousands of dollars of new revenue, which just gives Thrive more money to reinvest into their marketing process to further accelerate their growth.
We also talk about how Thrive transitioned to webinar events in the face of the coronavirus pandemic, why the company still chooses to do its webinars as an in-person live stream and not just a recorded webinar or voice-over PowerPoint approach, the tools and technology that Thrive uses to deliver its webinars and handle its online registration process, and how Samantha determined that text messaging can actually be a highly effective marketing tool to ensure prospects follow through.
And be certain to listen to the end, where Samantha shares her own journey of learning digital marketing in the advisory world without a background as a financial advisor, the importance of viewing all marketing as experiments where it's okay to try something out and fail because that's the only way you find out a new approach that works, and why Samantha sees marketing automation software tools as the key to executing scalable marketing for an advisory firm in the future.
What You’ll Learn In This Podcast Episode
- Samantha's Role In Thrive Financial And What The Firm Looks Like [04:34]
- What Led Thrive To Approach Seminars Differently And How Samantha Got People To Actually Show Up [10:43]
- How Samantha’s Facebook Ads Actually Work In Practice [16:39]
- The Tools She Uses To Build Her Confirmation and Reminder Sequences [21:18]
- What Kinds Of Facebook Ads Are Working For Her Right Now [35:07]
- What Sort Of Conversion Rates She Is Getting [39:55]
- How Thrive Financial Scaled Their Marketing System To Grow So Fast [48:58]
- How Samantha Pivoted To Virtual Events After COVID-19 [1:03:34]
- How Her Registration And Attendance Rates Have Changed After Moving To Virtual [1:10:54]
- How Samantha Uses Text Messaging In Her Marketing Sequence [1:19:13]
- What Surprises And Struggles She Faced When Building Thrive’s Marketing Process [1:24:32]
- Samantha’s Favorite Resources To Learn About Marketing [1:28:07]
Resources Featured In This Episode:
- Samantha Bezar
- Thrive Financial Services
- Quantum Leap Systems
- Active Campaign
- Retirement Master Class
- Facebook Custom Conversions
- Kitces Research Advisor Marketing Study
- Advisors Excel
- Funnel Hacking Live
- Shift by Jeremiah Desmarais
- Strategic Coach
- Elite Advisor Blueprint Podcast
- Joel Johnson Rainmaker Podcast
- Russell Brunson (of ClickFunnels) Podcast
- Michael Stelzner Social Media Marketing podcast
- Claire Akin Blog
Michael: Welcome, Samantha Bezar, to the "Financial Advisor Success" podcast.
Samantha: Thank you so much for having me. I'm excited to be here.
Michael: I'm really looking forward to the discussion today around a theme of marketing. I had first heard about your firm ways back in, I guess, maybe January or February timeframe, and that you had built this really cool sort of systematic seminar marketing process, that you were going out there spending lots of dollars, tens of thousands of dollars every month, getting fantastic return on your marketing spend, doing a lot of that stuff. And I was actually fascinated just hearing that, that not a lot of advisory firms seem to have cracked the formula on seminar marketing. And I still hear a lot of like, that was the thing of the past, but that's not the modern thing now. And you guys were actually doing it. So I was excited to have you on the podcast to talk about sort of seminar marketing and how to do it and make it still work.
Now I feel like that has changed because in the intervening time, seminars, along with most of the rest of the world, got shut down for a pandemic. And I know you guys have had to pivot to the, "Okay, now we're in the webinar business, not the seminar business." And so I'm actually even more excited to talk about like, what does marketing look like for the firm in this seminar system that you built? How did you adapt it to the webinar world? Like, as a firm that's got some marketing chops, how did you actually executed the seminar to webinar transition? And just thinking about like, how do you look at spending money on marketing in all these different systems to try to actually drive results and growth in what's still a very, very competitive business? So lots of stuff to talk about, but maybe just to get us started, can you take a moment and just talk about your firm and your role and kind of what the business looks like?
Samantha's Role In Thrive Financial And What The Firm Looks Like [04:34]
Samantha: Absolutely. I'm happy to. So Thrive is a holistic retirement planning firm based out of Greater Philadelphia. We currently have a few offices based in New Jersey, as well as some right outside the city of Philadelphia. We started around 2015 doing our in-person workshops, and we were doing these with external marketing sources. So we paid somebody else to do either direct mailing or Facebook ads, LinkedIn ads, whatever we decided was going to be a good fit for that specific seminar in that area. And in 2019, we ended up doing about 80 in-person seminars. We transitioned to the digital marketing portion over to an internal operation. And we ended the year at about $6 million in revenue. We completely attribute that to the digital marketing efforts that our team has made in the past two years. And it's really about the digital marketing portion of our in-person seminars.
What we found is a lot of the firms that we were working with to do the external marketing is most of them were not financial-related firms. They had helped other clients like real estate, they've helped other accountants, but they really weren't in the retirement planning industry. And what we learned is when you have somebody that's kind of in that industry and they understand how people make their decisions when they are trying to find a new retirement planner or somebody to manage their assets, it really helps to create all of the ads and the copies and the call to action when you're running these ads to get people to come in and sit in your seminar and listen to you.
Michael: And so just for context, I think you said the firm has kind of grown up quickly to $6 million in revenue last year. Where was it four or five years ago when you were starting down this road of external people doing ads and lead gen to try to put butts in seats for you? Where was it in 2015 just so we have context for what's changed?
Samantha: So when we were doing our seminars in 2015, we ended the year at about $100,000 in revenue.
Michael: Okay. And so you're going from $100,000-plus of revenue to $6 million in 4 years of, "Let's just power forward on this marketing process," and what sounds like basically in-person seminars as sort of the anchor events for business development, but digital marketing as the heavy component of, "How do we get people to show up for in-person webinars?" I guess like, digital marketing for analog events, if that's a fair way to characterize it?
Samantha: Yeah, that's exactly how I would characterize it. We knew that in-person seminar events were very impactful. And we knew that education only, rather than dinner events, were even more impactful because when people are coming into a dinner event, they think, "Oh, I'm going to get a free meal. I'm going to listen to the person to speak and then I can leave." When they come to an education-only event and they're not promised a nice steak dinner, they understand that they are coming just to receive an education. Thrive is really big on education and advocacy. So we made sure that when we entered the digital component, in addition to the traditional marketing that we were doing, that we were able to get that message across continually.
Michael: So I think you make a powerful point there of, right out of the gate, like, beware dinner events...I guess as you put, like, beware dinner events, they might just be coming for dinner. Which sort of sounds obvious. I think our industry has labels for this. The one I had always heard early on were people who were "plate-lickers". Like, they just came to lick the plates. They weren't actually there for the content. They weren't going to stay. They certainly weren't going to do business. I think the perception has been, maybe right or wrong, probably wrong from the case that you're making here, that we had to do that kind of stuff. That if you didn't offer dinner or something else to entice people, that they weren't going to come to the event in the first place. That was a reason that they were going to show up, was you were going to give them dinner and hopefully some education, a little bit of entertainment during dinner. If they like that enough, then maybe they'll stick around and do some business with you. But it sounds like you're making the case like, no, you're going to get too many plate-lickers and not enough interested parties. Or conversely, like, if you can do an education event and they show up, by definition, they are there to learn something. So your odds are much better that they may actually want to do business with you at the end because they're coming for the education. They're not just coming for free dinner.
Samantha: Absolutely. When my dad, David Bezar, and his partner, Bret Elam, started doing all of these in-person seminars, they were told, "No, you should really probably go and do these dinner seminars, you're going to get better results, you're going to get better ROI." All of that. And what they said is, "We are a holistic retirement planning firm, and we want to make sure that the people that we're talking to understand that. We want them to understand we're not just here to get a percentage of their money in our pockets. We're here just to educate them. And if they like what we're saying, that's why we want them to come in. We don't want them to come in because we feed them a nice plate dinner."
Michael: And so, that's all well and good to say sort of in theory, like, "I want to do educational events, not just get people who are there for dinner. So let's do education events and not be attached to dinner." But as you pointed out, like, the people who did this for a living said, "But you've got to do it over a dinner event because you'll get better turnout and better ROI and on and on and on." So I guess like, what led you to actually make the leap to do something different? And what were you doing to actually get people to show up when we know at least there tends to be a decent turnout for a decent dinner, but you're not putting dinner on the table, you're running an education-only event? How do you actually get people to show up?
What Led Thrive To Approach Seminars Differently And How Samantha Got People To Actually Show Up [10:43]
Samantha: Yeah. So we decided to pivot for that exact reason. Everybody else was doing dinner seminars. Nobody else was doing education-only seminars. So traditionally, when we first began doing these, we did them just like everybody else would market a dinner seminar. So we did the 6 by 11 mail flyer, sent to 100,000 people asking them to call into the RSVP service. And then a few days before, we would call them and see if they were still interested in coming to our educational workshop. What we decided to add in addition to the traditional mailing component was a digital component. We wanted to try to get leads to get interested in Thrive as a whole by starting to put out Facebook ads to them, promoting our website, promoting the different kind of white papers that we had. And then once they've seen that two, three, four times, we then would introduce, "Hey, if you like all this other stuff that we're doing, we have an in-person seminar in your area, if you would like to attend."
Michael: Okay. And so this was not even necessarily that you were starting to do digital marketing to get them to come to the seminar per se, you were doing digital marketing just to get them to, I guess, sign up for a mailing list, engage with you somehow, come to your website, read one of your white papers. And then after they did that and followed that for some period of time, to say like, "Oh, by the way, dot dot dot, we're doing an event in your area. Since you've already been reading our other stuff, would you like to show up for this too?" And trying to take people who were reading some things you were putting out and put them into a seminar.
Samantha: Yeah, absolutely. We run those types of ads to kind of nurture people and educate them about who we are. And then we also just run straight cold ads to people who may have never interacted with us before. And both perform just about the same, which is really interesting to me to see how many clicks and interactions each ad gets based on the content of the ad. And we track that really heavily as well.
Michael: Well, I'm struck by that. So just cold ads for, "We're doing a seminar in your area on such and such a topic." We're performing about as well for you as trying to nurture them through a longer-term funnel?
Samantha: Yeah, absolutely. I think the reasoning for that is number one, our Facebook pixel has been maturing for about a year now. So when we place it into an ad and put that out into the world, it's going to find the people that are most likely going to interact with our ads. It's going to find the people that are going to be most likely to sign up, not necessarily the people that are going to click, like, or comment on it.
Michael: And that's because you've got a Facebook pixel on your site that tracks who's coming to the site. And so on Facebook, you can tell them to find lookalike audiences similar to the people that have your pixel, and the lookalike audiences are performing well?
Samantha: Absolutely. And in addition to that, we have really honed in on a niche audience that we market to because that's our ideal client for Thrive.
Michael: Okay. And so tell us about that niche or that ideal client, that ideal persona.
Samantha: Absolutely. So we developed our ideal client, I would say about four to five years ago. We knew we wanted to do retirement planning. And as we started seeing clients come in, we kind of figured out who is in the most need of retirement planning and at what age group and point in their life that they are going to most likely seek us out. So we decided the ideal client for Thrive is anybody between the ages of 57 to 72. We obviously have clients on the lower end of the spectrum that are in their early 50s, and then we have clients that are past 72. But when we market, these are the demographics that we market to. Facebook took away the capability to do an asset demographic, but we know that with our ads, we kind of prequalify people by asking them, "If you have saved more than $250,000, this is the seminar for you."
Michael: Okay. And literally, that's what it might say? Like, part of what's in the ad on Facebook is like, "If you have saved more than $250,000 and you're thinking about retirement, this is the seminar for you?"
Samantha: Absolutely. And we find that different topics will bring in different kinds of people. So we know that if people are more concerned about how they can save on taxation in retirement in regards to ABC, that we're going to get people with a higher net worth. If we talk more about how to take Social Security elections and how you can make sure that that money you're reinvesting it properly, we get a completely different demographic. So we know that the leads from certain ads can go to certain advisors because that's their sweet spot and that's their comfortability level with their clients.
Michael: Interesting. And so you're kind of already honing it down to that level? "Hey, we've got an advisor who's particularly good on Social Security stuff. So we're going to do an ad tying to some seminar on Social Security because that's probably going to fill that advisor's client base. But we've got another advisor that's savvier on Roth conversions for retirees and these tax-related issues. So if we do a tax-related ad for a tax-related event, we'll get the more tax-sensitive clients in this demographic and send them over to that advisor."
Samantha: Yes, exactly.
Michael: And so talk to us a little bit more about just what these ads are. What do they say? How do you target them? What are you literally converting them to? Is it directly like, "Here is a seminar in your area on tax-sensitive issues in retirement, click here to come to our webinar?" How does this really work in practice?
How Samantha’s Facebook Ads Actually Work In Practice [16:39]
Samantha: Yeah, absolutely. It's interesting how much this specific topic has pivoted since the COVID-19 lockdowns. So when we were doing in-person seminars, it was very much locationally based how we targeted our ads. So, for example, when I would set up an ad on Facebook, I would say, "Here are the ages that I want to target. Here's the venue that we're having it at. And I want to go X amount of miles around the venue." Because we don't want to target somebody that's 35 miles away from the venue because they're not going to make the trek to come sit in a seat for an hour and a half and watch us. So we always try to keep it about like 7 to 11 miles outside the venue, depending on the audience size that it gave us. Now, we're very fortunate that we live right outside Greater Philadelphia. So we have a really dense population here where somebody that lives in Topeka, Kansas, might have to go further than that 11-mile radius because they just don't have that many people to market to.
So when we do the marketing for the in-person seminars, we write an ad based on the topic. So our best-producing seminar topic is taxation in retirement, and our header is "attention pre-retirees. Do you want to know how you can save more on taxes during your retirement?" And then we'll kind of break down the middle part of the ad copy just based on current events. So when everything started happening with COVID, obviously, we were more kind of, "Here's how you can protect your assets during this COVID-19 crisis." Since then, we have pivoted back to talking more about just how you can protect your overall assets if you are going to retire, and how you can save on taxes.
Then once the ad is built, we drive them to a landing page, where it gives them just a little bit more information about the seminar that we're hosting. And that in just includes a picture of the building that we're having it at, all the basic information, date, time, maps. And then it has more information about the topic that we'll be touching on and a few key points. Once they register, then they get put into our automation sequence, which is really the secret sauce to get people to show up to the webinar. Because what we have found in the two years that I've been here is the hardest part for advisors that we have seen doing in-person seminars is getting them from the registration process to actually getting their butts in the seats at the seminars. And I really attribute our success to a 65%, 70% show-up rate to the confirmation and reminder sequence that we have built out.
Michael: Interesting. Interesting. Because in the moment, like, hey, you pop up an ad about a thing, and if you put it in front of enough people, at some point, someone recently wrote a check to Uncle Sam about something, is really pissed about their taxes in retirement. Is like, "Yes, I'm going to go to the seminar about not paying taxes to retirement." But then the seminar is a week or a few out. Other things have happened in their lives since then. They do not necessarily carry the same zeal and passion in the moment. And like, it's one thing to say on Facebook in the moment like, "Yes, I'm not happy about the taxes I'm paying. I'm going to click on this button to learn more." It's another a week or a few later to say like, "Oh, do you really want to get in your car now and drive over to that event this evening?" Pandemic aside, just in general, like, "Do you actually want to get in your car and drive and go to that educational thing because a few weeks ago you were feeling fired up about this?"
Samantha: Right. Absolutely. And like I said earlier, Thrive's whole position on this is education and advocacy. So what we're able to do through our customized pre-seminar automation sequence is we're able to continue educating them until they step through the threshold of the door. So we hit them with some free white papers in between registering and the actual event. And we'll even call them a few times. We have automated text messages that go out that somebody is on the other side responding to them. It's not just an auto-response robot. So we really make them feel special. We really make everything personal for them even when they get through the door.
Michael: Okay. And so, how do you do and build this in practice? Like just all of this level of follow-up and reminders and nudges and all the different things that you're doing to try to make sure that they show up.
The Tools She Uses To Build Her Confirmation and Reminder Sequences [21:18]
Samantha: Yeah, absolutely. When I started at Thrive, I actually had my two-year anniversary yesterday, we had a marketing automation tool called ActiveCampaign. And exactly what it does is just you build a marketing automation. At the time, we only had email automation, and even then it wasn't as robust as it could have been. And I took a lot of certification courses, and I watched a lot of YouTube videos. I listened to a lot of podcasts in the financial industry to see what other people were doing. And what I noticed is they were building systems that they had to constantly manage. It wasn't something that was self-running. So somebody in our office had to sit there and constantly manage, making sure that these emails were going out on time, that these calls were being scheduled appropriately.
So when I started, I saw that as an issue. I said, "You're spending all this time just doing this one thing, what if we could just make it run by itself, that way you can focus on doing everything else that you need to do?" So I started playing around with it and researching and see how we can make things based off of a specific date to trigger at a specific time, on a specific day, and it ended up working. So we just kind of took that and ran. So now they get an email. The second that they press "submit" on their registration, they get a text message with all the information. They're told right away that if they have any questions to please reply back to the text number and somebody will help them. And then throughout the next few days between when they register and when they attend the seminar, we kind of introduce them to Thrive, who we are, what we believe in, what we can do for you. And we continue educating them about Thrive, as well as the specific topic that they registered for.
And then the other personal touch, which is where I think a lot of other advisors are missing, is we have somebody from our office call everybody, not as a pre-qualifying call, but just as an act of goodwill. "Hi, this is so-and-so from Thrive. I'm just calling to see how you're doing and if you're able to join us tomorrow night. If you're not, let me help you get scheduled for something else." And I think we just treat people just as that, as other people. And I think what a lot of the other marketing systems do is they just kind of treat them as an attendee and make everything very bare-bones basic, "Here's the information for your seminar. We'll see you then."
Michael: And so I get it, right? If they literally just had a phone call with a lovely person from the Thrive office the day before the webinar, then when you wake up that morning, you're like, "I'm going to do that..." I keep saying webinar. I'm still putting us in seminar mode now. Well, I want to come to webinars later. It's like seminar mode. You called them yesterday. They wake up this morning and they're kind of thinking like, "Am I going to go to that seminar thing that I signed up for?" It's like, "Well, I talked to Betty from Thrive yesterday and Betty seemed really nice. I guess these are okay people. I guess I'll show up." It feels sort of silly, but I think these are the things that run through the heads of real people when you're just trying to decide like, "Am I going to go to that random thing I signed up for once in the past?" That final touch of like, "Well, I just had a nice chat with them yesterday, seems like nice people, I guess I'll go and check this thing out" really helps to reinforce and make sure that they actually come through.
Samantha: Yeah, absolutely. It's that nice personal touch, this treating them like another human being rather than trying to get financial information ahead of the seminar that really makes people want to come and meet us in person. And the interesting pivot with a webinar and the main difference in setting up all these automations is when we run a seminar, we start running Facebook ads about two weeks from the first night of our event. With webinars, it's a really quick turnaround. We start running ads Saturday, and we have the webinar on Tuesday. So what we've had to do is really condense that nurture sequence that we built out. This huge, long, beautiful, robust nurture sequence has now had to be condensed into these three to four nights of nurturing. And everybody right now is getting email after email after email about the COVID crisis that my concern when building everything was well, our email is just going to get lost in all of this.
So what I decided to do is, the subject of the emails that we send in is called "just checking in dot dot dot." And then the email, "Hi, so-and-so. Thank you so much for registering for our webinar. I really appreciate you taking the time out of your night to spend about an hour with us. Just wanted to see how everything is going. If you had any specific questions that you wanted our presenters to address." So it makes everything really personal with still continuing to give them the basic information about the webinar and how to log on and all of that. What I've seen other people doing is they're still treating them like an attendee, and they're still calling people ahead of the webinar to get pre-qualifying information, which is all well and good, but we're in such an emotional time right now that those personal touches are going to go a lot further than trying to find out if these people qualify to even sit and watch your webinar.
Michael: And again, in theory, the fact that you were cueing this up with messages like, "If you have saved $250,000 and your retirement taxes are bothering you, dot dot dot," like, presumably the ad at the beginning has at least partially refined who you're talking to and increases the likelihood that they're going to be qualified in the first place. Because, yeah, granted, you didn't require it like, "Certify your assets before you can sign up for the seminar." But just from a practical perspective, if that's not their asset base, they're just probably not clicking on that ad, or not very many of them are. You kind of said it's not a fit for them if they don't fit that number.
Samantha: Right, exactly. And the thing is, if they're already kind of being pre-qualified at that stage, there's no need to continue drilling them down for that information. If they're interested and they want to schedule with you, that would be a better time to get that information. Like I said, it's just an emotional time. A lot of people recently lost a lot of money in the stock market with everything that just happened in the past March and April. So what we've kind of taken a stance on is a more compassionate approach. And we see that people have been responding better to that as far as attendance rates go.
Michael: So if I understand the process here, like, ultimately, you'll say, "We've decided we wanted to do our taxation in retirement seminar." I'll keep us in seminar land for a moment. It's a few weeks out, so we need to prepare the two weeks, I think you said before the seminar is when we're going to start doing the Facebook ads to try to get people to show up. We'll put an ad out there. The ad's essentially got a call to action that says like, "if you've saved more than $250,000 and you hate how much taxes you're paying in retirement, we can help. Click here for seminar to learn how." The seminar takes them to a sign-up page. Is that on your website? Is that like a standalone like landing page or sign-up service? Where are they actually going when they click on this thing from Facebook to go over to the page?
Samantha: So we actually developed something called Retirement Masterclass. And it has its own website, retirementmasterclass.org. And this is where we host all of our landing pages, and just an educational website. We post retirement blog posts and articles and stuff like that on there. But it's a good tool for people to see if there's any more upcoming events in their area, in case they can't attend the one that we have. So that's where we host all of the registration pages.
Michael: And just, how do you actually create and set up these pages? Like, are you using some software to make them? Do you just, like, copy a page in WordPress or something on the back end and hit "publish" with the new location and time and date? How do you stand these things up efficiently?
Samantha: Yeah. We use ClickFunnels to develop all of our landing pages, and then we integrate it with ActiveCampaign. So once somebody registers through the ClickFunnels landing page, they automatically get put into the automation to then tell ActiveCampaign to start sending them all of the nurturing sequences ahead of the webinar or seminar.
Michael: Okay. And for people who aren't familiar, just what is ClickFunnels? And how is ClickFunnels separate from ActiveCampaign, which also does a bunch of marketing automation things?
Samantha: Absolutely. ClickFunnels is a web development tool. So a lot of people even host their own websites on ClickFunnels. They do have a direct plugin with WordPress, which I know a lot of other people use. And it's a tool that is basically drag and drop to build really good-looking landing pages. It's also used as a funnel development tool. And by that I mean if you have, for example, let's say you have an e-book that you want to promote, you would create a landing page with your e-book, and then you create a sequential page after they download the e-book to then invite them to your webinar. And this is how you wean people down to your final call to action. So we use ClickFunnels for our landing pages, and then ActiveCampaign is the email and text message automation component that directly plugs into ClickFunnels.
Michael: Okay. And so Retirement Masterclass has all of these like standalone landing pages that you're administering and sort of the registration process that goes with it through ClickFunnels. When they actually sign up, their information gets ported from ClickFunnels to ActiveCampaign with the integrations between the two?
Michael: Okay. And so as you are setting these up, like, help me understand more of what Facebook advertising looks like in this process. Can you talk to us a little bit more about who do you target? What do you spend? What are realistic expectations? How many people actually click on a Facebook ad, and how many of the people clicking a Facebook ad will actually sign up for your seminar? How does that work in practice, or what are you finding that works for you?
What Kinds Of Facebook Ads Are Working For Her Right Now [35:07]
Samantha: When we run a Facebook ad, we will create one ad set, and we will target about four different types of audiences. So, the first one is the cold audience that I was talking about earlier. So that's when we put in our ideal client's parameters. And if we're doing an in-person seminar, I will put on the map, "Here's location, go 10 miles outside of it." The next audience that we'll have is a retargeting audience, based on people who may have signed up for this venue in the past and never attended. We will start retargeting Facebook ads directly to them. And these will be a little bit more customized than the cold audience ads by saying, "Hey, we know that you weren't able to join us when we were here X amount of months ago. Here's your next chance." We'll then do an additional retargeting. And this is for anybody that clicks on the ads to the cold audience that doesn't convert over to somebody that registered. So what we'll do is we'll take one ad budget and we'll let Facebook divide it amongst the three or four audiences, depending on what type of seminar/webinar we're doing.
So for each in-person seminar, we were spending between $2,500 to $3,500 per campaign. And a campaign is a two-night event. And when we were doing this, depending on the audience size, we were getting anywhere from 45 registrations up to 130 registrations, which is crazy to say that we had 130 people registering for one night. So what we found is, like I said earlier, our audience is a lot...our population is a lot more condensed up here in Greater Philadelphia. So when I would go 10 miles outside of venue, we might have 700,000 people that might see our Facebook ad, depending on where our venue is going to be. We do have venues that are in a more rural area, and you might only have 60,000 people to market to.
So Facebook with our pixel, because we have been running ads under this pixel for so long, what it's doing is it's tracking everybody that's going to our landing pages on ClickFunnels, and it's tracking everybody that converts from that landing page to becoming a registrant. And it's going out into Facebook, into those specific audiences, and it's trying to find somebody just like the last person that registered. It's looking at their Facebook history as far as like, do they interact with posts a lot or do they have a tendency to just scroll by every single ad that they see. When they look at an ad, do they convert over? Do they look at the landing page ever or do they just click on the ad by accident? So the pixel is looking out for people that are not only clicking on the ad, but they're registering on the landing page. And the way that we track that and the way that Facebook can find those people is through the tool called Custom Conversions that Facebook has. So when I set up my ad, I say, "So, Facebook, I'm going to give you $2,500. I want you to find as many people as you can with this $2,500 that are going to register for our event through our ClickFunnels landing page." And what it's going to do is it's going to look at all of the past history that we've done and all the people that have converted, and it's going to just go out into the world of Facebook and find them for us.
Michael: And so remind me again, these, I think you'd mentioned four audiences, but I only kind of caught three. There's cold traffic, just they meet your target client parameters and are within 10 miles of the venue location. There's retargeting people who signed up previously but didn't show. So you can try to bring them back. Say, "Hey, you didn't make it out to our last one. Come on out to this one." That's the second group. You're doing retargeting for cold traffic who actually clicks on the ad, goes to the page but then doesn't actually sign up to sort of bring them back to that page to try to get them to sign up. What's the fourth group?
Samantha: We will do a lookalike audience based off of the people that have registered for that venue in the past that we already have in our database. So what I'm able to do through ActiveCampaign is put in a specific parameter. So I want to say, "Give me everybody that not only registered for this venue but also attended, and I want to create an audience like them in Facebook and try to find people that have similar Facebook habits."
Michael: And talk to us just a little bit more about... So I get retargeting traffic, just you can put a little tracker on your website that says who came to your website and Facebook matches them up and puts ads in front of them, and then it can try to figure out who else has similar characteristics. But when you talk about the cold traffic, what in practice are you trying to screen for to figure out who the right people are besides Facebook's creepy ability to know where I am, right? So like, within 10 miles of the venue, like, okay, I get it, Facebook knows where I am. And I think you had mentioned age, like, I want to target people from age 57 to 72. Are there other factors and screens that you're putting in? Like, what else can Facebook do besides just literally show me everyone who's aged 57 to 72 within 10-mile radius of this spot on the map?
Samantha: I think that is really where the ad copy and the creative portion of the ad really come into play. If you have a really strong message, "We are a holistic retirement planning firm. We are here to help you. Here is our offer. Here is what we'll teach you. Are you interested?" I think if you have a strong message and you're putting it in front of the right people, those people will come to you. So Facebook doesn't have a parameter for people that are going to be most likely to interact with your specific retirement firm or wealth management company, but your message can. So, it might be like casting a huge net to 60,000 people, but if you get that right message to even 50 of them, then I would consider that a success.
Michael: So talk to me a little bit more about how this...kind of how the numbers of the funnel play out. So you do an initial spend, $2,500 to $3,500 for a pair of in-person seminar events. You're running twofers. I'm assuming that's a like, "Hey, we're running the event in your area. And if you're already busy on Tuesday, we have one on Wednesday as well." Just like, "Let's do a doubleheader. So at least if we're getting people in the area that week or whatever it is, we can try to double up participation." You're getting anywhere from 45 to 130 registrations. So they click on the ad and they actually sign up on Retirement Masterclass. So of 45 to 130 registrations, how many actually show up for the event?
What Sort Of Conversion Rates She Is Getting [39:55]
Samantha: So with our confirmation process, the combination of the automated text messages and the emails, and those phone calls that we're making, we're seeing about a 65% show-up rate. When I started, industry-standard was about a 50%, 55% show-up rate. So I think we're a little bit above industry standard. And the cool thing about Facebook is if people don't show up, you can just retarget them.
Michael: Right. Right. So presume like, they were interested enough to sign up once. Maybe I didn't...maybe they lost interest, maybe just life happens and they got busy and they couldn't come back. It's like, it's all good. If they're looking at Facebook enough, they saw my ad once. They're probably looking at Facebook enough to see my ad again. And they should recognize it because they already acted off it once. So presumably they'll be even warmer to come back a second time.
Samantha: Yes, exactly. Exactly.
Michael: Okay. So that means in practice, I guess, you may end out with anywhere from like 30 to 90 people in the room, depending on the event. So then how many of those do something? Or I guess even ask just, what comes next? Like, how do you turn, okay, we got 50-odd people in a room, we educated at them for an hour or a few, okay, now, how does this actually turn into business? What comes next in the seminar marketing process for you?
Samantha: Absolutely. So the next thing that we do is, at the conclusion of the seminar, we offer them a complimentary consultation. They get a two-part consultation, two separate appointments, no cost, no obligation to them. And that really entices people because what the speakers have a tendency to say is, "It's two hours of your life. Are you going to give up two hours of your life that you would have just watched TV to sit down with a financial planner and really understand if you are in good standing or if you're going to need some help when you get closer to retirement?" So that's the offer that they make. We have a scheduling team at every seminar. So at the end, we get a huge rush of people heading to the tables at the back of the room to schedule complimentary consultations.
The digital marketing component comes into play the very next day. We will break down all of the attendees into three different categories. We'll break them into attended and booked an appointment, attended and did not book an appointment, and all of the no-shows. The next day, all of the no-shows get a phone call if it's the first night of the campaign. And it's usually my grandmother who calls them, and she'll say, "Hi, this is Myrna. I know you weren't able to come last night. I hope everything's okay. We would really love it if you can join us next Wednesday night at 7:00." And we'll get a few people to say yes, and we'll just switch them over to the next day. If we don't switch anybody over from that no-show category, we will retarget them on Facebook, and we will put them into our no-show email and text marketing automation. And this gives them other chances to re-register for maybe a different location or another night that we're hosting an event. It also allows them to completely bypass the seminar and learn about this complimentary consultation that we offered everybody that was there, and it gives them a scheduling link if they want to set something up.
Samantha: The "attended and did not book" section also get a phone call the following day. And it's usually one of my gals on my marketing team. And they'll call them and they'll say, "Thank you so much for attending. Can we set up a 10-minute phone call for you to talk with one of our financial advisors and see if you have any questions about what we talked about last night?" And we'll get a few discovery calls scheduled that way. What we'll also get is responses to the automated emails that we send out. So it's basically the same scripting that the girls are saying on the phone, and just an email format, but there is a direct-to-book calendar link in those emails. And we'll see people scheduling themselves a few days after the seminar up to like two months after the seminar, they're scheduling themselves for a complimentary consultation.
Samantha: And then the people that attended and did book, we have a completely automated scheduling system. So nobody in our marketing team really needs to do anything here. As soon as they schedule, they get all of their information before their first appointment about what to prepare, how the process is going to work. And they're also going to get a series of reminders leading up to their appointments. And that's completely automated. It comes from our calendaring system directly into ActiveCampaign.
Michael: And what's the calendaring system that you're using?
Samantha: We use ScheduleOnce.
Michael: Okay. So, what kind of breakdown do you typically see? I guess probably in percentages since the headcount varies. Like, of attendees in the room, what percentage often still end out being no-shows, what percentage attend and actually book versus don't book? What are typical expectations that you find?
Samantha: Yeah, absolutely. We see about a 60% show-up rate, and then we see about a 60% booking rate as well. So of all the people in the room, 60% will schedule an appointment that night.
Michael: I feel like that's a very large number relative to a lot of advisors that do seminar marketing.
Samantha: I see 50% is usually kind of the industry standard that we've been told by other marketing agencies that we've worked with in the past. I think that our presentation is really, really good because it speaks to a person as a person and not as a prospective client. We do a lot of case studies. We give them a lot of basic information, and we give them a lot of resources. And we tell them straight up, "If you have no interest in meeting with us, that's okay. Here's the questions to take to your financial advisor and make sure that they're doing these things for you." And what we find is a few months later, they'll give us a call and say, "Hey, I attended your seminar last year. I have a few questions. My advisor says he won't do ABC. I might be interested in meeting with you guys." So we do have a pretty high scheduling ratio. And I would say we have a really solid follow-up process that allows us to get those few stragglers on to the calendar as well.
Michael: And so then of the roughly 60% who...of the show-ups who book, what turns into business? How many of these that you then meet with, right? We're just like winnowing down this funnel. Like, we did ads, we got registrations, we got show-ups, we got people to book complimentary consultations. How many of these are likely to turn into actual clients, actual business with you?
Samantha: We have seen right now...so as far as qualified prospects go, we have seen that about 80% of the people that come in and sit down with us are qualified prospects. The 20% that are not qualified may not be because they don't have the assets, it's because they're tied up somewhere else. And then as far as becoming clients, we see a good amount of people transitioning over to clients. And what we found is, right now, Facebook is pulling a younger audience for us. So we see maybe the husband becomes a client in a couple, and the wife becomes a client maybe two or three years later. But I believe it's about 30% of the people that book become clients.
Michael: Okay. If I'm kind of thinking about this math right, like, if I started at the beginning with like 90 to 100 people that register, like, we have a good registration round, so if I get like 90 people that are attendees, maybe 60 of them actually show up, roughly two-thirds, maybe 35 to 40 of those actually book an appointment, about 60% of those, and then maybe 10 to 12 of those might actually become clients at the end of the day, at the bottom of this whole funnel process. Or I guess, like, 5 to 10 become clients, depending on how good my registration turnout was in the first place. Does that kind of sound about right for what you guys experience in practice?
Samantha: Yes. Yes.
How Thrive Financial Scaled Their Marketing System To Grow So Fast [48:58]
Michael: And what are typical clients for you? Like, we haven't talked much about just the business model of Thrive. Are you primarily like in the assets under management business? This would be like 5 to 10 people who are going to each roll over at least $250,000 to manage and do ongoing planning. Are these people you're also charging planning fees too? Are these people you're implementing other solutions with as well? What does this look like from the business end or the...how much revenue do one of these people actually generate for the business?
Samantha: Yeah, a lot of these are AUM clients. A lot of them are going to be annuity clients as well. And I believe we're averaging about $30,000 in revenue on our higher-end clients, which completely pays for every single marketing campaign that we run the prior month.
Michael: Like, a large client may be $30,000 of revenue or this group of clients may be $30,000 of revenue?
Samantha: One client.
Michael: One client. You get one person that shows up with a million or a few dollars and is going to pay you on an ongoing basis. And the numbers get big very quickly.
Michael: And so if you end out with this across 10 clients, obviously, some will be bigger clients, some will be small, some events you get a big client, some events you don't get a big client, but just with a...nominally, with minimums, where they are for your business, it sounds like most clients at least are going to generate $3,000 to $5,000-plus of revenue, just an account with a couple hundred thousand dollars that gets the proverbial 1% fee. So if we're looking at 5 to 10 clients, you may generate $15,000 to $25,000 of new revenue even from an event that doesn't terribly go great and doesn't get a huge client out of it. And you could get one that literally does tens of thousands of dollars of new revenue.
Samantha: Yeah, absolutely. We've had a few seminars that we've hosted that have been really low turnout rates due to hurricanes and snowstorms and all the fun stuff that only have maybe 10 people showing up. So we've had seminars that don't produce any clients for those reasons. But we know that's okay because as long as we get one from one other seminar sometime in the year, that month, that it pays for our marketing efforts.
Michael: Well, and now I just think about the math of this. Now we're sort of down to nuts and bolts of, okay, across like a full cycle on this, I might do 20-something thousand dollars of new revenue on average, every now and then I'll get an event that gets screwed up by weather, every now and then I'll get an event that does $50,000 because there was a big client in there that does a lot of business with the firm. But you're talking about events that may average a few tens of thousands of dollars of new revenue, and you spent like $3,000 on the campaign to get them in the room. And I guess plus the cost to run the event, but it sounds like the cost to run the event is not actually a terribly high cost because you're not buying dinner for 100 people. You stand up in front of the room and deliver a PowerPoint.
Samantha: Right. Exactly. We do have homemade cookies at our events, which I think is a big draw for people as well.
Michael: Homemade, like, Grandma Myrna is making cookies for everybody?
Samantha: Something like that. Yeah.
Michael: All right, well, now I'm just curious, like, is this in the ad? Like, "Do you have more than $250,000, really bothered by your taxes in retirement, and like homemade cookies?" Where does this become part of the conversion process?
Samantha: We haven't tried it in the Facebook ads yet. It's actually Bret's wife, Heather, and their daughter Nora that make all the cookies. They make probably 500 cookies each time they bake them. But on the phone calls, people will ask, "Well, are you going to have some type of food for me?" And we'll say, "Yeah, we have coffee, we have tea, and we'll have some homemade cookies for you." And we always get, "Homemade, really?" And we're like, "Yep, she spent eight hours on Sunday baking these cookies for you. So you better like them."
Michael: You were saying at the peak you were doing like 80-plus events a year. That is a lot of cookie making.
Samantha: She's dedicated.
Michael: Apparently. Apparently. Like, that's a...you may end out with a full-time cookie-making person if you continue to scale the business this way.
Samantha: Maybe. Maybe. We stopped doing cookies at the end of February just to keep everybody safe and keep our refreshment table sanitary. But I do hope that we can get back to the cookies eventually.
Michael: Understood. And so when you look at these outcomes, like, you had said you sort of migrated to this from an old model where...or I guess sort of like a traditional model, like, pay third-party service that drops you a whole bunch of mailers and tries to get there, 1% to 3% turnout rates, and then you do all the same stuff trying to convert people. So I guess I'm just wondering for context, like, what were you spending...if you recall, what were you spending for those and how were the results comparing for you?
Samantha: So we were definitely doing them on a much smaller scale and a lot less frequently. So we were maybe doing two campaigns a month, one seminar a week. When we were ramping up right before COVID, we were doing three seminars a week. So just to put that into perspective for you. We were spending I think $11,000 a campaign. We do still do mailers for all of our campaigns. So it's a little bit more than $2,500 to $3,500 a campaign. But even still, the revenue will still cover the cost of the mail. When we were outsourcing everything to another third-party marketing company, we were paying, I believe, $79 a person to register.
Michael: So just like, if you took what you spent in total divided by the number of registrations of people who actually showed up, net-net at the end of the day, you ended out spending $79 per person to get the registrations on average?
Samantha: Yeah, I would say between $80 and $100 is where we were about 2 and a half years ago. Since we started bringing internal marketing efforts into the office and we started honing in on how to create a better nurturing sequence leading up to the event, we're seeing about $30 to $50 an attendee, not even a registration, an attendee. Our registration rates are about $15 to $25, depending on the area that we're marketing to.
Michael: Well, and there's a fascinating effect to me that comes from this when just you find a marketing system that works. As you've noted, it sounds like you're doing a huge number of seminars, right? You're doing as many as two to three a week, at least heading into this year before the pandemic disrupted it. Because I sort of get it, right? If you just think of it as, just wearing your advisor hat, like, if you spent, I can gross numbers up, like, if you spent $5,000 on marketing, and every time you spent $5,000 you got $15,000 of new revenue, how much would you spend on marketing? Like, the answer to me would basically be, however large of a dump truck of cash I can get access to. Like, $5,000 goes out the door, $15,000 comes in a few months later. Like, as quickly as you can turn this machine around and just keep the thing cranking, the growth just goes on overdrive. Which I guess at the end of the day is how the firm for you guys got to this world of, in 2015 we were doing a few hundred thousand dollars of revenue. And in 2019 we did $6 million of revenue. Like, where does all that growth come from? The answer is, well, when you find a marketing thing that works with that level of ROI, like, you literally just take the money that's being created from that and plow it back into the system to make the crank spin faster.
Samantha: Right. Exactly. As cliché as it is to say, you have to spend the money if you want to make the money. And what I found in speaking with other advisors at different conferences and get-togethers is that's...people are still a little scared to do that. I think now, specifically with the COVID situation, is kind of igniting the fire underneath advisors to start spending the money because they can't go out and do their in-person seminars anymore. They need to find other avenues to start producing revenue for their company and to start getting more clients and continuing to build their book of business. And in my conversations, they say, "Well, if you did it, I can do it too." And my response is, I'm not a financial advisor. I don't have to spend all day servicing clients. I have the luxury of learning digital marketing and going to conferences and just dedicating my entire time to building out all of these marketing automations for this office. And what I see is advisors are trying to become digital marketers, and they're starting to shy away from building their book of business, chasing after referrals, servicing their current clients, and spending all their time trying to learn from these digital marketing gurus that if you pay them $10,000, you can do exactly what they do. And that's just not the case.
Michael: Right. I think that's the other important point to this whole thing. And I guess to be fair about the marketing costs is there's another cost beyond just kind of the per campaign costs and the cost for an ungodly amount of flour, eggs, sugar, and milk that you're buying to make all the cookies. There's also just from the business end the staff cost to have you, Samantha, like someone in your position wearing a hat of director of digital marketing to make all this stuff happen, with the caveat that, well, once you get a system like this that works, having a person on full-time just, again, means you can cycle the dollars through even faster. The faster we spend, the more we grow, and the more we grow, the more we grow. And so at some point, it becomes incredibly cost-effective for the business to have someone that's stewarding the flow of these dollars into marketing to produce results that are profitable, which gives you more dollars to reinvest into marketing, which is profitable, which gives you more dollars to reinvest into marketing, and so on through the cycle. Like, it takes someone to nurture that, but it's extremely scalable in what it does when you find a formula that works.
Samantha: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. And what I've seen in the industry is a lot of firms have wonderful marketing directors, right? They know all about the brochures and how to run a website, and they know how to do the mail marketing, and they have a great referral process, but they're missing that digital component. People come out of school now with a marketing degree and aren't even taught about the world of Facebook ads and how to remain compliant in the financial industry with your Facebook ads and with your website and all of this stuff. So that's why I developed my digital marketing agency so that their marketing manager continues to focus on what they know generates revenue within their position, and they can outsource the development of their process so that I can turn it over to their marketing manager in 6 months, and they just have to continue maintaining it, but they don't have to spend the 300 hours that it takes to build it out.
Michael: Right. And so as this kind of system is built out, and you created the funnels around it and sort of said, "Look, when we actually control our own process of getting the attendees to show up, we can just do it at a drastically lower cost per attendee," because, well, I guess as much as there's a lot of worry out there around Facebook and how much it seems to know about us in our lives, when you're wearing a business hat and you're trying to do marketing, it is sort of disturbing how tight and targeted the marketing can be when you're marketing through Facebook. Do you guys even market and look at other platforms, or is it really just all Facebook at this point?
Samantha: We've looked into LinkedIn, we've looked into the Google SEO, and we do a few things on each, but we have found that our demographic for our specific firm spends a lot of time on Facebook. They interact with their friends, they talk to their friends on messenger, they share pictures of their grandkids. And if we know that's where they're spending a lot of their time on the internet, that's when they're going to react the most. I don't want to take a chance and spend 50% of my marketing budget on Google SEO if I know that they're probably not there. It's really about knowing where your audience is going to be.
Michael: Well, and just I'm fascinated by that point that like Facebook is where our target audience is, these mass affluent retirees or prospective retirees in the right age range and geography. Like, I think, I don't know, the conventional view is like, Facebook's for young people, like, social media is not how I market to retirees when I work with seniors. And you're essentially saying like, "No, Facebook is exactly where you go when you want to target baby boomers." Like, not LinkedIn, not Google, not Twitter, like, you are right there on Facebook.
Samantha: Yeah, absolutely. I see right now that people that are closer to the end of...end spectrum, that 72 to 75 range, have a tendency to respond better to the physical mailers when we're marketing a seminar. So they're more on the traditional side. The people that are kind of in that median to the lower end range of like 55 to 57, they're on Facebook. We rarely see a response from that age group with our direct mailer.
How Samantha Pivoted To Virtual Events After COVID-19 [1:03:34]
Michael: Interesting. So talk to us a little bit now about the switch that you went through when coronavirus broke out and all of a sudden it became clear like, "We're not going to be doing this with in-person webinars because they're no longer safe to do." Talk to us about the shift then, like, what did you do? What did you execute? What did you try that either found worked or didn't work? How did you handle this?
Samantha: So when we first started talking about webinars, we talked about this earlier where we had to figure out our ad schedule for Facebook. And I think that was the trickiest thing to figure out when everybody else was also trying to figure out how to market their webinars the best, because we wanted to make sure we gave them enough notice of the webinar but not too much notice that it's like two weeks in between and they lose interest and completely forget about it. So that was the hardest component to figure out when we first were forced to start doing these webinars. As for the actual event itself, we were still going into the office, just one presenter and myself with masks and gloves and everything, and we still held them live. So we had a camera, we had the mics, we had lighting. They stood in our main conference room with a SmartBoard behind them, and they presented just like they were going to present an in-person seminar. And we found that that style of presentation is still more impactful than a voice over a deck of slides on a webinar platform.
Michael: Interesting. So like, you're not streaming audio with voice over PowerPoint. You literally have a camera pointed at a person standing in front of a room as though they were speaking to an audience. It just happens to not have a room full of people, it has a camera pointed at them and a screen, or I think you said a SmartBoard behind them showing I guess whatever slides or material it is that they're presenting?
Samantha: Exactly. It was really no different than if they were presenting at an in-person event at a library or community center. There was just no audience directly in front of them. They were in the chat room.
Michael: Okay. Okay. And what system are you using to actually be able to do this and broadcast these live webinars?
Samantha: So we use a whole combination of a bunch of different programs. So to generate the leads, we still use Facebook, and we drive them to a ClickFunnels landing page. And within the ClickFunnels landing page, we have a registration form from EverWebinar embedded so that when somebody registers it gets put together directly into EverWebinar or WebinarJam. WebinarJam is for live webinars, EverWebinar is for a pre-recorded webinar. Then once they are put into WebinarJam, it also puts their information into ActiveCampaign because we wanted to maintain the ability to customize our registration pages and our registration emails and text messages, which is why we chose to put everybody into ActiveCampaign rather than just use the native EverWebinar email service that they provide you. And then after they attend or do not attend, WebinarJam is complex enough that it tags everybody accordingly for us in ActiveCampaign. That way it sorts out those categories that I was speaking about earlier, the no-shows, the attended did not book and the attended that booked, it sorts it for me. So all I have to do is sit there and make sure that the camera looks good, sit behind the computer, respond to people, making sure that they understand the material and ask the presenters questions if somebody has a question.
Michael: Okay. And so as you queue these webinars up and deliver in this generally live stream formats, I guess you're...like, you are really just doing the same presentation you always do, the way you've always...well, I guess not the way you've always done it, but like, the same presentation, delivering the same manner you've always done it. You just don't get to do it in a live audience where they're sitting there, you get to do it to a live audience in front of a camera and it's beaming to them. But it's otherwise the same format and style. And the presentation itself is still the same presentation you've already found works?
Samantha: Yeah, exactly. That's exactly what we do. And I think that people like to watch us, and they stay on throughout the entire presentation. We were expecting about a 50% drop off rate halfway through because the presentation is about an hour and 15 minutes. And we saw a lot of other people marketing 30-minute webinars. But I think that people like to stay through because it still feels like you're going to a library, you're going to a community center and you're watching the presentation. It's not like you're listening to somebody lecture at you for an hour. We have a lot of audience interaction through polls and the chatbot and all that stuff built into our webinar so that people still feel like they have some sense of interaction and they're interacting with another human being instead of being isolated in their home.
Michael: Okay. And so, what did you find in practice for a fall-off rate if you were sort of fearing 50% but it sounds like it wasn't that problematic in practice?
Samantha: I think maybe we'll see a 10% drop off rate as soon as one of the presenters starts to mention the offer. And I'll also note that we do have a few clients that pop on to the webinars just to get an education refresh. And they'll pop off because they don't need the complimentary consultation. They've already gone through the process.
Michael: And so the ask at the end is still essentially the same thing? Like, "If you enjoyed this and you would like a complimentary consultation or understand how this applies to your individual circumstances, please schedule a time to come on in and meet with one of our advisors, or we'll do it virtually since you can't come to our office during a pandemic shutdown." Same ask, complimentary consultation, just virtual ask to what might be a virtual meeting?
Samantha: Exactly. We send them to a landing page that we built in ClickFunnels that has our calendar directly embedded in it. It's very easy for them to just find a date and time that works for them, fill out their information, and then our automated scheduling system will send them everything to prepare and explain a little bit more about how the process is going to work for them since it is a virtual appointment.
Michael: So now talk to us about the...what you're finding for results and outcomes. Like, you were doing these $2,500 to $3,500 spends for seminars and getting 45 to 130 registrations with a 65% show-up rate. What are you finding now when you're doing this in webinar format? What kinds of activity and results do you see?
How Her Registration And Attendance Rates Have Changed After Moving To Virtual [1:10:54]
Samantha: So right now we're seeing about a 50% drop off rate between registration and attendee. And we're not seeing super high registration numbers. I attribute that to people at this point in time are just sick of the virtual meetings and staring at a computer screen all day. So I kind of anticipated this small dip in registrations. So we spend about $500 right now to get about 45 registrations per night. And then out of these 45 people that register, we see about 20 to 25 actually attending. When we first started doing webinars, we were marketing them on Facebook, in addition to sending out email blasts to our database. But what we found when we were sending out email blasts to our database is it was mostly clients that were registering for these educational webinars. So we decided to kind of segment that and tell our clients, "Hey, we have a whole new webinar series built for you to continue your financial education." And we were able to kind of segment the clients out from the legitimate prospects.
Michael: But I guess the flip side, like, $500 to get 45 registrations and 20 to 25 who attend, like, I'm doing my napkin math here, like, you're still actually ending out about $20 to $25 per attendee as a cost, which actually is pretty similar to what you were doing in the seminar world. I guess the caveat is just in the seminar world, you got to do fewer larger events. In a webinar world, the cost is this...the cost per attendee is the same, but you just can't get 50 to 100 attendees the way that you were before. It's more diffused, which obviously is harder on the speaker because they've got to speak more events.
Samantha: Right, exactly. And I think the speakers too agree with this. It's just so much more impactful to sit down at a community center and speak to people one-on-one. You're able to make eye contact with them. You're able to see them nodding their heads in agreement or shaking their heads in dissagreement. And with the webinar, the feedback that we've gotten from our attendees is, "This was really great. I really appreciated it. Can you please let me know when you have your next in-person event scheduled? We would love to come meet you in person." So that's a lot of the feedback that we've gotten, that people are definitely interested in our services. They just want that human interaction component before they decide to meet with us and share their financial information with us so we can run reports for them.
Michael: And I was going to say like, are you...of the 20 to 25 who attend, are you getting many conversions from those taking complimentary consultations and then actually turning into clients? I know we're sort of time-compressed. We're having this conversation in June. You're only two or three months into coronavirus anyways. It takes a while for people to move through the funnel, so it might be a little early. But are you seeing this convert to business in practice? Do you have any sense as to what the end result is on actually getting new business out of it?
Samantha: Most of the folks who have entered the sales cycle from the webinar are still currently in the sales cycle. I do know that we currently have four clients that closed business the past two to three weeks from the webinar. So we are seeing revenue generated from the webinar. It's paid for every ad that we've run 10 times over already, which is great because now I know I have enough budget to continue running them and continue filling the pipeline. As far as conversions go from the attendees to appointments, it's not crazy high. We're seeing about 6 to 10 appointments, depending on how many people attend. And I think the calls the day after make a huge difference. The feedback that we get there from prospects is, "Oh my gosh, I didn't expect like an actual human being was on the other side of the screen answering my questions. I thought it was a robot. And I didn't think that you guys were going to call me. Thank you so much. I do have some questions. I actually want to meet with you."
Michael: But at the end of the day, you're getting a half a dozen appointments out of 20 to 25 who attend. Like, you were in a realm of 60% of people were following through to sign up for and book meetings. Now you're getting more like 30% who are following through and signing up for meetings.
Samantha: Yes. And like I said, the feedback is, "We're really interested. We just want to meet you in person before we move forward."
Michael: And so as you look at this...when at some point we get through this crazy environment and back into an in-person world, like, how do you think about seminar marketing versus webinars and webinar marketing? Are you out of the webinar world and back to the seminar world as soon as you can? Do you see a place for it now in your process, given the results that you're seeing? How are you thinking about it having really deep dive tested both with some real volume?
Samantha: Because we've developed them so extensively, they pretty much run themselves. So running them both at the same time when the world does get back to some sense of normalcy isn't going to be any extra strain on myself or my team. So we definitely plan on continuing to run webinars. Our thought is we might want to pivot it to a webinar on the topic that we might not have necessarily the full audience in one small area to have an event for, but maybe for the audience and the entire area that we service, we can run a webinar on that. For example, we have a bunch of great women advisors at our firm, and we would love to do a women's only education seminar for single women who are nearing retirement. And there might not be enough people in location A to host an entire seminar and justify spending the $9,000, whatever dollars with the mail and everything. But with our Facebook, we can encompass the entire area that we service, which is Greater Philadelphia, which is 1 million-plus people. So we might have 100 webinar attendees on that that want to learn about the specific topic. So I think we're going to use it as a tool for other topics that we would like to explore before we spend all the actual money to go ahead and have an in-person event for that specific topic.
Michael: And just out of curiosity, what's the CRM system for the advisory firm? You've talked a lot about what I know are essentially like stalwarts of the digital marketing world that have like ActiveCampaign that have almost no presence in advisor world. Does the rest of the advisory business run off the CRM portion of ActiveCampaign or do they live in some other system where once someone actually becomes a client, they leave your ActiveCampaign ecosystem and go over the advisory firm's CRM ecosystem?
Samantha: As soon as somebody converts over from a lead, which is somebody that registered and attended a seminar, to a prospect, which is when they actually schedule an appointment, everything is done throughout the CRM system. We currently use Microsoft Dynamics. We are considering transitioning over to Salesforce because of the direct integrations with all of the marketing systems that we use.
Michael: Okay. And the one other question I had, just because you'd mentioned it earlier and I didn't want to come back and ask, text messaging and text messaging to prospects. You're doing it. So I guess it works, but I was going to ask just like, this works? People will tolerate this? I feel like there's a lot of privacy these days of like, marketers to my text messaging feels kind of intrusive. Are you finding traction with text messages? And how are you actually using them in practice?
How Samantha Uses Text Messaging In Her Marketing Sequence [1:19:13]
Samantha: So on all of our registration forms, we do have an opt-in button if they are okay receiving text messages. So we're not going to solicit them if they do not want them. So we make sure that they're okay receiving them to start off. We see an 80% response rate to our text messages, as opposed to like a 46% response rate from our emails. So for example, last week, everybody that postponed their first initial consultation, I sent them an email Friday morning, and I sent them a text message Monday morning. Same exact content, "Hi, this is Samantha from Thrive. I noticed you weren't able to meet with us this week or last week. Please let me know if you're interested in rescheduling your appointment." I got two responses out of the email, "Yes, I would love to reschedule my appointment." I got 12 responses from people either telling me, "Yes, I'm interested" or, "No, I'm not interested." Because the people that aren't interested, we don't want to keep hounding them. But we don't know until they tell us, right? So you get a huge response rate. Because it's so much easier just to respond to a quick text message rather than having to go into your email and compose it and all that stuff. And people check their phones a lot more often for text messages than they do for their emails.
Michael: Yep. And it all anchors off of, on the registration page, I guess you've got a box to check like, "If you would like text message confirmations as well, check this box to say it's okay. And give me your cell phone number," because obviously, you need that in order to be able to do it. And they choose to engage with you that way.
Samantha: Yes. And we also, on our scheduling form, we have them check off a box, "Are you okay receiving communications to your cell phone regarding your upcoming appointment?"
Michael: And just out of curiosity, do you know how...what portion of people actually check that box? Is this like 10% or 20% say it's okay but they're really, really engaged, or is this really widespread? You find in practice lots of people now are willing to accept text messages around this.
Samantha: We have a lot of people that are willing to accept text messages and almost prefer to communicate through text. Some of our clients are still working. So we hear all the time, "Can you just text me when you have a minute the day and time that we're meeting? Can you just text me that information?" So we do see that people almost prefer it in this day and age?
Michael: And how do you handle it from a compliance end? Because I know that's still a challenge for some firms. Just, how do I do text messages compliantly?
Samantha: Absolutely. So if you are an advisor and you're talking to your client, they use something called MyRepChat. And that is connected to our compliance company. So everything is archivable, and it is sent to our chief compliance officer. Every exchange is downloaded in a log, and she reviews them just to make sure that everything is kosher there. And then as far as Avochato, which is the text platform, we have it hooked up with the compliance company as well. So same thing, there's a log. They make sure that everything is okay. There's keywords that the compliance company has set up. So if they're mentioned in a text message, it automatically flags, gets sent to our chief compliance officer.
Michael: So Avochato, like avocado but it's Avochato?
Samantha: Exactly. That's exactly how I would explain it.
Michael: Okay. And why Avochato? Why not MyRepChat or something else? What led you to that system?
Samantha: So we looked at a bunch of different text messaging systems. And the reason that we decided to land with Avochato is number one, it integrates with ActiveCampaign. So if I say, "At 10:00 on June 5th, make sure Sally Mae gets a reminder for her appointment," it has that capability. The other reason is it had a conditional text autoresponder. So for example, when we ask somebody to confirm their appointment, the prompt is, "Please reply 1 to confirm." If they reply 1, there's an autoresponder in place that just, "Thank you so much. Your confirmation has been received. You will no longer receive any more reminders." We have texting widgets on our website, as well as our scheduling pages that have some autoresponder features as well. That way, by the time it gets sent directly to my cell phone or one of my teammate's computers or their cell phones, we already know exactly what the person is texting in about. So if they want to schedule an appointment, we already know what day of the week works for them, what time of day works for them. And if they had a specific day in mind, that way, by the time we respond, we can say, "Okay, thank you so much, Mr. Smith, I see that you want to schedule on the 5th at 2:00. Yes, we have that available. Let me just get some information from you."
Michael: So, what surprised you the most in trying to build digital marketing in the advisory world in particular?
What Surprises And Struggles She Faced When Building Thrive’s Marketing Process [1:24:32]
Samantha: The thing that surprised me the most is trying to figure out what is going to make people respond to us. Because people's finances can be such a touchy subject, it can be very private. And a lot of people are very hesitant to have any interaction with you if it's in regards to their personal finances. The stance that I take is, whether you have $10,000 or you have $10 million, this person worked their entire life to save up that amount of money. So, what can I do to convey our message and to really make them believe, "We are here to educate and empower you? We are not here to steal your money. We're not here to sell you a product. We're not here to convince you to do ABC. We are just here if you have any questions, if you need us." We have plenty of appointments that we schedule people that don't become clients, that they might come back in five years, and they might not. But we feel better knowing okay, if we gave them the information and they are armed with the information to make a better financial decision, we feel like we made a difference in their life. So the hardest part for me was trying to convey all of that in a 10-sentence email that we have to send out every other week. So the copy and the content to try to convey our message of good intentions in a world that is typically so salesy was really challenging for me
Michael: So, what was the low point for you on this journey of trying to figure out marketing in an advisory firm context?
Samantha: So I don't have any financial advisory background. I went to college for psychology. I have a degree in industrial psychology. And I felt going into this marketing position that I don't know enough about the industry to make an impact in our office. I don't know what I'm talking about when we talk about annuities or life insurance. And I don't know how to answer questions like that for clients if they have it. And I felt when I first started like, "I don't really have a place in this office." But it's really just a position that you have to grow into, and you have to learn on the job. So I think my low point was, I was really trying to figure out how I can be effective without having all of this knowledge that everybody else in the office had in their arsenal. And through collaboration with a lot of my colleagues helping me out and trying to help me understand just the basics to convey our message made a huge difference and really encouraged me to start learning on my own and going to all these conferences and trying to figure out what I can do to make Thrive grow as big as it could be. And I think that journey that I started two years ago kind of speaks for itself when you look at our revenue numbers for last year.
Michael: As someone that was coming into marketing for financial advisors without the financial advisor sort of industry background and context, where did you go or what did you do in practice just trying to get up to speed on this industry and what we do and what we do for clients and what all this stuff is about?
Samantha’s Favorite Resources To Learn About Marketing [1:28:07]
Samantha: So my dad and Bret were two really good coaches. They never looked down upon me for asking even a question that might seem silly to them. Like, I think my first question was, "Well, what's an annuity? Like, what's a Roth IRA? What does any of this mean?" And they never made me feel little for asking those questions. And every time I would ask, I would write it in the notes section on my phone and be like, "Okay, this is this." And then we are with Advisors Excel. So when I would...I would just call people up and ask questions in their marketing department. I would call people up in their client servicing department and just ask questions.
And then I, like I said, I went to school for psychology. I didn't have a marketing background. So I would go to marketing conferences. I went to Funnel Hacking Live, which is the ClickFunnels' annual event that they have. I went to the one in Nashville. And sitting in that audience and seeing all these other people creating these amazing landing pages and all of these great automations gave me so many ideas to come back to Thrive with and say, "Okay, here is what we need to do to make sure that if I build this, it gives me so much more time to then do this for you guys." And I think they gave me a lot of authority at Thrive. They kind of just let me run things how I thought they should run, because ultimately, I was going to be the one that was going to continue to maintain them and continue building them out. So if I was going to need the time to spend 10 days building this one thing that they asked for, they were going to let me do it because they knew in the end, they were going to get a good product. Rather than saying, "Okay, I need it done by tomorrow," maybe like, "Okay, if you want it done by tomorrow, here's how it's going to look. If you want it done in 10 days, here's how that's going to look." And they go, "Oh, well, I want the one that's done in two weeks for sure."
But I read a lot of books, listened to a lot of podcasts, including yours. I read Jeremiah Desmarais. He did "Shift." I did Strategic Coach for a little bit. I use a lot of their programs as well, and I do their weekly phone calls on Mondays. So any resource that I could find, I pretty much swallowed up. And I'm still that way to this day. I still listen to podcasts every week, and I'm constantly reading. And there's always books coming out about what it is to be a good financial advisor and how to market as a financial advisor. And as I'm reading them now, I'm starting to pick up on little things that, "Yes, I should absolutely do that," or, "We already tried that, it doesn't work." So I'm constantly learning, constantly trying to improve myself.
Michael: So for advisors who maybe want to find a podcast that tilts more in the direction of all of this marketing and digital marketing focus that you're talking about, do you have a podcast or two to suggest on the marketing side? Because I find for our world, like, we tend to know our advisor podcasts because they're out there in advisor space. We don't know much that lives outside of our advisor world. Are there any that you would suggest from the marketing end, the podcasts for people that want to learn more about all this stuff that you're doing and talking about?
Samantha: I would. So Brad Johnson has a podcast called the "Elite Advisor Blueprint." He's had some really good guests on there specifically talking about the digital marketing world. You've had a couple great guests. I know you had one not too long ago that talked about content building and blogging. That was a really good podcast. Other than that, I can't really think of too many. Joel Johnson has his "Rainmaker" podcast. They're really short. They might be like anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes long. Every once in a while he has a good one about marketing for financial advisors. But I haven't really seen one that is solely for the marketing component in the financial industry.
Michael: Are there any just outside of the industry, like, marketers who have nothing to do with our industry who just have cool things to say about digital marketing?
Samantha: Yeah. I really like Russell Brunson. He's the founder of ClickFunnels. He has a lot of out-of-the-box thinking. And then Michael Stelzner has "Social Media Marketing Podcast." That one is really good as well. And this isn't a podcast, but Claire Akin has a really great blog, where she has a lot of great freebies and email templates. And she's very big on content marketing. So she has a great blog as well.
Michael: So now that you're a few years into this, anything that you know today that you wish you could go tell you from a couple of years ago as you were getting started? Like, what do you know now that you wish you knew then?
Samantha: Two years ago, I had no idea what it meant to be in digital marketing. I thought if I put up a post on our Facebook page, that that would generate revenue somehow. So I think in the past two years, I have learned more than I probably learned in my four years of college. It's really just, take your time and plan everything out before you go ahead and try to execute it. Because speed, while it's great to have a product produced within a week, may not always produce results. If you have something you're proud to present to somebody and say, "Look what I did," then I feel like it's going to be a better result for you in the end. And my second piece of advice would be just try everything. Don't be afraid to fail. Don't be afraid to try something new. And if it doesn't work, then go back because you know you have things that 100% work that definitely generate revenue time in, time out, you just plug in, repeat and go. Don't be afraid to think outside the box, and try something new every once in a while.
Michael: So for advisors that want to get started in digital marketing world, because a lot of what you've talked about would be a very large leap from where most of the advisor community is today. If someone is new or wants to get started in, "I want to do at least some of this digital marketing stuff that Samantha's talking about," where would you tell them to get started, or where should they focus first?
Samantha: So I will share what not to do first. There are a lot of people out there that claim to know everything about marketing in the financial industry. So I would just encourage advisors to do a lot of research first and ask for referrals. We did that already. So you don't have to. We went and we spent tens of thousands of dollars with outside marketing "gurus" who said they knew everything and produced nothing. So definitely do your research before you sign up with somebody that says they're going to teach you everything about digital marketing.
What I would suggest you do is start working with somebody who can teach you how to develop Facebook ads. Don't look for somebody who's going to just run the ads for you. Because once you can control that, then you don't have to pay them a fee to maintain Facebook. And they're going to upcharge you for things, right? What we do at my digital marketing agency is we just take the budget directly from the client and we spend it as is. We don't upcharge anything. What a lot of other people are going to do is they're going to say, "Okay, I'll give you a lead for $59 a registration." They might get them for $5 a registration, but they're going to upcharge you way much. So definitely take some courses. Facebook has its own Blueprint courses. And I think that's a really good place to start. Once you start building that, they have a bunch of courses and kind of a guide to walk you through how to run ads to a landing page and all that good stuff.
Michael: Yeah, it was one of the things that struck me. We did an advisor marketing study last year on the Kitces platform and had nearly 1,000 advisors giving a lot of detail about their marketing and what they'd done, and rather overwhelmingly dominantly, the worst ROI of any marketing spend that advisors were doing was on marketing consultants. And it made me very sad in some ways because I know a few really awesome marketing consultants in our space that do good work and do get results. So I certainly don't want to see all marketing folks kind of cast in a bad light. Like folks like Kristen Luke have done a lot of good work. Claire Akin, as you mentioned, like, there are people that are getting it done. But it did highlight, like, there is an extraordinary amount of overpromising and underdelivering of advisor marketing. As you noted, like, it's usually not inexpensive to get going with those folks. And so it doesn't mean all marketing consultants are bad. I know there are people out there that get results done. But the amount of bad advisor marketing consulting that's happening out there, we could see in the data very clearly, it was like, there's a lot, and it's some very expensive spends for very little or no results sometimes.
Samantha: Yeah, it's a shame to really see that happening. What I see is a lot of people that say, "Yes, I can produce these kinds of results for you," but they don't really have an understanding of what those results look like for you. I'm not just looking for somebody to register, I need your help building out the nurturing that's going to get them from registration to attendee. These aren't audiences, sizes of a million people that you're selling a product to. These are people that I actually need to show up in person. So it's a whole different ballgame when you're talking about something specifically for in-person seminars. With these "Facebook gurus," is they might not have a complete understanding of what it is you're asking or what your process is. And they can't tailor the ads to that if they don't have...if they can't grasp the concept of what you're asking for.
Michael: So, what comes next for you? Like, what are you focusing on now going forward?
Samantha: Right now my main focus is continuing to make Thrive's marketing automations as automated as possible so that I can eventually leave Thrive and move on to my own digital marketing agency for other financial advisors.
Michael: So your hope actually is to go beyond what you're doing at Thrive and say like, "I want to teach more firms to be doing this kind of work as well," or I guess just literally doing it as a digital marketing agency?
Samantha: Yeah, I really like Thrive's stance on education. And I think when I speak with other financial advisors within our FMO and not within our FMO, I see a lot of people that are, like you said, they're spending a lot of money with these people, and they're putting their trust in them and they're not getting results. And I hate to see anybody go through that. So if I can train another marketing associate at another firm to do what I do, I'll say, "Hey, I'll build this out for you. You can watch while I build it out. And then let me show you how to maintain it so that when I leave, you can continue running it on your own."
Michael: Very cool. Very cool. And so, do you have like a timeline in your head? Like, when do you do this? When do you go out on your own? Or are you doing some of it already and just hoping to shift the balance over time?
Samantha: I'm hoping to shift the balance over time. I currently have a few clients right now that I'm loving working with and I love teaching them. So I think probably within the next 365 days, I will be migrating out of Thrive and moving on to my own business.
Michael: And so, is there a business entity or something for it yet? Like if people are interested or want to follow this in the future, where do they go to find you?
Samantha: Absolutely. They can visit Quantum Leap Systems, qlssystems.com. And they can schedule a time to have a Zoom meeting with me just so I can show them what the marketing automation systems look like. I am aware that each advisory firm has different compliance requirements. I do work with some firms that have really strict compliance. So I am used to that. So I encourage anybody who's interested in just kind of seeing what I've built for Thrive and what I've built for other companies to schedule a discovery call right on our website. And I'll be happy to kind of explain what the process is to them if they are interested in meeting with me.
Michael: Very cool. So as we wrap up, this is a podcast around success, and one of the themes just that comes up is even the word "success" means different things to different people. And so you're on this incredible journey of successfully scaling up digital marketing at Thrive just from a few hundred thousand dollars to $6 million of revenue in the span of 2 years. Because as we said, once that marketing flywheel gets going, you just reinvest the dollars to do more. But how do you define success for yourself at this point?
Samantha: Success to me is having a sense of fulfillment in what I'm doing. When I graduated college, I left school having no idea what I wanted to do. I had no sense of purpose. I was just going into an office every day to answer phones and schedule appointments. And since entering this world of digital marketing, I feel like I have a purpose to educate other people about what I do and how I do it. And I have a sense of purpose in the sense that I know I'm making a direct impact at Thrive, and I'm helping hundreds and hundreds of people a year hear our message and have their lives completely changed by us being able to help them financially.
Michael: I love it. Just I can't wait to see where it goes next for you as you build out towards Quantum Leap Systems and go from there.
Samantha: Yeah. Thank you so much for that. I appreciate it.
Michael: Absolutely. Well, thank you so much, Samantha, for joining us on the "Financial Advisor Success" podcast.
Samantha: I had a great time. Thank you so much for having me.