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Feedback from the online lead gen's founder

Oct 29, 2012 @ 2:26 pm

By Davis Janowski

I wanted to add some information that had to be cut out of my column in this week's paper due to space considerations and provide space to run a lengthy explanation from MyNewFinancialAdvisor.com's founder Frank Troise.

Drew Waterbury of Ocean Advisors first contacted me in June saying that the firm had been unresponsive but in a subsequent check-in call to him he said he had changed his mind.

“They seem to have done a 180, I still have not had a single lead from it but I'm willing to give them until the end of the year,” Mr. Waterbury said recently in an interview.

It is important to note that Mr. Waterbury had signed up for the $100-per month subscription, which, in a nutshell is intended to be more of a do-it-yourself program than the syndicated offering of packaged leads.

“I'm not paying anything up front, I'm doing the $100-a-month subscription to have the link and talking to the local newspaper about promoting it through there,” said Mr. Waterbury, adding, “it seems they are aware of the need for better communication.”

That is the side of MNFA's offerings that Joseph D. Anderson, executive vice president of Pure Financial Advisors Inc. indicated was proving most successful for his firm that I included in this week's column. He added in our interview that while Pure is using both the syndicated and web subscriptions that to date more leads and prospects had come as part of their own efforts using the web subscription at a ratio of roughly 80% to 20% respectively.

And Mr. Anderson said the firm does a lot of marketing, including commercials, online education efforts and a popular radio show all of which promote the FreeRetirementReport.com service from MNFA which includes a unique identifier for Pure.

“In the first two months we got probably 100 leads and from there we have identified several million dollars in assets of which we probably have closed $10 million to date,” he said.

FIRING ADVISERS

Here I thought I would post responses from MNFA's founder Frank Troise that I received back in e-mail prior to an interview with him this past Friday.

Me: I need to ask you about a few advisers. One in particular has acknowledged getting a full refund on the syndicated service and feels everything has been resolved amicably in terms of that. He is still greatly disappointed and said that he had had high hopes for the service. But the lack of any leads generated in his area, which is a very populated portion of your home state [California], was one factor.

Frank Troise:

“We used to give geographic exclusivity to advisers for 50 leads over a 12-month period.

The key was for the adviser to be local, i.e. within 50 miles of the leads.

We changed this to an open member platform where we provide 60 leads over a six-month period to a local adviser.

We now review *every* adviser's background before they come on board, and our new program officially began 10/15 as we terminated 100% of all of our legacy contracts and refunded 100% of all terminated contracts.

In effect, the company started on 10/15 and all prior commitments were reconciled and closed.

Additional detail provided by Mr. Troise:

    o In NYC we had four advisers who owned the tri-state area with a total economic commitment of $20,000 [meaning those four advisers had each paid $5,000 for leads in the NYC area -ddj]. Our advertising was/is $250,000 in that area. Advisers would not commit to a larger buy, and therefore we had to revise our contracts, otherwise we would have been out of business. $20,000 gets us a quarter page ad in the NY Post on a Monday!

    o Some advisers mis-represented their footprint. We had some who while based in LA, were buying leads from TX, IL, and NYC. These advisers lied to us and were asked to leave.

    o Some advisers U4s were circumspect, and they were asked to leave.

    o Some advisers didn't disclose their relationship with us to their B-D, they were asked to leave by us and their B-D

    o Some advisors were mis-representing their practice to the Boomers we gave them leads to, they were asked to leave (we now survey our Boomers to see how their experience with the advisor went).

    o Some “advisers” were in fact third-party marketers (who were licensed) re-selling our leads at a markup, they were asked to leave.

    o While buying 50 leads, advisers wanted to “calibrate” the lead flow to 2-3 per day. We cannot do that. We had situations of where we had many leads, due to advertising, and advisers would step back (i.e. “I only want three today, give the remaining leads to someone else”). This was exceptionally problematic as we had said “no” to other advisers who wanted to buy into the area and could not given that someone else was in front of them [this is what I was referring to in the column regarding the Large RIAs want a strong, steady stream of geographically adjacent leads, while smaller firms need a trickle spread over a longer time -ddj].

    o Some advisers at smaller B-Ds mis-represented their total buy (“I can do 400” was a famous quote), and then we found that a) they weren't representing their firm, and b) did not have the $$ for a large buy

    o Some advisers' credit cards never cleared, and we never sent them leads (we never go upside down in a lead transfer), and therefore their “refund” was nothing more than us acknowledging they weren't a good credit risk for us and that we never received their money.

    o Some advisers misrepresented the quality of leads to us, i.e. “I couldn't reach them”, we then audited the lead and found it to be real. We asked these advisers to leave.

    o In our pay-per-call platform, we had advisers receiving calls from us, and then asking the lead to call them back on another #, therefore negating the fee to us. We audited this and asked the advisers to leave.

    o Some advisers would take several days to call/email back our leads, and therefore the lead would go cold. In comparison, our virtual wealth management clients call/email our leads back within six minutes and have dramatically different and higher close rates. We would review the response issue with the adviser and if the behavior persisted, we would ask them to leave.

    We still provide our subscription platform wherein advisers can utilize FreeretirementReport.com in their own marketing. Due to our prior client service problem, some clients were under the assumption that we “guaranteed” leads under that program…we do not. At $100/month this is an easy program to use and younger advisers have grabbed it full throttle. Any attrition here was due to that prior mis-perception due to our prior client service problem.

    We have a legacy “Pay-Per-Lead” program, where if we have any extra leads in a territory, i.e. those that a member doesn't want, we sell them to our pay-per-lead customers. In nine times out of 10, our members always step up for the additional purchase (i.e. another 2-3 leads at $100/apiece). In the future, as we receive 5X mass market leads, versus mass affluent, we may package these leads in one bundle and sell them in one group to a national buyer.

    Our contract is clear that we provide 60 leads over six months. Again, the issue for advisers was the flow constraint. Many cannot deal with large one time amounts. Our “best efforts” language describes what we do wrt advertising and marketing. For what it's worth, it is very similar to the contract utilized by 1-800-DENTIST for their program nationwide. We now have a situation where one national adviser has committed to a150-lead buy, but is now realizing that they could all come in one day at one location. Also, advisers have asked us for a) a 12-month commitment and b) a larger total lead commitment (i.e. 20/month)

    We had advisers who wanted partial periods (i.e. they couldn't afford the $1000/month commitment), we said no to those requests. When we bring an adviser onboard, we start spending money in their location [for advertising -ddj].

    o We generally break even on an adviser relationship in month four.

    o Our $$ spend for advertising is a heavy upfront cost to us (i.e. we may spend $2-3,000 in Google ad words in Month 1. Therefore, a refund in Month 2 is a no-go for us.

    o Advisers realize that they need only one mass affluent lead to convert, hence they may only need 5-10 leads form us to break even. Therefore many of them ask for smaller periods of time which we cannot accommodate.

    o The $$ constraint was especially noticeable for small RIAs and brokers with smaller practices where $1000/month is a large spend for them.

    We had advisers who wanted several “free leads” to “test the program”. We never did this, nor will we.

    I want to be polite and respectful in regards to adviser “feedback”, but to be candid we fired these advisers and some are very upset that they were asked to leave. And they know exactly why they were asked to leave. To the degree that they are representing their relationship with us I'd be careful as they're using their anonymity to shield one of the above issues.

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