4 Ways to Build Client Relationships

Why is Bukaty So Hot on Cold Calling?

At a time when many DC advisors have "hung up" on cold calling, Bukaty Companies calls it their most effective marketing strategy. Why?

The firm has used Acceleration Retirement to implement its cold calling strategy for the past two years. So far, the firm has closed about six plans, generating $48,000 in revenues.

Ask a few DC advisors what they do to generate business, and you're likely to get an assortment of answers. One thing is clear: in an age of CRM, LinkedIn and Twitter, business development in the DC world still comes down to building and cultivating relationships with clients, partners and important centers of influence.

How you choose to do that—whether it is seminars, drip campaigns, or golf tournaments—can depend on the size of your firm, available resources and support, even your personal style.

What's important is to get in front of clients and convey the value you bring as a retirement plan specialist—through education and business support. DC Edge asked two DC advisors—Stephen Popper of Boston-based SageView Advisory Group, and Vince Morris of Kansas City, Mo.-based Bukaty Companies—to offer their take on how to do this most effectively.

1. Pay it forward. Providing leads and other types of support to firms can come back to you in the form of repeat and loyal business. That's the philosophy that Stephen Popper believes has helped drive his firm's assets under advisement from virtually $0 to $4 billion over the course of eight years.

"We've never really taken the approach that we are in it for ourselves," he explains. "We've held onto the theory that if we could take care of our recordkeepers and our wholesalers by giving them data and other information—and treating them like clients—that the business would come back to us. And that's a strategy that has worked for us.

"Of course there are situations when we may have to prospect, such as when the business isn't right for us," he adds. "But we still talk to prospects about other things they're doing on the employee benefits, legal or the audit side, so if there's opportunities for us to refer other folks, we are still, in essence coming to the table with the carrot first."

Currently, Popper says this strategy has allowed him to do the least amount of prospecting he has ever done in his career. The day DC Edge interviewed him, he said he hadn't left the office all day—and had three requests for bids.

"We've held onto the theory that if we could take care of our recordkeepers and our wholesalers, that the business would come back to us."
-Stephen Popper, SageView Advisory Group

2. Go where your clients are. Popper says he focuses on targeted activities where he can make the most impact with marketing. "Does that mean going door-to-door or finding places to tell our story to people over and over again? No," he explains. "We don't do that, we don't do any cold calling, but we do attempt to pick very specific places to promote ourselves, such as employee benefits organizations or by hosting targeted seminars."

But the goal of seminars for Popper is not to generate leads, but to educate attendees. "We go into these sessions knowing it's not about us, but about the people sitting in front of us—and giving them information to educate them," he says. "We hope that comes back to us in very positive ways in the future."

Vince Morris also strives to target potential clients by going where they go.

His firm regularly hosts events in downtown Kansas City to meet current and potential clients. "In March, we rented out a meeting area in a local restaurant right across the street from where the Big 12 Tournament is held," Morris says. "We hosted a happy hour and invited clients and prospects during the time frame between when the noon game ends and the evening game begins. That way, we can present it as an open house and people can feel free to come in as they please. It was a very effective way to get our name out in the community."

3. Perfect the art of the cross sell. Morris also leverages the firm's employee benefits business to engage in cross-selling activities with property/casualty insurance and payroll companies. Bukaty has about 3,200 corporate clients, and services 200 of those as 401(k) clients under its Financial Services umbrella. On average, the firm brings in about 20 new clients a year. "We have one staff member dedicated to conversions, implementation, and new-client onboarding," he explains. "She is also dedicated to new-business sales and supporting advisors in the sales cycle."

Popper participates in the New England Employee Benefits Council, an organization of practitioners and employers that meets regularly to discuss employee benefits best practices.

The key to effectively leveraging the organization and promoting yourself is to become actively involved in committees, he adds. For example, he has been a member of the Best Practice Committee, and some of his colleagues are members of the Connection Series, devoted to retirement topics, and the Next Generation Committee, which focuses on younger-employee benefits.

"It's a great way for my colleagues and me to exchange best practices, and to also connect and get to know executive leaders on a personal level in a very collegial space," he says.

4. Put your stamp on it. Bukaty has leveraged the service and support of LPL Financial, its broker dealer, to design and implement drip-marketing campaigns to support its brand. For example, in the past, Bukaty created a campaign centered on various themes, such as 403(b) plans, benchmarking, investment oversight, and retirement readiness. "The goal is to promote some of the most relevant and timely trends to plan sponsors," says Morris. Advisors also can tap resources offered by partner firms, including record-keepers and asset managers, to provide marketing content.

Morris says that the marketing campaign represents about 10-20% of all overall activities and is not as effective as cold calling and other activities. The last campaign targeted more than 2,500 plan sponsors and ultimately resulted in three or four appointments. But he says it's still critical to do it because it creates brand awareness and differentiates the firm in the marketplace.

"The goal of our drip mailing campaigns is to create a layer of brand awareness that makes all of our other activities—such as cold calling or seminars—that much more effective," says Morris

5 Marketing Ideas that Work

  1. Expose yourself—by becoming involved in the community and the beyond.
  2. Convey your value, by promoting your specialty, i.e., target date fund consulting.
  3. Focus on keeping what you have by staging client appreciation events.
  4. Go out of your comfort zone by trying new strategies, such as hosting LinkedIn discussions.
  5. Get introduced. Asking for referrals from Centers of Influence and other professionals can be a powerful way to build your business.

Stephen Popper, Managing Director, SageView Advisory Group, Registered Representative offering advisory services and securities through Cetera Advisor Networks, LLC, Member FINRA/SIPC. Cetera is under separate ownership from any other named entity.

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