There I was again, doing the one thing that my mom absolutely hated me doing… yet I simply could not get enough of it…
It was Dec 30th in the year 1985, and I was 7 years old. I was over at my friend Michael’s house for the third day in a row, and to say that I was excited would be the understatement of the year. What was I so pumped about? There was only one more day until New Year’s Eve when the much-awaited event (that my mom hated) would take place.
My friend Michael and I were so anxious that we decided to meet again that day to do one last rundown of our list of what we thought would be the top 100 videos on MTV for 1985. You see, that year MTV announced a big New Year’s Eve bash where they would play the top 100 videos of the year throughout New Year’s Eve, finally finishing on the #1 ranked video right before the ball dropped at midnight. (MTV kept this tradition going for many years, and I watched almost all of them.)
Michael and I had our favorite TV channel on in the background (MTV of course) while we strategized our top 100 picks (FYI, MTV was forbidden by my parents – but Michael’s parents both worked and his older sister let us watch whatever we wanted). And then, all of a sudden, we both became quiet and turned to focus on the TV as one of our all-time favorite music videos just came on (or at least the first video that affected me to the point of goose bumps at the young age of 7). It was the song “Take On Me” by a-ha… the video with the really cool pencil sketch animation special effects.
After putting the final touches on our best guesses at the top 100 videos of the year, I retired back to my house for dinner where all I could think about was the big New Year’s Eve countdown the following day.
I can still recall my disappointment on that New Year’s Eve in 1985 when Tears for Fears didn’t make the top 3 as I had predicted. However, they did break a record by coming in at both #7 with “Everybody Wants to Rule the World,” and #11 with their big hit “Shout” that same year. My personal favorite video to jam to, “Money for Nothing” by Dire Straits, came in at #1 that year, and some other notable videos that we plotted near their correct spots were “We Built This City” by Starship, “Sussudio” by Phil Collins, “Don’t Come Around Here No More” by Tom Petty, “California Girls” by David Lee Roth, “Summer of 69” by Bryan Adams, and “The Boys of Summer” by Don Henley. I even recall being shocked that Madonna’s “Like a Virgin” ranked so pitiful that year, presumably because it was a bit too controversial for the time. I can only imagine that Miley Cyrus would have been publically stoned (play on words) had she been around during this time…
The next year (1986) was just as epic. Peter Gabriel came in at the #1 spot with “Sledgehammer” (one of the best videos of all time, in my opinion), Jersey favorite Bon Jovi jammed in to the #2 spot with “You Give Love a Bad Name,” Kenny Loggins brought the thunder with “Danger Zone” at #6, Eddie Money snuck in the Top 10 with “Take Me Home Tonight,” the exuberant Pet Shop Boys pounced the #23 spot with “West End Girls”, and Mötley Crüe made the scene that year landing the #28 spot with “Home Sweet Home.”
It would be another year until U2 started taking over the top 25, followed by another year (1988) when Guns n’ Roses and Metallica took over the scene. Some notables over the next couple of years that most of you probably remember were the Fine Young Cannibals “She Drives me Crazy” at the #2 spot in 1989, while MC Hammer stole the show at #1 with “U Can’t Touch This” in 1990. And it wasn’t until 1992 when groups like Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Def Leppard, and Van Halen began taking over the countdown. Oh the good times in music back then!
Now, for some of you who just don’t like rock music or never watched MTV, this may not be very exciting, and you are probably wondering when the heck I am going to get to my point. For others, many of these videos bring back nostalgic and fond memories. Perhaps you can even remember where you were when you saw a certain video for the first time, or how a certain song played a role in the girl/guy you were dating, a sports game where a certain song pumped you up, or a song/video that pulled you away from everything else going on in your life.
Music is a powerful force, and when combined with video, it makes an incredible impact. So much so for me that even when I lived in downtown Austin for 13 months (at 31 years of age), you could usually find me in a bar with a beer in hand singing along with my favorite 80’s cover band called RadioStar (I also liked The Spazmatics – another great Texas 80’s band). Don’t worry, I still saw my share of amazing new musicians in Austin. Why do I like 80’s music so much? I have to imagine the hours spent idolizing the musicians and their videos at a young age ingrained some of it. I just can’t put into the words the energy that I get when I hear the opening drum solo followed by those unforgettable guitar riffs after the chant “I want my MTV” on the epic “Money for Nothing” record by Dire Straits.
Before I tell you exactly how this fits in with financial seminars, let’s talk about a monumental event that happened a few years before I was old enough to remember it. It was August 1st in the year 1981, and the buzz was about a new television station that was about to go live at midnight that evening. Of course, the broadcast channel was MTV, and all of the press, music lovers, and music industry waited with anxiety to see how this would play out. Do you recall the first video that played on MTV at 12:01am on that monumental night in August? It was none other than The Buggles with their hit song, “Video Killed the Radio Star.”
This first video marked a huge event in music history… one that would alter the music industry forever. It would transform how music went viral and turn small-town bands into worldwide rock stars in record time. Not to mention, music videos would make celebrities out of one hit wonders, bring personality into the music business, and create videos that supercharged the speed at which musicians and bands became household names. Keep in mind that during the 70’s, unless you were doing nationwide or worldwide tours like the Beetles or Rolling Stones or you made an appearance on American Bandstand, your audience was quite limited. Unless someone owned your record “or tape cassette” or had seen your band live, they probably had no idea what you even looked like. It was nothing like it was today where a new band, soloist, rapper, or rock group could be famous in an afternoon after having their first video go viral on YouTube.
Did music video really “kill” the radio star? Yes and no. It certainly didn’t literally kill radio, as we can all listen to it today (33 years later). However, it did kill the old way of music marketing, as the new rule made it almost impossible to make it big on the radio platform if you didn’t have a video accompanying the song. And in many cases, the video is what launched the song (to take it big on the radio) in the first place. Let’s talk about videos for a minute.
Today, MTV hardly plays any music videos, and most artists are now streaming their latest videos online at places such as YouTube/Vevo. Just think about how video has altered the playing field of being “discovered” as a music artist? Little Justin Bieber (ranked in Forbes as earning $58 million as of June 2013) was found from an amateur video he posted on YouTube. Remember the song last year that just wouldn’t go away called, “What does the Fox Say?” Do you think for a second that this song would have ever made the radio if it weren’t for a viral video online? Of course not! There isn’t a radio jockey in the country that would have risked playing that horrid song had the funny (and contagious) video not superseded it.
Let’s also discuss how this has revolutionized the job of the music promoter. Before MTV, if a new label found an artist with talent, they cut a couple of tracks, usually picked one that they considered a “breakout song,” and then the promoter went on a meeting binge with any and all radio executives and disc jockeys to promote and play the song, sending out demos to everyone in their rolodex, and trying to take the song viral one radio station at a time… city by city.
Today, the first thing that both artists and record labels are concentrating on is filming a music video. Why? So they can get it online and take it viral that way. There are more people watching YouTube today than listening to radio, and if a video has a viral effect, millions of people could hear (and see) the music within 24 hours. No radio station in the country could come close to touching that. Not to mention, the videos make the artists become real and personable, someone that the consumer can relate with and associate with.
So let’s face it, video has made it almost impossible for music artists to exist on the radio medium alone. In fact, can you name a single nationally-recognized musician today that can be frequently heard on the radio but doesn’t have a video? Can you name one who became nationally famous from radio before they had a video? I am betting that most of you can’t. The only mainstream names that managed to get away without professionally produced music videos that I can think of are from a slightly different time frame: Jimmy Buffet and the Grateful Dead. And of course they both had the advantage of the most loyal tribes ever built by any music group. Not to mention, they built the foundation of their tribal fan base up well before music videos became a must.
Now keep in mind this is not a discussion on the past. For instance, if you can name bands from the 70’s and 80’s that didn’t need the use of music videos to succeed, then by all means pat yourself on the back, shoot me a message with your address, and wait on your trophy to hit the mail. And while you wait, remember that I am only focused on today and the future, which you should appreciate because only the present and future affect your bottom line. The FMOs and advertisements that can only seem to quote the record breaking numbers from their seminar systems or platforms from many years ago are doing you a disservice. I am pretty sure that when you go to your CPA with quarterly numbers, he or she couldn’t care less about how well your seminar worked years ago. And the last time I checked, the bank that takes my monthly mortgage check gives me zero credit toward how well I did years ago. Let’s talk about the future folks!
However, I am not here to bash seminars by any means, nor am I here to disprove the stellar seminar numbers I continue to see today. The seminar success is real and will continue to thrive just like radio did after MTV. But that doesn’t mean you can’t take advantage of larger marketing platforms like music artists did with videos. So think of me as a somewhat biased consultant who wants to share some simple steps that can lead to having breakout years. I get no satisfaction from writing material that ticks agents off or rubs you the wrong way. My only satisfaction (and the reason I take my time to write 5,000+ word articles) is to help advisors. End of story.
I say all of that to avoid the hate mail that always seems to find its way into my inbox (usually after agents half-read my articles). Perhaps it is due in part to my catchy headlines. But heck, I am a marketer and I want you to read my stuff! I guess I could have called this one “Video Supplemented the Seminar Star,” but I believe that such a boring headline would have caused many of you to miss out on a chance at reading the great advice in here. Like I mentioned before, I don’t write 5,000+ word articles just so I can feel good about myself.
While we are on the repeating train, I would like to reiterate once more… please don’t think for a second that I don’t recognize the power of seminars, both in the past, present, and into the future. And I am quite familiar with how many billions of annuity and life premium have resulted from seminars in the past. But, I frankly don’t care about the past results. I am trying to help you uncover new opportunities and ways to grow your current seminar business, not give you a history lesson on seminars.
Question: Would a radio executive have been considered wise or crazy to encourage top music talent to create awesome videos at the potential demise of “killing radio”? Wise, of course! Think about it, the bigger the artist gets from video, the more people want to hear their music on the radio. You will find that this article isn’t really about killing off an entire marketing arm. Instead, it is about thinking outside the box, creating new marketing synergies with current ones, and working smarter. A rising tide lifts all boats.
I mean, let’s face it, this article is really about leveraging your use of time and getting your story and unique personality on the platforms that get the biggest bang for your buck. If you have a great story to tell that can impact people, don’t just tell it around the campfire to a few friends… tell the world! For instance, I spent a decent amount of time on this article and I wanted to have it impact the maximum amount of financial advisors and agents as possible. And I had a few choices on how to get this content out to the financial world. I could have called you up one by one and regurgitated this entire report, and after about 12 calls, I would be hoarse. Or, I could send it to great groups like Summit Media and have them spread the word to countless thousands (which is what I did of course). This is all about leveraging the right media and marketing mediums.
Now that we have all of that out in the open, if you will give me your full attention, I am going to unveil to you where I believe the next big growth will occur in regard to seminars. In fact, I am willing to bet that those who employ my ideas will trump traditional seminars producers in a short time span, and will eventually “kill off” all but a handful of top “seminar performers” who refuse to adapt at all over the next 5-7 years. Just like what happened in the music business where if you didn’t adapt to doing music videos, your music sales died. And in some cases, those who didn’t adapt to video disappeared altogether or ended up on VHI’s Celebrity Rehab. Don’t end up on VH1’s Celebrity Rehab. Here it goes. Why Video Will Kill the Seminar Star.
Just like the music industry focused primarily on radio to promote and make money off music and the artists it represented (concerts/ticket sales/merchandise/etc. all came after they got big on the radio), the annuity and life insurance industry has leveraged seminars more than anything to create new business and clients over the last 20 years. If you take a peak back at the largest FMOs back in the early 2000s such as Asset Marketing, Life Sales, Sunderland, and a few others, the vast majority of their top 20 producers were doing seminars. And even glancing through the last couple of years Senior Market Advisor magazines (before they changed their name), you will notice that the majority of advertisements are focused on some type of seminar selling system.
To say that seminars didn’t work or didn’t bring in tons of great business would be a huge understatement. It would be like saying the radio, or even more specifically, the first car radio, didn’t revolutionize the music industry at the time. There is simply no denying it. However, that doesn’t mean that all good things don’t have to adapt. They don’t usually end at an abrupt halt, but the fact is, all of the powerful mediums of distribution for any product or service go in cycles. Some go away completely, while others see the what’s coming ahead and transform into something completely new. Either way, nothing lasts forever if you don’t adapt.
Let’s jump back to our industry. For the last decade, FMOs have been widely known to showcase their top seminar producer where they usually build a platform where that advisor can teach others their methods. And it still goes on today, in some cases, quite successfully.
But in the last two years, there has also been a silent shift going on. The traditional seminar producers have lost some of their ground (including the cherished “Top Producer at insert IMO name”) to the top digital marketers in the country. And although many of you don’t want to hear this, most of these up-and-coming digital producers are beating you at the expense of your seminar. How, you ask? Let me explain what is happening.
To give you the best analogy I can to the MTV example of video revolutionizing the radio star, the digital advisors who are having breakout years are taking their seminars, putting them into video format, and slapping them on their website. I personally know of 5 different agents/advisors who are writing in excess of $30 million each in personal production by taking their marketing, sales funnel, and, in some cases, entire seminar (the same one they do in restaurants) onto a website online. Lucky for me, I have not only become good friends with a few of these digital wonders, but have also had the opportunity to consult a couple of them as well.
If you somehow haven’t seen some of these powerful marketing sites, the owners had the foresight to basically take their seminar presentations online and start marketing to their websites. So instead of just piling on more seminars each month, feeding more plate lickers, and most likely burning themselves out, they were now able to do their presentation in a controlled environment (and have it professionally recorded), post it up on their website, and then direct traffic there. Once a prospect hit the site, they would have to opt-in to get access to the great content, which now opened up the door for prospects from all over the country that could be watching the seminar in action 24 hours a day whether the advisor is working, sleeping or hanging out with friends or family. It was simply brilliant! And for those of you who know any of these early adapters, you should be thanking them because of their vision. They opened up the door for many others, just like MTV did by being the first station to have to have the insight to know just how big video could be.
Recall earlier that I mentioned many of these digital wonders are having banner years at the expense of you seminar producers? Well, I can’t speak for all of them on this, but I know that a couple in particular (and I can assume that anyone with a good online sales funnel is having similar results) say the majority of the prospects that opt-in to their website tell them that they have been to at least one financial advisor’s seminar recently. And most of them were doing online searches about things that the heard or learned from the advisor/agent giving the seminar. Even more shocking, many of them had already met face-to-face with the advisor they met at the seminar, been pitched on a product or plan, and then went home to research where they found this other advisor’s website (your competitor). Now, don’t hate the players, hate the game. They built a heck of sales and marketing funnel. But there is no reason that you can’t have one as well.
Let me spell this out a little clearer with another one of my analogies. Traditional seminar producers are becoming to online seminar producers as Best Buy is to Amazon.com. If you didn’t get the joke, Best Buy has basically become a storefront where consumers go to touch and feel and test the new gadgets, and then go directly home and buy it on Amazon. Do both companies still exist and make money? Yes. But why not do both and take advantage of both models?
As I have mentioned in my previous articles about adaptation, the bad news is only for those who refuse to adapt. For the ones who see the writing on the wall (especially early adapters), this can be one of the most exciting and rewarding times in your career. Not to mention all of the clients that you will get to help along the way.
Let me tell you another story about my parents, and then one about my aunt’s old house. My parents live in central Florida and could be described as an ideal prospect to most of you reading this. Upper middle class, little to no debt, good savers, and no stockbroker (my dad manages their money via Schwab). They get invitations all of the time to these free seminar events and the only reason they would ever go is to get a free meal. They are smart enough to know that someone is going to sell them something, and they would personally prefer to watch his or her seminar online, from the comfort of their own home, without any pressure to be sold. To reiterate, seminars still work down there, but many savvy consumers like my parents would rather learn about you and your business via a live video or an e-book. Give them what they want, right?
My aunt recently moved out of The Villages in Florida. If you aren’t familiar with The Villages, it is one of the largest (if not the largest) master-planned retirement communities in the country. My aunt could have probably filled one of their guest bedrooms with invitations about free meals in her neighborhood. And because they were so bombarded with seminar invitations, the appeal and novelty of the retirement seminar was completely lost on many seniors. Meaning many of the seniors down there began to become immune to them. I would even bet some of them were using the invite postcards as buy-ins or an ante for their weekly poker or Canasta games. Once again, this is not to say that seminars were dead in The Villages. Quite the opposite actually, because there are so many agents and advisors marketing down there and getting more creative with their marketing. Not to mention there is a constant flow of “new blood” as the area continues to keep adding new people to the neighborhood of golf carts and senior fun. But once again, give them want they want to try to appeal to as many ideal prospects as possible.
Before I present my solution to you, I want to make something incredibly clear first. Although I am a big believer and proponent of digital marketing, I am not naïve or dumb enough to think that traditional marketing methods will literally disappear. Nor do I scoff at seminar producers, direct mail gurus, or anyone else that isn’t adapting to the digital methods that I describe in my writings.
In fact, the big irony is that I personally spend thousands of dollars per month on direct mail. I believe in direct mail, I like the return on investment, and I don’t ever want to be dependent on one form of marketing (and you shouldn’t either). And doggone it, I still enjoy going to my mailbox at the end of the day versus my email inbox.
Moreover, I want to go on record and say that although I do firmly believe what I am suggesting (in terms of certain agents going extinct), I also believe that the very best traditional seminar producer can (and will) thrive with or without my advice. Just as Jimmy Buffett and the Grateful Dead did not need MTV to build their brand or audience, the same will go for a select few top-of-the-table seminar producers.
So, what is the solution?
Well, I might shock you when I say that my solution does NOT involve you going cold turkey on your seminars. In fact, you might even need to be doing more traditional seminars than you are doing today (not what you expected me to say, I know). At any case, my proposition will give you the ability to do tens of thousands of seminars per year (not a typo). And if I were a seminar marketing agent or advisor today, here is exactly what I would do.
Number One: Hire a professional video group to film you giving a live event with actual prospects. And if that makes you too nervous, simply rent out a conference room from a local hotel or “Regents Meeting Room” during a slow time for them, bring in some of your close friends, family, or clients, and film it with them watching you and pretending to be the audience of seminar prospects. And if you still don’t like that idea, just have the video of you only (perhaps in front of a white board or wall where your presentation will be projected).
Number Two: Once the full seminar is edited and cut, break it down into a couple smaller pieces. This way, you can let the visitors who come to your site watch a specific piece (perhaps just a few minutes) to wet their appetite, and then they have to opt-in their information to see the full presentation. Any web designer can structure something like this without any problems (and with hardly any cost to you).
Doing this enables you to be giving your seminar online 24 hours a day. And even if you hardly have any traffic to your site today, is it worth it to you for just one person to have looked you up online, come to your site, watch the first 2 minutes of your presentation, wanted to see more, opted-in, and then you called them the next day. Do you think your chances of closing that prospect or referral go up or down when you speak to them the first time after they have already seen your powerful presentation and had the chance to see and hear you a little more as a person? Darn right! You are halfway to making a new client on your first phone call.
This kind of online marketing can turn you into a real person, and in some cases, it can even turn you into a celebrity. Don’t ever underestimate the power of video. We have watched video change the world we live in, how we get our news, how we connect with musicians, how we like to be educated, how we entertain ourselves, and even how we search for “how to” videos on YouTube.
Video may or may not kill the traditional seminar star. Heck, it might even have an impact on today’s advisor radio stars (as the original song implied). But one thing I do know is that the only advisors who aren’t wondering (or complaining) about where their growth is going to come from in 2014 and beyond are the ones using digital marketing in their practice. Their biggest concerns they have right now are how to replicate themselves and how to best capitalize on this marketing shift. This can be you too!
Don’t be left behind.
Finally, let me ask my message a different way. Assume that my entire article was cut down to the following question:
“If I could show you a way to do fewer (or the same) actual workshop seminars, which means…
- Paying for less venues, meals, and plate lickers…
- Fewer headaches, less stress, and less nights out presenting the same pitch over and over again…
- Having MORE prospects actually watch your seminar each year…Even when you are on vacation, seeing other prospects and clients…
- Helping you work smarter…
- Making you more net profit to your practice…
Would you be interested?”
If you have a good story tell the world and someone offers you a larger stage or platform to tell it, then by all means “JUST DO IT.” Don’t keep a powerful message all to yourself or to a small group. The retirement nation wants to hear from you!
See you in the future!
P.S. – If you enjoyed this article, the best thing you can do is to share it via your social media links and make comments. That helps make all the time put into this well worth it.
P.P.S. – I will leave you with the lyrics to first verse of “Video Killed the Radio Star”
I heard you on the wireless back in Fifty Two
Lying awake intent at tuning in on you.
If I was young it didn’t stop you coming through.
They took the credit for your second symphony.
Rewritten by machine and new technology,
and now I understand the problems you can see.
I met your children
What did you tell them?
Video killed the radio star.
Video killed the radio star.
Pictures came and broke your heart.
And now we meet in an abandoned studio.
We hear the playback and it seems so long ago.
And you remember the jingles used to go.
You were the first one.
You were the last one.
Video Killed the Radio Seminar Star…