Creating a “Good” Epidemic

Most disease outbreaks never make it to epidemic proportions.  So what actually causes a disease to reach epidemic proportions?  If you understand this, you understand how epidemic marketing works.

An epidemic starts with one person. If the conditions are just right, a chain reaction occurs, building slowly at first – ebbing and flowing…ebbing and flowing – until reaching a certain plateau. Then because the conditions change a little bit in favor of the disease, it takes off again: hundreds of people infecting many hundreds more and those many hundreds more infecting thousands more until it becomes an unstoppable epidemic.

And it does not matter that you did not know the first person with the disease…did not run in the same circles as the person with the disease…even if you tried to isolate yourself from the disease (as the nobles attempted to do with the peasants during the Black Plague). You cannot hide! The epidemic will get you.

Create a Marketing Epidemic

We know that we cannot reach the untouchable 87% by normal means, so we must reach them via an epidemic-like scenario. They must be reached even though they try to isolate themselves from us. The only way to do that is to have your marketing create a sort of epidemic. It must feed on itself and grow exponentially.

Most marketing plans do not grow exponentially. You spend money on a campaign and when it is done…it is done. It does not continue to feed on itself. For example, you spend $4,000 for a seminar. Some people come to the workshop. You bring on some new clients. And then it is done and you start all over again. The original $4,000 has now essentially stopped working for you. Up until now, you could do business that way. Now that the seminar market is in rapid decline, that no longer is good enough.

Your Marketing Must Grow Exponentially

The best demonstration I have ever seen for exponential growth is the penny demonstration. The question is asked, “Would you rather have a million dollars or a penny that doubles every day for a month?”

You all know the answer: the penny that grows exponentially. It compounds on itself and ends up being millions of dollars by the end of the month. When Albert Einstein was asked what the greatest mathematic discovery ever made was, he simply replied, “Compounding interest.”

Isn’t it interesting that as financial advisors we consider this a fundamental concept that we use every day?

What’s even more interesting is the most phenomenal marketing concept ever to be developed has been under our noses from the day we understood compound interest.

Epidemic marketing is simply making sure that every dollar you spend…every invite you send out…every contact with your client…every time you speak in public…that it all compounds on itself, instead of being treated like an isolated event.

By treating your marketing plan as a living, growing phenomenon, you will be able to create exponential growth (similar to an epidemic) by making sure each piece of marketing you use leverages the next piece of marketing you use. Building and building until it starts to grow on its own.

This type of marketing does require upfront planning, but after you have the plan in place, it grows by itself with little further monetary or time investment. It expands on its own and no one (including the untouchable 87%) will be able to avoid it.

The Basics to Creating an Epidemic

  1. Sit down and map out your message.  It must contain your “Unique Selling Proposition.”  The 5Q process works fabulously for creating a killer USP
  2. Determine who you want to receive the message.
  3. Research that demographic and determine at least five prime “infection” points for your message. Places that have the right environment for the message to grow.
          a. A fun event geared toward your target market
          b. An internet marketing plan
          c. Clients
          d. Warm list
          e. Influential
                      1. CPA’s
                      2. Attorney
                      3. Property and Casualty Agents (PC Agents)

    You must choose five because not all “germs” will germinate and begin to grow – but if you start with at least five, then two-three will begin to grow. Even if two-three of them hit dead ends, at least one of them will take off to become a full blown epidemic.
  4. Once you have infected the five points, you need to begin to nurture them by supporting the message (germ) planted at that point. This will require small investments of time (one to two hours per month, per point) and money ($40-$50 per month, per point).
  5. Monitor each point monthly. As it becomes clear that a point is “dying out,” move the time and money spent on that point to the other four points and so on until you have just one infection point left.
  6. Once you have found the successful germination point, you can either help it to spread or let it spread by itself. With exponential growth, it really makes little difference once you reach this point as to whether you push it or let it grow by itself…the growth is so rapid that we have little effect on it individually at this point.  It grows out of control, which in the case of marketing is…ABSOLUTELY PERFECT! WE DO LITTLE, BUT THE MARKETING CONTINUES BY ITSELF!
  7. An epidemic marketing campaign like this will generally run its life course in about three years. In other words, it goes from zero to more people coming through your office in a year than you’ve had in your entire professional lifetime…after approximately three years, the stream of clients will slowly trail off if it is not attended to.
  8. To ensure the epidemic continues for years versus dying out is quite simple. You simply need to do what the flu bug does. You need to continue to mutate or come out with a different strain. Not a huge change…just enough to make sure that people cannot become immune to the message you are promoting.

As with any major innovation, once developed, the process is quite simple. It is only difficult if you haven’t been privy to all the research, trial-and-error, and time and money spent on developing it on the front-end. The easiest way to get started is to simply find a message that has already been developed and “mutate” it to fit your practice.

It’s only a matter of time before seminar marketing sputters and runs its course to those willing to listen. It cannot reach the 87% of those that will never attend. It’s expensive…every marketing dollar spent dead-ends the day of the seminar. You get what you get, and then it’s over.

Following the steps outlined above enables you to create an epidemic that even the 87% of those who don’t respond to seminars can’t ignore or hide from. It leverages every marketing dollar spent so that they compound on themselves and continue to generate leads and clients through the entire year and beyond.

And while it requires some effort on the front end, your message begins to spread more and more quickly until it reaches epidemic proportions. “Mutating” your existing message guarantees that your system will work years and years into the future, making you more money, and making your business more profitable and saleable.

CASE STUDY: Coordinate and Conquer

An advisor I work with was marketing seminars in a gated retirement community in his area.  He had a lot of success there, but he would mail 3,000 invitations to get 26 or 27 people to attend.  That means 2,970+ people weren’t responding in any given month.  We divided those 3,000 into six groups of 500.  Each month he would take 2,500 of those clients and use the epidemic marketing techniques to contact them in nice, friendly, non-financial ways. 

For example, one month he sent out a postcard for national clock month that said, “Seems like time seems to fly by so fast…especially the older we get!  Hope you’re enjoying your time spent with family and friends!”  That’s one message.  He generated three coordinated messages per month to maximize their effectiveness.  It didn’t necessarily get the phones ringing off the hooks.

However, he constantly rotated the groups of 500 through the “call to action phase.”   Each month he would take one group of 500 and he would initiate three coordinated contacts with a call to action!  For example, he would send out an article on how Congress has revised the rules to make more people eligible for a Roth Conversion at less cost.  In a handwritten note, he would then ask, “If you know anyone who will be turning 70 shortly (or now it’s 72), have them give me a call to see if some of these things will help them as they begin pulling money from their IRA’s!”

By simply using this system of coordinated messages and rotating groups with coordinated calls to action, he was soon getting people in his office who said they’d been getting his seminar invites for years, but had just never thought to go to a seminar!

*Source: AARP/ North American Securities Administrative Association Research

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