We increasingly have become digital denizens—online retail vs. stores, Facebook vs. letters, Google vs. newspapers—creating this new massive wave of personal information we charmingly call “Big Data.” Extracting insights and developing finely tuned engagement strategies from all this activity is a holy grail effort for most marketers today. With so much buzz and pressure around upgrading our marketing approaches, it is well worth the time to explore this new modern blending of marketing and technology and see how it can be applied to financial services and financial advisor community engagement strategies, especially if it happens to come with multiple guarantees.

Exploring this topic has led the Institute for Innovation Development to reach out to financial advisor and seminar marketing expert Mike Thurman, co-founder of White Glove—a digital marketing company that specializes in planning, managing and promoting educational seminars for financial advisors, among other industry professionals. Aside from White Glove’s 100 percent done-for-you, turn-key, logistical community engagement strategy through educational seminars—exclusively utilizing digital marketing—it’s the triple guarantee and unique pricing model the company offers that truly is a boldly differentiating value proposition. It makes you wonder what have they uncovered, what do they know that we don’t and how can they isolate the digital pulse of the financial interests of a community?

Bill Hortz: As a financial advisor for 25 years who built his business exclusively through educational seminars, what was the magic formula you learned and applied to make this such a successful strategy over other advisors who tried seminar marketing?

Mike Thurman: The magic formula was a passion for education and an education-focused seminar – not promoting our business or selling our services at a dinner seminar, which was the industry standard. The dinner seminar can be effective, but my cousin and fellow White Glove co-founder, Dean Thurman, and I truly had a passion for teaching the public about important topics related to retirement. So, we decided to host our seminars at educational-focused locations, such as libraries and community centers, versus restaurants. Our seminars were 100 percent focused on educating and informing the public—not promoting ourselves or our financial practice. We found this strategy to be much more effective in helping us build relationships with community members who needed sound financial advice and retirement strategies…not people who just showed up for a free meal.

Hortz: At what point did you start experimenting with digital marketing and what was the catalyst or experience you had that led you exclusively in this direction?

Thurman: The strategy I outlined above worked for many years, but it started to become very cumbersome for me, Dean and our financial practice team to coordinate all these seminars. We were using the traditional “pay and pray” method of spending thousands of dollars on print mailers and working with a mailhouse to send out those mailers. We started to notice less people were showing up at the seminars, or they weren’t a fit for us to help with retirement planning. Also, more often than I would like to admit, we screwed up by putting the wrong date or address on a mailer—so we were out of luck (and out a lot of money!) when we made a mistake like that and no one showed up. Dean and I knew there had to be a better way, and we believed digital marketing was the catalyst to that better way. In 2015, we decided to put digital marketing to the test by exclusively utilizing digital ads to market a seminar. It worked—and we were amazed. We began building out a business plan from there on how to completely flip the “old school” seminar marketing model on its head. We hosted our first Social Security seminar for an advisor client in September 2015, and our company has exploded in growth since then.

Hortz: What have you learned about this target audience you are finding through this digital approach?

Thurman: The one thing we’ve learned over the past 3.5 years is that this target audience wants to be educated on important financial topics—like strategies for claiming Social Security benefits, how to best prepare for a successful retirement and how to potentially reduce taxes in retirement. Many people have received bad advice, or no advice, in the past. They increasingly have been going online actively seeking trusted resources to help them figure out these complicated topics. That’s the mission of White Glove—to find financial advisors who have the expertise the public needs and who share our vision of an education-oriented seminar delivery system where they can teach, advise and consult.

Hortz: What are the three guarantees that you offer and how are you are able to offer those guarantees? What attributes to your confidence and pricing strategy?

Thurman: When Dean and I were building the business model for White Glove, we knew we wanted to give our clients a guarantee. We built White Glove to deliver everything we wished we had when we were hosting these seminars…and a guarantee was at the top of the list. Especially as our positive results have been consistent and repeatable, we are able to offer triple guaranteed educational seminars—guaranteed registrations, guaranteed attendees and guaranteed success.

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