Editor’s note: In this edition of What’s Working Now, an AdvisorRADIO feature in which Horsesmouth members tell us about recent success they have had running and growing their businesses, we hear from advisor Reno Frazitta, who was ahead of the curve in using Facebook Ads before we all went virtual.
The following article includes edited excerpts of this conversation, or you can listen to the full interview below.
Guest: Reno Frazzitta
Sterling Heights, Mich.
Years in business: 26
Firm: Smart Money Financial Advisors
What’s working now: Facebook Ads for promoting webinars
I got in the business many, many years ago in the broker-dealer space. Then I got away from the business for a little while doing primarily insurance, health insurance and group health insurance for a number of years. I focused on that through the late 90s and early aughts. Then when Obamacare hit, I refocused my interests back to my original love, which is financial planning. I got back into it as an IAR—decided not to go through the broker-dealer space, just to become an IAR—and I’ve been doing that ever since.
We just set up our own RIA through my firm this year. I spent the early part of this year transitioning all my clients over to our new RIA. We do primarily a mix of managed money, retirement income vehicles, annuities, life insurance, long-term care, and things like that. Our focus is primarily the baby boomer, preretiree clientele, and it’s been going pretty well for us.
Prior to five years ago, I was working out of a larger insurance office. I didn’t really have my own office, my own space, and my own nameplate. About five years ago I decided to switch over to having my own office. I signed a lease, I took the leap, and was kind of on my own. So, that first six months to a year was pretty difficult, because I had to figure everything out on my own as far as the marketing—and that’s the lifeblood of this business, obviously without marketing it’s pretty hard to grow.
Digital is the future
I had never really done seminars, I had never really done workshops, never even really did public speaking prior to that. So it took me a while to really learn how to market. Initially we were advertising live workshops through mailers, just the traditional way that it was being done back in the day. I wasn’t satisfied with the cost of running these workshops. It’s very, very expensive to send out mailers, and I started seeing the potential for visual advertising with Facebook. I wanted a more reliable, predictable, and cost-effective way of advertising, and I knew that digital was kind of the future.
It took a while for me to get acclimated and really learn about digital marketing. I started going down that rabbit hole probably two and a half years ago, and I started following different types of online marketers. I signed up for some courses. I actually spent quite a bit of money trying to learn as much as I could, and there’s always way more to learn than you originally think that there is. I probably ended up going down that rabbit hole deeper than I should have, quite frankly, but I ended up coming out the other side really quite knowledgeable about Facebook marketing, Facebook advertising, and marketing in general, and I started doing my own marketing.
Last year we were able to successfully market our live workshops through Facebook Ads, and I was getting people coming to my workshops for a fraction of the cost of the mailers. We were still doing mailers last year, and I was using the Facebook Ads kind of in conjunction with the mailers side by side as a fill-in. So, for example, just to give you some numbers, for our mailers, let’s say it costs between $100 and $150 roughly per registrant, or per attendee. When I was doing the Facebook Ads, with some trial and error of course, eventually we got it down to roughly $25 to $30 per registrant. So, pretty cost effective.
Transitioning from live to webinar
I did a variety of topics. Typically Social Security, along with taxes and retirement. I also did some workshops on general retirement income planning, as well as a general annuity type workshop. On average we’d have somewhere between 20 and 40 households. They were classroom-style workshops; we weren’t doing dinner stuff.
I was just getting to the point early this year where I was going to start transitioning to strictly digital advertising. I was going to get rid of the mailers, and go strictly with the digital ads for our live workshops. Then, obviously, the pandemic hit, and live workshops basically just went cold, stopped all together. I had to basically relearn something new, and we started doing our webinars. Now we’ve been doing webinars since April. It was a new dynamic, a whole new learning curve, but that’s kind of where we’re at.
Initially the first webinars I did I kind of created a new workshop for it, a new kind of topic. It was “5 Steps to Surviving in This Post-Pandemic World,” just talking about things to look for, to maintain your budget, to create an income stream, do risk analysis and all that stuff. What to do in this environment that we’re in. The webinar was roughly 45 minutes in length, and initially we were getting registrants for pretty cheap, actually, $10–$15 per registrant. Since then the costs have creeped up, because there’s more people getting into that space, and more people doing webinars. It’s getting a lot more crowded now.
Challenges of digital presentations
What I found was a slightly different dynamic compared to doing live workshops. So, for example, the number of people that would actually show up to the live webinars wasn’t altogether that different than a live workshop, it was roughly about a 50% show rate. It’s kind of what you would expect, but the appointment ratio was definitely lower with the webinars. Whereas with a live workshop you could probably expect to get somewhere between 25% and 50% of the attendees to book an appointment with you, with webinars it’s roughly between 10% and 20%. And this is not just my experience, it’s from talking to many other people.
That’s one of the challenges. The other challenge is once you do book an appointment with someone, if they’re not willing to come into the office and meet me in person, the challenge is to build that trust factor with that prospect virtually. Again, I’ve talked to a lot of people, and other advisors seem to be running into the same issues. It’s much more difficult to get somebody to cross over to the other side and become a client, and divulge all their information, and hand over assets, when they’re not meeting you in person and they’re not building that personal relationship with you in person.
Right now I’m in the process of creating two new workshops. One of them is just a traditional Social Security/Medicare type workshop. It’s the same workshop we did when we were doing the live ones, except I’m in the process of shortening it down to about a 45-minute presentation. Traditionally my live workshops were two hours long but you’re not going to get somebody to sit for two hours in front of their screen and listen to you, for the most part. You need 45 minutes to an hour, tops.
The other topic, which I think is very timely and I have created a PowerPoint for, is five steps to take when you are either retiring, going to retire, or getting laid off. I think in the current environment with the economy being what it is and everything, there’s going to be some people that are going to be either laid off or taking early retirement.
Using Facebook Ads
I have not had success with boosting Facebook posts, so I went with Facebook Advertising. If you know anything about Facebook marketing, you know that there are different objectives when you are running ads. I’m primarily using the conversion objective, optimizing for conversions.
That means you have to go through the process of creating your “pixel,” and then installing your pixel on the “thank you page” when somebody registers for your event so that Facebook knows somebody came from your ad and registered for your class. You’re basically allowing the Facebook algorithm to learn about your ads, about you, about your customers, and telling it to then go out and get more customers like those ones that have already registered.
I’m using the conversion tool, and what I’ve found to be most successful is using an information type approach in my ads. It’s not just like, “Hey, we’re holding a workshop,” or, “Hey, come to this free workshop and learn about this, this, and that.” When I’m running ads, I’m actually giving significant value in the ad talking about tips and tricks, whether it’s Social Security or taxation, and actually giving them real information that I might give a paying client.
From there I’m basically saying, “If this is important to you and you want to know more, I’m holding a workshop that’s going to talk a lot more about this. Go and click this link to sign up.” That’s the formula that I’ve found to be most successful. You want to lead with value.
Don’t look like an ad
I use videos of myself, I’m doing the talking, I’m giving information. By doing that they’re seeing me in their newsfeed, they’re seeing my face, and then they’ll know what to expect when they’re coming to either a live workshop or a webinar. They’ve already seen me in the ad probably several times. It helps with the appointment ratio, because they’re already familiar with you.
The videos are roughly two minutes to three minutes. That’s pretty much all you need. I pull out my phone and selfie stick to shoot it. The more raw the better because it looks like a regular ad. The more your ad doesn’t look like an ad, the better.
I do have a tool called ClipScribe where you can upload your videos and it’ll put them inside of a larger frame where you could put a headline up top, and at the bottom have captions. This way if somebody is scrolling through their newsfeed with the volume off, they still understand. I know Facebook does that too, but with ClipScribe the captions are larger and within a colored box, and it’s easier to read. It just looks different. Honestly, I’m thinking of going back to just using the raw video, because it looks more like a regular post.
You’ve got to know what words you can say and not say. If you’re using words like “coronavirus,” for example, your ad’s going to get flagged. I’ve actually talked to people who got their whole ad account canceled for using certain words. For example, if you use the word “you” too often in a Facebook Ad it’ll get flagged, and it’ll stop running. It’s kind of a trial and error. You have to learn little by little what’s acceptable and what’s not.
Segmenting an audience by geography, age, and income
I’m familiar with the Lookalike Audience, but I have not actually used it yet. That might be something that I look at down the road, but honestly I’ve just kept it simple. All I’ve done with my audience is target a geographic area around my office, a 15-mile radius. You can choose your demographics by age and by income. Obviously I’m targeting the top 50% of zip codes by income and people 55 and up. There are plenty of people in that 15-mile radius that I could advertise to. I’ve kept it as simple as that, and basically just let the Facebook algorithm optimize according to what’s in my ad.
There are retargeting strategies that you could do in Facebook. If somebody watches a certain percentage of your video you could retarget those people, or if somebody likes your post or something like that. It’s funny, but what I found is although that’s available, the Facebook algorithm kind of already does that for you. I always find the same people liking my ads, and commenting on my ads over and over, even though I’m not really retargeting them. What happens is the algorithm knows if somebody watches your ad, and then they’ll just keep showing those people your content over and over every time you put something out. So, I’ve kind of relied on that. It’s made life easier for me, it’s kind of simplified things for me.
Integrating WebinarJam and Facebook Ads
The call to action is asking them to click a link, and it’ll take them to a registration page. For the webinars I’ve been using a tool called WebinarJam. There’s so many webinar platforms out there, that’s just the one that I’m using. WebinarJam has made it easy for someone to create a landing page, and a thank you page. They’re basically templates where you just pick which one you want out of several to choose from. Then it populates all the information about your webinar, the date, the time and all that. You basically take the link and put it in your ad, and then when they click on that link it’ll take them to the registration page, they register right there, and then that’s it.
And then they’ll get reminders as the webinar date approaches. You set up in WebinarJam when you want the reminders to go out—a day before, and then two hours before, and then 15 minutes before, for example. You could set as many reminders as you want, you pick what frequency and how much time before the actual event. You set those up ahead of time and then they’ll automatically go out, and it’ll look like they’re coming from you even though they’re coming from WebinarJam. They’ve made it real easy. That’s why I like that system.
So they’re clicking on the link, they’re registering, they’re taken to a thank you page which has your Facebook Pixel. There’s a section for that in your webinar set up, and it’s pretty simple.
Use the offer button
WebinarJam looks like Zoom. You upload your PowerPoint, and that’s what attendees see on their screen. You could opt to have your video in a little box at the bottom or the top, so they see you at the same time that they’re looking at your PowerPoint. You can include little polls throughout to keep things interesting. I do invite them to type their questions in the chat box, and then time permitting I’ll take a couple of them and address them towards the end.
One difference is there is a very important offer button that you want to incorporate during the webinar for them to take the next step. The whole point of it is for them to book a call with you, and so that’s what the offer button is for. Towards the end of the presentation I’ll make an offer for a 15-minute phone call, and when they click on that it gets sent over to my Calendly and they can book an appointment right on my calendar.
As far as the 15-minute phone calls, it’s hit or miss, to be honest. The whole point of that 15 minute call is to basically see if they’re a fit. If they just have a question about Social Security or whatever and they’re not a fit from a financial perspective, or you can just tell that they’re not interested, that’s an opportunity for you to basically answer their question and move on.
It’s different from the live workshops, where the call to action is to sign up for a one-hour consultation in person in the office, and obviously you can’t really do that at a webinar. Well, we couldn’t do that because of the shutdown, number one, but number two, it seems like a bigger step to have a one-hour in-person consultation coming from a webinar compared to when they’ve been sitting with you live in-person for two hours. You just need that baby step, which is just the nonthreatening 15-minute phone call.
A detailed financial planning first meeting
In the 15-minute phone call, if I deem somebody to be a fit, and there’s a rapport and all that, I will then sell the full consultation and tell them what they’re going to get. In our initial consultation with prospects, we’re giving a ton of value. We’re actually pulling out our planning software and kind of giving them a full picture of where they’re at. I mean, I probably give people more in that initial free consultation than a lot of advisors. They bring their information to the meeting, and we’re actually pulling out our software and plugging numbers in right then right there with them. That has been very, very, very, very, very successful. It’s the whole “lead with value” approach applied to the initial consultation.
It has led to clients saying, “OK, well, what’s the next step? What do we do from here?” They’re basically doing the close. I’ve taken that process to Zoom, we’ve done the same thing, and it’s worked. Obviously in a one-hour meeting there’s not enough time to finish everything. So you leave it hanging a little bit, and there’s an incentive to come back to revisit it and take the next step. That’s what we’ve done, and usually people are signing up to become a client on the second meeting. They’ve already seen what you do in the first meeting, they’ve had enough time between the first meeting and the second meeting to digest that.
We’re working with a client right now, in fact, that we met entirely through Facebook advertising, and had a Zoom meeting which led to a second Zoom meeting where they signed up to be a client. They’ve gone through that process, they’ve signed up to be a client, they’ve signed a planning agreement, they paid a planning fee, and we’re in the process now of moving assets with them right now. This is a $5 million client.
Previous workshop attendees becoming clients
There have been a couple of those, but I wouldn’t say there’s been a ton. It is a harder transition when you only have 15%–20% people taking you up on your initial 15-minute phone call in the first place. Then only a small percentage of those are going to be a fit. So although the cost of acquiring a webinar attendee is lower, it also takes a lot more people to actually gain a client.
Now, I will say I had several more clients that have come through Facebook advertising, but they were prior workshop attendees. So, they came to a prior live workshop, didn’t sign up for an appointment there, but then saw my Facebook Ad for the webinar, signed up for that, and then set up an appointment. There have been a ton more of those clients than people who have never seen me before and all of a sudden sign up for my webinar.
When we were doing the live workshops, we did a series of three, always leading with the Social Security, and then the second workshop would typically be taxes and retirement, and then the third workshop we would rotate. Sometimes it would be retirement income planning, sometimes it would be annuities, or some other topic like that. But always having a series of three. Most people would sign up for at least two of those three, and some of them for all three, and we found if somebody went to all three classes, they typically would sign up for an appointment. I’ve seen through my own experience that having three different topics or three different types of webinars or presentations definitely will work.
Webinars and Facebook Ads here to stay
Currently, at the end of July, we have limitations on a number of people that could be at an indoor gathering. Quite frankly, I just think that people are going to think twice about coming to an event where they know there’s going to be 40 or 50 people there. I know I would. So, webinars are here to stay.
One of the positive aspects of webinars, especially with Facebook advertising, is you could use a smaller budget. You could use as small of a budget as you want. Whereas with mailers, it’s not really easy to do small budgets. You’ve got to send out 5,000 or 7,500 mailers and you’re spending four or five grand.
With Facebook, with webinars, you could spend between $500 and $1,000 and have smaller events, and at the same time you’re working out the kinks in your presentation and your process and your advertising. It’s allowing you to get in front of people, keep things going, and keep business going until things get better. That’s how I plan to use the webinars going forward. Not to have this huge growth, but to keep the pipeline going, and wait for things to get better.