He was harder to shake than a lamppost and half as bright. Another financial advisor spouting out his expertise into the phone before I'd even downed my first cup of java. I didn't know the guy from Adam and he sure as heck didn't know me. Nonetheless, he droned on until my patience expired, forcing a polite but stern, "thanks but no thanks," followed by a hope-ending click.
Later that week, I attended my fifth Media & Technology CEO Summit put on by my friends Tom Livaccari (left in photo) and Ken Shapiro, two UBS financial advisors who are about as far from the cold-calling yacker as you can get. Long-time proponents of the approach I call Marketing as Service, The Livaccari Shapiro Wealth Management Group offers a textbook case on growing your business by selling less and doing more.
Know your Niche
For Marketing as Service programs to be effective, it's essential to have a tightly defined target to whom you can deliver a meaningful benefit. Having been entrepreneurs themselves in the '90s, it's not surprising that Livaccari and Shapiro decided to focus their practice on advising entrepreneurs and CEOs of Internet, media and tech companies. Remembering the unique issues these entrepreneurs faced, Shapiro noted, "We always wished we could find an advisor that would in essence partner with us."
Since Marketing as Service programs can be costly, start small and build from success. When Livaccari and Shapiro first realized they could help their clients by bringing them together, they started with a roundtable discussion among a few CEOs facing the same issues. The program grew quickly. Reported Shapiro, "They found [the events] so valuable that [attendees] suggested other CEOs that they thought could benefit from similar discussions in the future."
Vary the Value Add
At the core of every successful Marketing as Service program is something of genuine value to the target. For Livaccari and Shapiro, the value to their prospects and customers is more than just useful information. Explained Shapiro, "Clients tell us that these summits have helped them stimulate meaningful ideas, make valuable connections and in one case even initiated a conversation with a party that later acquired their company."
Rely on Relevance
One of the more obvious aspects of Marketing as Service is the benefit of pinpoint relevance to everyone concerned. "Because the content and the other participants in these events are so relevant to our clients and prospects' lives we find they are eager to join us," added Shapiro. "This leads to these events being excellent ice breakers, which enable people to experience first-hand our consultative and value-added approach."
Differentiate by Doing
The essential notion behind Marketing as Service is the fair exchange of value between buyer and seller, during which the seller earns the trust of the buyer by doing something meaningful instead of just talking about how good they are. "These events are an excellent way for us to provide prospects a window into the way that we interact with clients, put their needs first and help them with a wide array of issues that are not commonly addressed by others in our field."
Triumph with Trust
It is the mandate of any form of marketing to build trust. Without trust, there is simply no brand, especially in the financial services arena. Marketing as Service programs like Livaccari and Shapiro's CEO Summits are particularly good at building trust. "From these events prospects often begin a dialogue with us regarding whichever matter is most pressing to them, and over time this often leads to them becoming a client as they gain comfort with us, our approach and our thought process."
Extend your Engagements
Done correctly, Marketing as Service programs offer unique opportunities for meaningful engagement that go well beyond a specific event. With the goal of being recognized as "uncommon partners," Livaccari and Shapiro have built a community of likeminded CEOs who are thus positively inclined to share what they've learned. "We know that as long as we put our clients' needs first then over time they become our best sales force as they share with their friends the positive experience they have had."
Final Note: Having been in their client's shoes, Livaccari and Shapiro have built a successful practice by simply doing what they wish others had done for them when they were entrepreneurs. Its not rocket science. Just smart marketing. For more insights on their approach, see the Q&A with Shapiro on TheDrewBlog.com.