When Anthony Nicholas Goebel, LUTCF, first started his company seven years ago, he felt like he was Harry Potter.
Not because he was casting spells on anyone. Quite the contrary — it’s because he was living in a room underneath the stairs after having to rent out his house to pay the bills.
“I made nothing for six months,” recalled the six-year MDRT member from Eldorado, Wisconsin. “I sold a brand-new Nissan Altima and drove a $1,500 car because I needed money for my company.”
Obviously a lot has changed for Goebel, who now works with 500 companies on their group benefits plans (with expectations to add 100 more each year). While there have been many keys to his success, the overarching theme comes back to marketing strategy, even though only 5% of his total budget goes toward marketing. This is how Goebel has mastered the art of generating new clients and keeping them happy:
“You don’t have a premier steak shop serving you food on a plastic plate,” Goebel said. “What’s $50 to give to a client who’s helping you earn $10,000?” That’s another way of explaining why he moved away from offering new and valued clients cheap T-shirts and mugs — items even his family members didn’t want.
Now he provides company- branded North Face jackets and proposals contained in leather binders, all part of a welcome packet. (He buys the North Face jackets in bulk at the outlet mall.)
In addition, when birthday cards are sent to company decision-makers, they include a $10 Starbucks gift card, an inexpensive way of doing more than the client expects.
Goebel also makes sure that, if company ownership changes, the new owner is immediately added to the birthday list and receives the welcome kit as well. “If you’re not interacting with that owner immediately, you’re going to lose them,” he said.
You don’t have a premier steak shop serving you food on a plastic plate. What’s $50 to give to a client who’s helping you earn $10,000?
Goebel used to believe it would be easier, better and faster to partner with other strategic partners to generate new business and trade referrals. But not only did he recognize the need to target his ideal clients directly (“being a hunter rather than a gatherer”), he also saw how referral relationships could be complicated.
In one case, a referral partner sent him a client who sought to take Goebel’s ideas to his current advisor, so Goebel then declined to share his findings of the savings he could generate.
“The client got upset and told my referral partner, and now the partner doesn’t work with us anymore because I protected my ideas,” Goebel said. “I don’t feel I should advise someone who’s not a client of mine. It was a wake-up call that I should be doing this myself.”
A self-described “go big or go home” guy, Goebel holds what he calls client workshops at Lambeau Field, home of National Football League organization the Green Bay Packers. He rents the floor above the stadium’s atrium level, provides clients an opportunity to do a tour and might even have one of the team’s coaches appear briefly.
For the workshop itself, rather than just featuring representatives from his own company, Goebel might bring in, for example, speakers about HR and wellness, and how to keep health costs down. “People have done webinars that are cheaper and easier to do, but we found seminars with another credible source have been more effective for us,” he said.
Even better: raising money to fully fund the events through sponsorships. When Goebel tells potential sponsors such as hospital systems, health plan carriers and disability carriers they can get in front of hundreds of companies in their market all at once, it’s not a tough sell.
Quite simply, Goebel doesn’t believe in marketing consultants. His company makes its own content and focuses on the direct impact they have had for existing clients. For example: mailings that identify how much money was saved, with a picture of the client holding a big check for that amount and a note explaining what happened.
“You’ll be surprised how many people know other people,” Goebel said. “Whenever we send those out, we get calls saying, ‘I didn’t know you helped [that person].’” Goebel says it costs just $1,500 to hire a printer to send out 2,500 mailers, yielding new business with about 10 companies.
It’s no secret that investing in people can be a great way to grow your business. But Goebel learned that going from a staff of one to a staff of six is too quick an increase, both because of the short-term financial hit to the company and required training for employees who weren’t experienced enough to hit the ground running.
Now working with a more seasoned team of 14, Goebel has seen his assistant’s responsibilities grow to resemble more of an HR role, and others chip in as well to identify who to market to and how. The idea is to create multifaceted employees and sustain marketing efforts as a team-oriented, long-term play.
“A lot of people are way too aggressive asking for a meeting 100 times,” Goebel said. “I have companies I have emailed or visited for four years, and all of a sudden they meet with me because their agent left and I’m the next logical guy and they switch.”
They think he’s persistent, polite and not pushy.
“No one else is marketing as extensively and persistently as I am,” he said. “That’s what I’ve found: I can build a relationship with my marketing.”