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  • Writer's pictureRebecca Hourihan

How Do You Differentiate?

As a retirement plan professional, is it important to advertise?

“A man wakes up in the morning after sleeping on an advertised bed, in advertised pajamas. He will bathe in an advertised tub, wash with an advertised soap, shave with an advertised shaving cream, eat a breakfast of advertised cereal, put on advertised clothing, and glance at his advertised watch. He will ride to work in an advertised car, and listen to advertisements on the radio. Yet this man hesitates to advertise, saying that advertising does not pay. Finally when his unadvertised business goes under, he will advertise it for sale.”

Many of us have heard this story before, and while we understand that it is true, we still hesitate when we think about marketing. Right now your business may offer the best retirement plan services in the entire world, but without marketing - none of your potential clients know about it!

Sea of Same

Is it reasonable to expect a plan sponsor to realize that “financial advisor” and “investment advisor” are not the same?[1]

Did you know that 91% of advisors who work with retirement plans are accommodating the business owner?[2] That means that 9 out of 10 retirement plans are being advised by Two Plan Tony’s.[3] In other words, retirement plan experts are losing 91% of their business to advisors who don’t understand fee reasonableness, the benefits of automatic plan features, or broker of record education vs. fiduciary advice.

In a recent interview with Alan Gross, President & CEO of GSM Marketing, he explained, “It’s fair to assume that business owners may not understand the difference between a financial advisor, investment advisor or retirement plan advisor. The challenge and opportunity facing retirement plan-focused professionals is to communicate their role and value. Those who invest in thoughtfully growing their brand and reputation by sharing ideas and knowledge through consistent marketing efforts stand the best chance to differentiate and grow.”

If retirement plan professionals do not advertise, then how will plan sponsors understand that a financial advisor and a retirement plan advisor are different? The answer is, they won’t!

Get the Word Out

Only through advertising, marketing, and the education of plan sponsors, will companies learn the benefits of a retirement plan advisor. It may seem obvious and trivial, but marketing and advertising are two of the most important things you can do for your business.

Here are 4 ideas to implement today that will help you get the word out:

  • Update Your Website – Surprisingly, most retirement plan advisors do not promote their expertise on their website. On your homepage add some language about how you support plan sponsors.

  • Talk to Centers of Influence – Schedule coffee meetings with attorneys, benefit advisors, CPAs, and other COIs, then share how you help plans sponsors with their fiduciary responsibility, investment committee processes, and also how you engage participants to reach towards retirement readiness.

  • Create a Plan Sponsor Brochure – As a specialized advisor, your marketing should promote your plan sponsor and participant services. It shouldn’t be cookie-cutter, borrowed language from generalists, but rather something unique that fits your brand.

  • Host a Plan Sponsor Event – There is so much going on right now, from Tibble vs. Edison to the new definition of fiduciary to the importance of plan governance, and a million other in-betweens. This is a great opportunity to gather plan sponsors and talk about why they should work with a professional.

These are just a few ideas on how you could promote your retirement plan expertise. For more marketing tips and shortcuts, check out our upcoming webinar: 9 Marketing Hacks.

Improving Plan Results

There is a real need for retirement plan professionals and plan sponsors should be aware of the results. Some of those benefits include:

70% of plan sponsors working with “Professional Retirement Plan Advisors, observe that 50% or more of their participants are on track to achieve a successful retirement.”[4]

83% of clients have seen average employee deferral rates improve over the last two years[5]

Nearly 75% of plans that partner with a Professional Retirement Plan Advisor have experienced participant deferral increases of 4% or more and 1/3 of plan sponsors reported an increase of 6% or more![6]

As a retirement plan professional, we hope you create a strong brand presence and promote your expertise. Because, as you can see, plan sponsors that partner with professionals see an incredible difference that inspires retirement readiness. At the end of the day, isn’t that the point of a company’s retirement plan – allowing the participants to retire?

Thanks for reading and Happy Marketing!

About 401(k) Marketing

We believe the retirement plan industry can do better. Our clients are the best professional retirement plan advisors and TPAs in the business. They care deeply about saving America’s retirement future. We are proud to share their voices through industry writings, professionally-designed marketing materials (including websites), and expert content collateral. We lend support by promoting businesses through ongoing awareness campaigns.

About Retirement Plan Marketing

Retirement Plan Marketing is a product of 401(k) Marketing and is an ongoing turnkey marketing solution for retirement plan advisors. It is an easy-to-follow, consistent marketing program designed to get you noticed in your community and generate new retirement plan sales. When you deliver relevant plan sponsor content, you add value to your conversations and can work your way up to become known as the “go-to” retirement plan advisory office.


[1] Winiecki, Kurt. "401(k) Plan Sponsors Moving Toward Fiduciary Help." SHRM, 14 May 2014.

[2] "Nine in 10 Registered Investment Advisors Simply “Accommodating” Retirement Plan Business." Fidelity Institutional Wealth Services, 20 Mar. 2014.

[3] We, at 401(k) Marketing, greatly dislike this term. Yet, it is important to note that the retirement plan industry takes years to learn. It’s challenging to agree that advisors with less than 2 retirement plans and who not focus on the 401(k) industry have the qualified skill, education, and fiduciary training to provide prudent, consistent, and holistic industry knowledge to their retirement plan clients.

[4] EACH Enterprise, LLC. The Value of a Professional Retirement Plan Advisor. 2014.

[5] EACH Enterprise, LLC. The Value of a Professional Retirement Plan Advisor. 2014.

[6] EACH Enterprise, LLC. The Value of a Professional Retirement Plan Advisor. 2014.

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