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  • Writer's pictureRebecca Hourihan

What Are the Essential Tools You Need to Compete in Today’s 401(k) Marketplace?


Back in the day, I was a young financial advisor. Like many new advisors, I was struggling, and my mentor saw my pain and wanted to help. He suggested that I target 401(k) retirement plans. And that is exactly what I did. We then bought a list of names and I went through each one--one-call-at-a-time.

Now, thinking back, there was one particular phone conversation that still stands out today. It was around July 10th and the call went something like this:

Me: “Hi, this is Rebecca and I’m calling from [broker/dealer firm] to talk about your company’s retirement plan.”

Plan Sponsor Prospect: “Thanks for calling. We’re a TPA, and as you know, this time of year preparing 5500s is really busy. Could you call back after the deadline?”

Me: “Absolutely, I completely understand. Thanks for your time and I’ll call back next week.”

Now, this is the part that stands out. I called that TPA back and got voicemail, and this is what I said:

Me: “Hi Bill, it was nice speaking with you last week. This is Rebecca and I’m calling from [broker/dealer firm]. I hope you completed all of those five thousand five hundred forms. We specialize in retirement plans and would like to schedule some time to meet with you.”

For all the retirement plan experts reading this, I hope you caught my two bullseye blunders! Epic fail.

Now, this brings me to the point of today’s article, which is that retirement plans are a complex market. Twenty years ago, retirement plans were the Wild West. It was a new and developing marketing – prime for newcomers and entrepreneurial cowboys. However, just like the West was conquered, and thus matured, so has the retirement plan industry. Additionally, plan sponsor education has evolved, and the buying community is much savvier than ever before – and this is a good thing!

Today, we are going to talk about the professional retirement plan office and the necessary tools to win and to stay competitive in tomorrow’s business world.


1. Brand Basics

To operate a professional retirement plan office, you need the following brand basics to communicate your value to the modern plan sponsor:

  • Your Process Described

  • Logo

  • Stationery (letterhead, envelopes)

  • Business cards

  • Brochure(s)

  • One Sheets

  • Service Calendar

  • Pitchbook

  • Website

  • Social Media Profile

2. Education

If you want to excel in the 401(k) industry, it’s a best practice to learn about it. Below are three ideas to demonstrate your commitment:

  • Licenses (ex. 6, 7, 63, 65, 66)

  • Designations (ex. AIF®, PPC™, C(k)P, CRPS®, to name a few)

  • Industry Conferences (ex. PANC, Excel401(k), NAPA)

3. 401k Advisor Tools

Between mutual funds, collectives, stable value, index funds, and other investment offerings, there are over 50,000 options in the investment universe – 50,000! As an advisor, how are you going to prudently, methodically, and purposely narrow that down to select a list of 21 investments?[1] In addition to investment monitoring, what about plan design, fee reasonableness, fiduciary file documentation, financial wellness, and other very important plan attributes? You need appropriate retirement plan tools. Some examples of providers who offer excellent retirement plan resources include:

  • Asset International

  • Boulevard R

  • Brightscope

  • Center for Fiduciary Management

  • fi360

  • Fiduciary Benchmarks

  • Financial Finesse

  • Infinata

  • Judy Diamond

  • Larkspur Data

  • Retirement Plan Advisory Group

That’s just a few and you don’t need to explicitly subscribe to each tool. However, to genuinely excel in this industry, you will need working knowledge of each one, and, depending on our clients need – access to all. Thankfully, many DCIO and product providers offer these tools at little to no cost.

Today, the retirement plan industry is changing faster than ever before. For example, the new Tibble vs. Edison ruling, the re-proposed definition of fiduciary, and the growing need for holistic financial wellness.

We hope that we provided you with a roadmap for retirement plan success, as well as information on the complexities of the industry. These three (3) foundation elements will help to professionalize your retirement plan practice. Thanks for reading and check back next time for more ideas, brand building tips, and also, look at our upcoming webinars to help you to win and to stay competitive in tomorrow’s business world.

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] Not a recommendation. This is the average number of retirement plan investments according to the 2014 PLANSPONSR Survey, All Industries, Industry Reports.

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