• Rebecca Hourihan

From Sea to Shining Sea: How to Communicate With Small Business Owners and Earn New Plans


Throughout our great nation, we have over 30 million[1] small businesses that employ over 34%[2] of the American workforce. Those businesses equate for over 44% of GDP[3] and as many campaigning politicians tout, they are the “backbone of America.”


If 93% of plans use an advisor[4] – an all-time record – then how can you unseat the incumbent and earn new plan business? Especially in a time when we are going through a pandemic, a presidential election, and stock market volatility? Let us share some lessons learned from our experience.


We built this country on…

This summer, we completed a cross-country road trip totaling over 9,500 miles. Our journey took us through the desserts of the American southwest, up the Eastern seaboard to Niagara Falls, west to Mount Rushmore, over and through the Rockies, and then we parked safely back home in San Diego.


As we traveled from small town to big city, through endless corn fields and picturesque farms, up and down mountain ranges, there was always one constant – small businesses.


I saw the sign and it opened up my eyes

From billboards, local magazines, and restaurant placemats, we saw advertisements for small businesses that supported their local economy. As we passed each new state line, I couldn’t help but wonder, how can advisors communicate their value and explain to employers why they need to hire a retirement plan expert?


Life is a highway

From what we saw staring out the windshield, talking with locals, and asking seemingly odd questions – because talking about retirement plans after meeting a person for 10 minutes is generally considered odd – people were open to sharing. Here’s what I found:

  • Reading newsletters: Whether printed or emailed, employers appreciate newsletters. They like to have something to read that keeps them informed. They like consolidated information. Then if they have questions, they know who to ask or they can do independent research.

  • Scrolling through social media: They like passive scrolling through Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Not much posting going on. But they do read what other people post about – like pictures, memes, videos, graphics, and other quick bursts of edutainment.

  • Friendly introductions: Most people have a “guy” who does their “financial stuff.” However, they are open to learning other ideas. Most of the time they have a deep loyalty to this person. So, to change advisors, there needs to be an issue.

This means that as a required marketing baseline, your firm should be sending out a regular newsletter, posting on social media, and encouraging centers of influence and clients for introductions. These three marketing items are going to help you keep existing clients and gain awareness of new prospects.


Big wheels keep on turning

On a daily basis, small business owners seamlessly toggle between clients, prospecting, sales, management, finance, operations, and sometimes even janitorial activities. Every day is an opportunity to go as planned or for a wild ride. The lesson is that when you have the attention of the employer, you need to maximize their time.

To earn new business, create and share content that focuses on answering these questions:

  • What should the employer know? And why?

  • What should they do about it?

  • How can you help them handle/address this topic?

Here is an example:

Stock Market Volatility

  • What should the employer know? And why?

  • Historically, the stock market has tended to rise over time, even with setbacks. With that in mind, it’s important to help your employees focus on their long-term retirement savings goals rather than reacting to short-term market fluctuations.

  • What should they do about it?

  • Employers should consider sharing market insights and commentary explaining market volatility and educate employees on how they can focus on their overall financial picture.

  • How can you help them handle/address this topic?


You can help by providing market insights and commentary that explains market volatility. Share content such as newsletters, blog articles, research reports, data supported infographics, and videos. This will help the employer educate their plan participants. In addition, make yourself available to answer questions through webinars, live broadcasts, and virtual meetings to provide more resources and support.


Use your marketing content as a platform to educate small business owners. When your message is meaningful to them, their business, retirement plan and employees, they will find the time to read your content. Seek to share information that focuses on the business owner’s challenges and provides ideas that position you as the solution.


Oh beautiful, for spacious skies

Among the advisors who have a consistent marketing process to share timely, relevant, and topical information with their clients, prospects, and centers of influence, you are standing out and differentiating your firm as qualified experts – great job! As we enter this selling season, the opportunities are endless.

Take this time to look at your contact list and identify your warm prospects. Then invite them (via email) to a (virtual) meeting. And when they say “yes”, we hope to see you smiling from sea to shining sea.


Thanks for reading and Happy Marketing!



About Us

401(k) Marketing is the modern marketing agency for the retirement plan industry. We are proud to support our clients through custom engagements, content marketing campaigns, sales material innovations, thought-leadership consulting, interactive workshops and speaking events. Our mission is to empower the retirement plan industry with high-quality marketing, ultimately inspiring Americans to become financially prepared for their future.


Retirement Plan Marketing is the solution for retirement plan advisors looking for an ongoing and scalable marketing process to generate awareness, streamline sales opportunities and earn more 401(k) business. This comprehensive, strategy driven marketing program includes digital content and sales material specifically designed to help retirement plan professionals attract the right decision makers.


[1] Mohsin, Maryam. “10 Small Business Statistics You Need to Know in 2020 [May 2020].” Oberlo, Oberlo, 8 July 2020. [2] Gaetano, Chris. “More Americans Work At Big Firms Than Small Ones.” NYSSCPA, NY's Society of CPAs, 4 May 2020. [3] Office of Advocacy. “Small Businesses Generate 44 Percent of U.S. Economic Activity.” SBA's Office of Advocacy, 30 Jan. 2019. [4] Sergeant, Jacqueline. “93% Of Retirement Plan Sponsors, A Record, Now Work With Advisors.” Financial Advisor, 28 Aug. 2019.