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  • Writer's pictureRebecca Hourihan

Witnessing the Plan Advisor Journey of Continuity and Change

There's something sad, sweet, and savory about reaching significant milestones. They serve as a reflective mirror, allowing us to pause on the path behind us and to look forward toward the journey that lies ahead. As I recently turned 40, a milestone that stung a bit, it also brought along a sense of profound gratitude. After all, many friends shared that their 40s were their favorite decade, and so I'm excited to see what this new chapter holds.

Another milestone that we're celebrating this year is the 10th anniversary of 401(k) Marketing. It all began with a simple question, "What do you do for your marketing?" This sparked the idea of creating a full-service marketing agency dedicated to retirement plan professionals. It's astonishing how fast time flies. It feels like yesterday when we started, yet sometimes it feels like an eternity ago.

These dual milestones offer a unique opportunity to reflect on the journey and share some of the key changes and constants we've witnessed in retirement plan marketing.

The Power of Communication

Throughout the years, one thing that hasn't changed is the importance of communication. Whether it's a simple quarterly client newsletter or a robust automated weekly sequence, effective communication remains at the heart of top retirement plan advisor’s service model. Over the years, the topics have ranged from 408(b)2 fee benchmarking and plan design education to financial wellness resources. However, the message's mission—its clarity, relevance, and value—remains steadfast.

Embracing Change With Courage

Change can be intimidating. It requires us to scrutinize current practices—pipeline campaigns, onboarding processes, client services, plus more—and be willing to adapt. It takes courage to identify areas for improvement and even more to follow through. But the reward? A stronger, more efficient, and more impactful retirement plan business.

The Difference Between Internet Time vs. Real Time

While the internet has made everything seem achievable at the click of a button, it's crucial to remember that quality work still takes time. Projects require concentration, selection, feedback, and abundant communication. The convenience of AI and digital tools shouldn't lead us to underestimate the effort behind successful initiatives.

Visibility in the Digital Age

In today's digital age, you can't be in sales and remain a secret. It’s imperative for 401(k) advisors to establish a visible online presence. With most prospects turning to the internet for information, your visibility online directly impacts your success in attracting and retaining clients. Your website, social media profiles, and other digital platforms need to be easily discoverable and clearly articulate how you can support retirement plan clients. By being present and active online, you not only enhance your credibility and reach, but you also demonstrate your commitment to meeting the evolving needs of your clients in an increasingly digital world.

Navigating the Social Media Merry-Go-Round

Social media is no longer an optional form of communication. It has revolutionized how we communicate in business and how we build professional relationships. However, standing out amidst the noise and mastering the ever-changing algorithms can feel like trying to jump onto a spinning merry-go-round. Despite the challenges, it's a playground we cannot ignore. After all, only 1% of people produce and share content on LinkedIn weekly, leaving a staggering 99% of users watching from the sidelines. Jumping on and staying on might be hard, but it's worth the ride.

Feeding the Visual Appetite

A decade ago, we were bombarded with 5,000 advertisements a day. Today, that number has doubled, underscoring the need for visually appealing materials to satiate today's digital appetite. Your content isn't just competing with other businesses—it's vying for attention amongst 10,000 daily distractions.

Simplicity Instead of Information Overload

Despite the internet's unlimited resources, people are still people. We thrive on digestible, bite-sized information. This holds true for plan sponsors who need to understand their plan options and for employees grappling with retirement planning. From a content perspective, employees still prefer simple yet powerful concepts like the power of compounding, Roth vs. Pre-tax, and budgeting basics.

As retirement plan advisors, you should strive to educate, simplify, and develop deeper conversations. Seek to deliver content that demystifies the complex world of 401(k) plans and offers clear, actionable insights.

The Convergence of Wealth and Retirement

There's a fascinating evolution unfolding in our industry. When the Pension Protection Act (PPA) of 2006 was passed, it triggered a wave of wealth management advisors setting up retirement plans for their business owner clients. As fiduciary services—specifically 3(21) and 3(38)—gained traction, the landscape shifted towards specialist advisors designated to service retirement plans.

Now, we're witnessing another shift. With state-mandated IRAs, SECURE 2.0 requirements, institutional fiduciaries, PEPs, fee compression, and enhanced employee data, the tide is turning once again. The retirement plan industry is adopting a hybrid approach where wealth managers and retirement plan advisors are working together. This convergence aims to offer comprehensive solutions to both employers and employees, seeking to enhance retirement confidence.

The Power of Personalization

In an age where people can customize everything from their coffee orders to their streaming playlists, the demand for personalized experiences has started to emerge within retirement plans. Tomorrow’s retirement plan clients will expect advice that is tailored to their unique circumstances and goals. Advisors who can deliver this level of service will stand out in RFPs as a true differentiator.

Process Leads to Profitability

Establishing a repeatable and scalable process can boost profitability. That could mean subscribing to investment monitoring software, buttoning up CRM input data, using a finalist presentation template to organizing internal file naming conventions, all of it increases internal organization, which reduces scatter time and leads to increased profitability.

Operating under constant fire drills not only drains resources but also wastes talent and money. It's a stressful approach that can lead to burnout and decreased productivity.

This is where the power of a business plan can provide clear direction and a sense of purpose. Having a clear roadmap for your business operations can help you allocate budgets more effectively, minimize stress levels, and help you make informed decisions that align with your long-term business goals.

Forecasting into the Future

As we navigate this new world, the constants remain communication, courage, and simplicity. Some of the upcoming changes will most likely include the convergence of wealth and retirement, the rise of visual marketing, or the increasing importance of digital visibility. However, we must remember the core mission: to make retirement plans accessible, understandable, and retirement achievable for all.

As we celebrate these milestones and look ahead, I am filled with gratitude for the journey this far and excited about the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead. Here's to embracing change, celebrating constants, and continuing to make a difference in the world of 401(k) marketing.

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.


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