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How the idea for Teaching-Based Marketing was developed

How the idea for Teaching-Based Marketing was developedI’m often asked, “Where did Teaching-Based Marketing come from?” Between June 2008 and January 2015, I worked as a 401(k) wholesaler. “What is that?” you may be thinking. Wholesalers are a component of the gigantic industry called Financial Services, and are responsible for the revenue generation of their specified territory. Said another way, wholesalers are traveling salespeople. These experiences on the road for six and a half years developed the idea for Teaching-Based Marketing.

Estimated reading time – 5 minutes

One hour to win or lose millions of dollars

When employers provide a 401(k) plan for their employees, they usually have a financial advisor who works with them to provide help. That financial advisor is licensed to transact business, but generally has very little training in the complexities of 401(k) plans.

When an employer wants to upgrade their 401(k) plan, they’ll interview several advisors to ask them why they’re the best choice. This interview process will contain a sales presentation to highlight the candidate’s capabilities and showcase the improvements the new 401(k) will provide to the employees. I would participate in this presentation, and also provide answers to any questions.

Because 401(k) plans contain components from tax/accounting, legal, and investments, the questions would vary widely. A 401(k) wholesaler is vital in these situations because he or she can provide specific answers instead of the unaccompanied financial advisor saying, “I’ll have to get back to you on that one.” Most of the 401(k) plans we worked with were in the $1 million-$10 million range and we only had one shot to earn the business. The hourlong presentation often determined whether we’d win or lose.

Teaching my clients earned trustTeaching my clients earned trust

My client – as a wholesaler – was always the financial advisor, as opposed to the employer. Why? I couldn’t go directly to a company on my own without an advisor. The advisors were the gatekeepers, and it was up to them to choose me to be part of the presentation. How did I get invited to the meeting with employers? I taught the advisor what he or she should know before this all-important presentation.

This teaching usually took the form of one-on-one meetings with the advisors. Over the six and a half year period, I conducted over 3,000 of these meetings. What did the teaching contain? The very basics, usually. Some advisors were more adept than others in the 401(k) realm, but almost all could benefit from a 401(k) specialist as part of their team.

For those of you in sales, you’ll recognize this: What’s the best use of time in any sales-related position? Time spent in the presence of the customer. Because I was responsible for a revenue goal for the company that employed me, I needed to be present at as many of these meetings with employers as possible. What was the best way to ensure I was invited to these meetings? Start working with the advisors as their 401(k) mentor.

How I became critical to the success of my clients

The more these advisors depended on me for their education, the more critical I became to their success. By giving away knowledge and experience freely, I created a level of trust no one else could match. As a result, after continuously learning from me, they wouldn’t even consider working with anyone else. I hope I’m not sounding like a Big Shot. I wasn’t any smarter or more talented than my peers or competitors. I just invested more time to educate my clients. This became what is now known as Teaching-Based Marketing.

Why I left the 401(k) wholesaler job

I really enjoyed wholesaling. Like most sales job, compensation is tied directly to performance, and the pay is outstanding. Great titles (Regional Director and Regional Vice President), expense accounts, and awesome benefits make the job incredibly attractive. Earning the trust of your clients is also an extremely fulfilling way to spend time working.

A major thing I learned from our rock band is that it’s a lot easier to go to where a scene is already happening instead of trying to create one yourself. The financial services industry is heavily restricted by compliance, and it’s especially tough with technology platforms. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and every other social media vehicle are either (depending on company) prohibited or controlled.

If you’re connected with financial services friends on LinkedIn, you’ll typically notice very innocuous messages posted. That’s the result of services such as Hearsay Social that control the verbiage. Pre-approved messages are given to you as options, and you choose what to post on social media. Individually-written, original content is very unlikely because of compliance restrictions.

I saw the web and social media as the best possible way available to share what I have learned, and couldn’t do that as a licensed salesperson. I chose to leave the financial services industry in January of 2015 so I could teach these ideas freely with everyone via this website. Spencer X. Smith Consulting was born, and I’m now using public speaking, writing, and social media to further the Teaching-Based Marketing story. Using the leverage we all have available with digital marketing, I can now teach people who are looking for help with these topics.

My heart is as an entrepreneur

Am I happy I made the decision? Absolutely yes. The wholesaler lifestyle is both very time-consuming and tough physically. Time away from home and the sheer amount of driving (40k miles per year) were demanding, but as I said, very rewarding. I admire those who can continue the wholesaling lifestyle for ten years plus. Many friends have reached that threshold, and they’re still going strong.

After previously founding and selling my IT company, and continuously running a real estate investment company since 2000, it’s obvious my heart is as an entrepreneur. Starting this new consulting firm has been an awesome endeavor, and I can’t wait to share more ideas with you in the future.

Teaching-Based Marketing eBook DownloadDownload my free eBook and start using Teaching-Based Marketing right away with your business. Our book will share with you exactly how to implement these ideas on your website, and offer additional instruction on website traffic and what to offer when a visitor comes to your website.


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About the Author

Spencer helps you save time through teaching digital marketing and social media strategies in plain English, after proving they actually work for himself and his company AmpliPhi first. He also is an instructor at the University of Wisconsin and Rutgers University.

Spencer X Smith

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  • Spence, this is such a great post! Really enjoyed reading about how teaching based marketing came to be. What a terrific story! I think this may be the first chapter of your new book!

    Thanks for sharing!

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