Financial Advisers Buy LPL's Emotional Appeal

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LPL Financial Services more than doubled the response rate for its latest direct mail campaign compared with a 2003 effort by switching from a straightforward sales pitch to an emotional appeal.


The company is one of the country's largest independent brokerage firms, based in San Diego and Boston with 5,500 financial advisers nationwide. It provides independent financial advisers with research and back-office services.


LPL put its marketing account in review last year. Hill, Holliday, Connors, Cosmopulos Inc., Boston, which had managed LPL's call centers, was one of the companies to make a pitch.


"We went in with three different approaches: one that was safer, one that was in the middle and one that was more interesting. [LPL] chose the more interesting one and produced it as we pitched it," said Debra Frey, senior vice president, management at Hill, Holliday.


The campaign, titled Behind Your Success, positions LPL as the missing link that can help financial advisers realize their potential.


"We know you do your job well; let's speak to how we can help make you even more successful," Gregory Ng, senior art director at Hill, Holliday, said of the idea behind the campaign.


Choosing back-office support is often about practical issues, such as which company offers the most services. But when you're self-employed, other factors come into play, Frey said.


"When you're choosing a brokerage, it's not a purely rational decision," she said. "There are a lot of emotional elements that go into the decision."


Hill, Holliday created images that show an ordinary-looking financial adviser in one of a series of everyday settings, such as on the street or in a meeting. In each shot, the adviser's image is reflected. In some shots the image is reflected in a mirrored building or in a glass table. The reflected image differs in such a way as to indicate the person's winning ways. The adviser might be wearing a red cape or have a crowd of cheering fans in the reflected images.


The accompanying copy, which differed for each image, reinforced the message with phrases such as: "Your clients may start seeing you a little differently."


"It is an interesting visual trick that we believe is intriguing, pulling people in and quickly delivering the message," Nancy Harhut, executive creative director at Hill, Holliday, said of the manipulated reflected images.


The direct mail element of the campaign, which also included e-mail blasts and print ads, employed these images with an offer for a free copy of "Behind Your Success: A Handbook for Independence," which was created for the campaign. The 13-chapter book gives independent financial advisers practical information to grow their business.


The response rate for the overall campaign to date is just under 2 percent, Frey said, more than double the rate for LPL's last direct mail effort.


"We've really leveraged [the handbook] offer throughout the piece, and we think that is what is driving the success of the piece," she added.


In May, June and July, a letter briefly describing the book was mailed to 300,000 to 400,000 recipients overall. The list was split evenly between independent financial advisers and those working for large firms who might be considering going independent.


Recipients could return a perforated tear-off form in a business reply envelope to receive a copy of the handbook, call an 800 number or visit behindyoursuccess.com. A postcard mailed to the same list of names six weeks after each drop, encouraging recipients to hurry and call or visit the site to order the handbook because quantities were limited.


In October, a self-mailer went to slightly fewer recipients. It also was followed by a postcard six weeks later. The images and the offer were the same. The variable was the response device, in this case a perforated tear-off business reply card.


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