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Why agents and advisors should consider college planning as a specialty

Brian Anderson

Parents desperately need help figuring out how best to assist their children in paying for college. Advisors regularly struggle to find a steady stream of potential new clients. Both problems can be solved if more advisors would investigate the market opportunity of becoming a college planning specialist.

With this issue in mind, Insurance Forums recently spoke with John G. McCarthy, Director of Recruiting and Sales Mastery Academy, with Strategic Education Technologies, LLC, which recruits, develops and trains financial advisors who want to help families in their local communities attend and pay for the college of their choice. What follows are some questions and answers about what makes college planning an attractive niche market for insurance and financial advisors.


Insurance Forums: What makes the college funding market attractive to advisors – why should they consider becoming a specialist or adding this as an area of emphasis?

John G. McCarthy: First off, I think it’s important to understand the problem a lot of Advisors have. Which is mainly one or more of these things:

A. They lack a consistent stream of high quality prospects to meet with. You can be great insurance agent or financial advisor with all the credentials and knowledge on how to help people and yet still struggle or make a fraction of what you’re truly worth because you don’t have enough good prospects to see on a weekly basis.

B. They spend way too much effort and energy trying to generate prospects. Agents and advisors don’t get paid to market and prospect. So if they’re spending a huge chuck of their time and energy on prospecting, they are severely limiting their income.

C. They use outdated and ineffective marketing systems.The insurance industry has largely done a horrible job teaching and giving its agents good prospecting systems. Project 100, beating up your friends and family for leads, cold-calling out of the phone book, buying leads from sketchy companies, and begging for referrals. These are all painful, awful ways to generate leads and they make agents feel like lowlifes. And they don’t work very well.

There is nothing more frustrating for a good agent or advisor than to experience one or more of these three problems. Because of this lack of good leads and ineffective marketing systems, advisors wake up on a daily basis wondering, “where is my next lead coming from!?” That’s a horrible feeling. When you compare these problems to what we’ve experienced in the College Planning market, it’s night and day.

Here are the Top 5 Reasons why college planning is such a great market for agents and advisors:

1. It solves an immediate vs. a future need

  • Families can’t put off sending their children to college (because you target parents with high school-age kids)
  • They have to address the college problem now!
  • There is no “we’ll think about this and address it later”
  • You don’t have to generate urgency or point out that parents have a college problem (they’re already in panic mode)
  • When you sell traditional life insurance or retirement needs, that is a future need and you have to often times manufacture that need

2. Positions you as a trusted advisor as opposed to a pushy salesperson

  • Through attraction-based marketing, parents will come to you
  • There is no chasing leads down; it’s the opposite – parents will chase you (if done the right way)

3. Get to charge fees vs. being commission-only

  • Prospects are much more likely to value your advice and insurance product solutions if they pay you a fee up front for it
  • No need to become an RIA, IAR, or get any separate securities license to charge fees
  • It de-commoditizes you and your service
  • It makes prospecting FREE (through the loss leader principle)

4. Niche vs. mass market

  • Niches are easy to target and cost much, much less to reach than trying to cast a wide net
  • Who is more successful income wise in the medical profession: Heart Surgeon or General Practitioner? (obviously Surgeons)
  • Specialists in nearly every industry out perform their jack-of-all trade peers
  • College Planning Specialist = Heart Surgeon

5. Differentiation from other agents and planners

  • Answer this question: “Why should I do business with you over someone else?”
  • You must have a unique selling proposition (USP)
  • College Planning instantly gives you that USP
  • Do a Google search for “Insurance Agent” or “Financial Advisor” in your city or a nearby big city (you’ll get hundreds or even thousands or results)
  • Now do a Google search for “College Planner” in your city or a nearby city (maybe a few names pop up at best)
  • Don’t practice marketing incest, which is basically doing exactly what everyone else is doing

**One last massive benefit of the College Planning niche is….

It replenishes itself every year. A group of high school seniors graduate and a new class of kids and their parents become prospects for your College Planning Service.

• See also: Funding college without wrecking retirement – How one advisor helps clients pass this scariest of tests

Next page: What traits make a good candidate; How to become a specialist



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