Listen To The Podcast
- Why we need to shift to human connections and consumer-driven lead generation.
- How to build trust into the whole process of a client relationship, starting with leads.
- How the Couplr fintech solution works, including how bio questions came together. (Hint: They’re super fun and you may want to grab some of these for your own bio!)
- The science behind this lead generation tool and how people make financial decisions.
About Derek Notman:
Derek Notman is on a mission to “fix money.” Working in the advisory space, Derek saw one pivotal issue: the need for trust in professional financial relationships, especially for people looking to hire a financial advisor. Essentially, lead generation was broken. His solution: focus on the human element and the power of human connection. Leveraging the latest trends and science, Derek founded Couplr, a lead generation white label solution. Its core purpose? To help clients match with their ideal financial advisor based on who the advisor is professionally and personally, ultimately empowering clients to make informed decisions on their own timeline when choosing an advisor to help them along their journey.
Full Audio Transcript
Derek, thank you for joining us today.
Great to be with you, Lauren. Thank you.
So I know we kind of got started in this crazy world of LinkedIn. I saw an interview you had done about Couplr, this new technology company you've started. I'm super intrigued by it, so I appreciate you taking the time today to share more about the journey you've taken to get this new company off the ground. But I think also importantly, hearing the why and what in this kind of space in the market you see missing. Why don't we start there? I'd love just to hear from you a little bit about your background and how did you identify this gap in the market to get to where you are right now?
Well, like a lot of your listeners, I am a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™. I actually still have my own RIA. So I've been an advisor for over 17 years now. I cut my teeth in the insurance broker-dealer world and now I'm fully independent. And the number one problem I always saw, because there’s so many advisors who wash out of this business, a tough business.
It's a tough business, especially in the beginning.
Oh my God, I have gray hair for a reason. I didn't start with gray hair but the number one thing I always saw was lack of lead gen. I'm sure like a lot of your listeners, when I started I was told to do a project 200 and cold call. We had phone clinics multiple times a week.
Yeah, I know. Even door knocking, right?
It was tough and I did it and I did it. I hated it but I did it and I was good enough at it where I was able to make it but it always bothered me because the process just seemed so disjointed and broken for the advisor. It's really kind of soul crushing. When I decided I wanted to be an advisor, I wasn't thinking about having to do lead gen and marketing, I was thinking I want to help people retire and save and invest and all this stuff.
The relationship building pieces of it, the why. Yeah.
It was so, so important. I think most advisors have that passion. That's why they get in. They want to help people with their money but the process to get clients isn't very transparent initially when you're trying to get into the business. And then once you're in, you're in. So you got to go. So that was always frustrating. It really is not a fun process for advisors but it's a terrible experience for the consumer too. They're getting cold called or maybe they put their name and their email address and how much money they have into a website, and then next thing they know their phone is blowing up. It just feels bad all the way around. So I figured, okay, what if we can fix lead generation? What if we can make it better? And that's where Couplr spun out was asking that question. That's how I came up with Couplr originally.
Yeah, I appreciate just your honest narrative about the difficulty of being able to get going and just that kind of, I don't know what you want to call that, that mud you've kind of got to get through to be able to get to the other end of really the real work, the work you want to be doing and being able to help people and support them. So tell us more about Couplr. What's sort of that identified gap in the market and how are you trying to solve that initial challenge?
Well, I'll start at a really high level and then boil it down as we go. So ultimately we're on a mission to fix this thing we call money when we don't have great financial advice, education, and so forth. A lot of bad things can happen when we make bad financial decisions or just don't make decisions at all. But if we do have good guidance and education in our lives around money, a lot of great things can happen.
And advisors, human advice, is not going away. So advisors tend to be a very big part of that for their clients and helping them realize their hopes, dreams, and goals. So we're on this mission to do that, and the opportunity is huge. We know over a hundred million people a month just in the U.S. alone are looking for help with their investments, their insurance, retirement planning, whatever. We know that depending on the numbers you look at, if you count registered reps, life agents, and so forth, you've got over 600,000 professionals just in the U.S. There's over 4.1 million globally. So you've got these great two markets that need to support each other, that need to connect. And Couplr was like, okay, why don't we change how people are connecting with advisors? Couldn't the consumer drive this process instead of the advisor? Shouldn't we be? And here's the thing, money is very personal.
It is. It's hard to talk about.
It’s really hard to talk about. And so if I'm going to open up about my financial skeletons, mistakes I've made, things I don't want to acknowledge, how much money I have or don't have. If I'm going to share that with an individual, I better trust that person. And last time I checked, zip code and net worth do not determine a trusting relationship.
They really don't. But that's what all these lead gen solutions are doing. They're saying, hey, we'll find the best advisor for you. Give us your zip code, email address, phone number, and how much is in your 401(k).
Well, wait a minute.
Baseline stuff. It's not really deep stuff. What's funny, just as a note on that to sort of back it up, we look at a lot of firms’ websites. Everyone goes to the About Us page. They want to know who this person is, and it's not like the credentials are important. It shows this level of, okay, check the box. Right? Totally validation. They're really critical. But once you've got that check, it's your entry card if you will but then it's about the human stuff. Can I relate to that person? Do they have a family? What are their hobbies? What is that connection? So to your point, I mean it is so much more and I think it's really easy to forget about that, especially when you're sort of passionate about doing the work, but it's that human element. So let's talk a little bit more about that connection and what you're trying to cultivate too.
Yeah, you're spot on. It's the human element. It's the human connection. If we have shared commonalities and so forth, we set the stage for trust. If we went to the same school, we're both dog people, we love to travel, etc., etc., etc., you're like all of a sudden, oh man, this person's just like me. That's cool. So the consumer feels more comfortable but also the advisor's like, oh, I just got a lead. They like dogs. They like to travel. We went to the same school, we got something to talk about right off the bat. This is great. So Couplr does that, and how we're doing it differently is that we are a white label solution, and this is really important because trust is a really important part of the process for someone getting advice and finding an advisor. So if I'm on, I could use Fidelity for example, or Morningstar, if I'm on that website researching something about Roth IRAs or retirement planning or whatever, I'm already there, so I'm thinking about my money. That's good. Okay. So that's already a warmer lead.
Proactively starting to find a solution.
And we know over a hundred million people a month are doing this. But then if there's this call to action to say, hey, use this tool by this other non-Fidelity brand, we're like, whoa, whoa, whoa. Wait a minute. I think I like Fidelity but what's this other thing, this other brand you're going to make me go use to find an advisor? That feels shady. I already don't really want to be here, so I'm gone. Or the tool's just too invasive because it's asking your net worth and your email address and you're like, well wait, I don't even know if I want to go on a first date with you yet. Just hold on a second.
That's right. I know.
Back up a little.
I know it's like already down for a proposal and we haven't even had a conversation.
Like chill out. Let's hold on. So we embed in situations like that; we leverage the existing brand. That's why we're white label.
Got it. That makes sense. So it's like a back-end tool.
So you don't know it's not really a Fidelity tool. So we want to leverage, because Fidelity or any company has spent a lot of money and time and resources driving their own brand. So why would they want to detract from that? They don't.
And so we take that warm traffic and then we ask the consumer to go through a brief quiz longer than anything else that's really out there. I timed my wife doing it, I stood behind her and just hovered and it took her just over three minutes.
Oh my gosh. That's like music to my ears for folks. When you think about if someone's searching online, they don't have a lot of time, that they can just pop through it real quick. You always have a drop off at the beginning, right?
You always will.
A 20-question survey, you're like, oh my gosh, okay.
Yeah, this one, it's lightning fast. It's quick and it's long enough to be like, okay, there's some value here, but it's not too long to be like, eh, I'm out. But what's cool is that we don't ask the consumer to give us a name, an email address, what their income is, any of that stuff. Bumble has a really good approach, if you know about the Bumble dating app.
Well, I signed up for all these things.
I am familiar.
I had to get permission from my wife. I signed up for all of the dating services.
Well, you're getting the user experience.
The user experience feeling. So we empower the consumer to make that first move. So then they get matched now based on a variety of human elements with the top advisors at that institution. So not 100 I have to try to sift through because once I get over a couple, three, four, five choices, I'm gone. Anyways. Too many for me to think about.
That's actually based on something called the paradox of choice. That's science that's been written about previously, and now the consumer can vet their advisors. They get to see the profile. Who is this advisor? What are their specialties? What are their credentials? Let me see their disclosures, broker check.
Wait, wait. So a consumer comes in, they answer the questions, and then they're kind of fed a list of advisors? Just want to make sure.
They're instantly matched with only the top three or so advisors at that firm.
Okay. So also just to back up one step, this white labeling tool is really for a firm or for a company like a Fidelity for example, or I don't know if that would be the right kind of fit, but that would have kind of a volume of advisors.
It needs volume. It needs volume at this point. Technically, we could probably serve a firm as small as one with seven advisors.
Okay. Just to really narrow it. Yeah, that makes sense though, right? They're not having to read through every bio and Yelp. Okay, so sorry. So we'll swing back to the narrow. Now they've three or so advisors.
And so then the consumer gets to look at them. Why was I matched with them? Who is this person? Who are they personally and professionally? Let me check them out on social, their websites, all of these things. Because as a consumer, if you're telling me I'm connecting with these top matches for these different human elements, I already feel better about it. And I feel like, okay, wow. All right. We both like to surf. We both travel, dog people, whatever. So then within 10 minutes or so, you can do your due diligence as a consumer.
It helps. It's time saving,
Major time savings. We've really queued it up well. And then when the consumer is ready, they will initiate contact with the advisor or advisors they want to speak with about working together.
Got it. Okay.
The advisor does not get any access to these leads until the consumer initiates contact.
Okay. So can you talk about how the consumer actually initiates contact?
So there's different ways we want to empower the advisor to have their contact info and stuff like that there. But the main call to action we ask for is to use our instant messaging feature, which is FINRA compliant. And that's how they initiate contact with the advisor. Hey Bob, I got matched with you. I really liked that. We went to the same school and we both love dogs. I need help with this thing. I'd like to find a time to meet with you.
Okay. So and then at that point of conversation is when they would be passing over their contact information.
It’s up to them. They don't even have to give their contact info because we let the advisor respond to the DM.
Ph, it’s very trust focused then.
Very trust focused. We do not want the consumer to ever feel like they're going to start getting spammed or bombarded or have to give anything away. So it's totally up to the consumer. But what happens when we do this and it's a good match, the advisor now has a warm inbound lead they know things about, like, hey, this consumer needs help with retirement planning. They've been thinking about it for three months. They want to get it taken care of in the next seven days, and they love dogs. Oh, okay, cool. So Bob gets this warm inbound lead, and unless Bob is really bad at his sales process, how can you not close that lead now?
Yeah, you already have a connection. You've got starting points, something about them that is of interest and they've already been narrowed down. Okay. So that's the point of handing off this qualified lead. Then how about on the advisor's end? How is this platform, the white label piece, getting set up to make sure of the inputs? Are there a bunch of fields or forms the advisor has to fill out to do the appropriate matching? What does that kind of onboarding look like on the firm's end?
Very easy onboarding. We work directly with the enterprise. That's who we partner with initially. They will give us a list of whatever advisors they want in part of this program. We bulk upload advisors. Each advisor gets an invite email. They have to complete a very similar quiz for matching purposes because of how our algorithm works, and then take a few minutes on setting up their bio headshot, tell us more about you, links, all that kind of stuff. And they're not allowed to let that bio go live until they've completed everything, including disclosures.
Got it. That must be a fun bio to put together. I mean, how have you guys been adding more and more details? How have you narrowed down what goes into this matching process?
It's pretty cool. There's a lot of different things we're asking about. What would you do on a free night off? We have a question about that. Unexpected.
Do you feel about international travel? We ask almost nothing financial other than what is the consumer looking for? We also ask the advisor, what are services you primarily help clients with? Things of that nature. Do you work only remotely or will you work in person or do you care? A lot of different elements around that but we're connecting on the human level. We're all wired to connect that way anyways.
Right. So how did you even come up with these questions? Did you survey different folks? Did you work with a sort of expert who really knows survey questions, if that's sort of the right term?
There were a couple things. So part of it was my own research into the science of interpersonal trust. So our tool is based on three different types of science we've actually baked into it, which has never been done before, which is kind of cool. So part of it was on my research and figuring out what are the types of personality and human connection questions we should be asking. But also one of our founders, Megan Lutz, has her PhD in behavioral financial planning.
So she's like, this is…
…totally up her alley. She loves this stuff. She and I nerd out on it probably more than we should but it's great stuff. And so we work together. We're actually even working on it today. So it's really fun to figure out what we should be asking both sides, why that's important, what part of the personality box that ticks off, and then how are we connecting people based on all this?
Got it. Oh my goodness. That is a really fun project. I mean, more than a project. I'm sure it's ever evolving. We always say websites are ever evolving. I'm sure this is probably.
Oh, it totally is. Marketing and websites. It's part art, part science. So there's a lot that goes to it. And is it ever evolving? One of the things we're really excited about is that we actually don't know when and why people make financial decisions. It's never been found out. It's never been learned.
I feel like that's actually quite bold to say, because I feel like someone makes a financial decision when X point happens, right? There's some big life transition. So tell me more about this. I feel like that's definitely something different than the status quo.
There are a lot of knee-jerk reaction solutions that happen like, oh, I just had a kid last week. I should probably get life insurance. Oh crap, I'm going to go do that. So one of the other sciences I mentioned is something called the transtheoretical model of change, and that was actually originally done in the ‘70s to understand why people quit smoking and when they quit smoking. So we've just applied that to this space to find out, okay, I'm thinking, I know we're expecting a kid and it's six months from now, so I'm thinking about it. Maybe I went to a life insurance company's website to learn a little bit more but I'm not ready yet. And so now we can start to track this process and change, well, this consumer's hit this website five times now over this timeframe. Now they eventually got something done and we just don't know that type of stuff yet, and we're going to be able to learn it at scale for a variety of different things. And then what we're eventually going to do is we are an AI company, so we'll start training some AI models where we can get even better and more predictive to help people with this type of stuff.
Wow, that's fascinating. Oh, so fun. What a great space to be. It's pretty cool. It is super cool. Also, with all the changes that have happened in the last few years with so much M&A activity, I myself, as a consumer, when I go to another firm's website and you go to the team page and it's like, oh my gosh, where do I even start? It's like, you can just keep scrolling. There's so many people. And then it's like, do I go by location? You don't want to read through every bio. Maybe you're lucky if you get through three of them. So this is a really interesting way of trying to do that matchmaking, if you will, between the consumer and the advisor.
We think so, and we're pretty excited about where it's going. We'll see what happens but it's pretty awesome. We're doing it for the right reasons, which is great. People need to connect for the right reasons.
Yeah, that's important. Oh my goodness. I appreciate you sharing more. I know we're about at the top of our time here but anything else you think would be good to share more about this platform or what's coming up next for it?
Yeah, I think definitely go to our website: CUPLR.ai, couplr.ai, and you can sign up for our newsletter on there. And then we've actually published some articles that really dive into the science and the reasons behind our solution. And then you can also, even if you're an enterprise listening, you can sign up for a demo from there as well from us. And if you want follow me on LinkedIn just because I'm pretty darn active on there.
Yeah. Even hearing about this research too, I would even think as just an advisor looking to make connections, being able to understand that deeper or anyone frankly who's in sales, it feels like it would be good information to have to be able to bridge those relationships.
No question. Because I mean, as you know, you serve a ton of advisors. Very few advisors signed up as an advisor to become a marketer. They want to be an advisor. They need help with all the marketing stuff and the lead gen and all that. But if they can learn those insights so they can work with people like you to make their website better or whatever, everybody wins.
Yeah. It's a win-win. And it is about that human connection, as you talked about earlier. A hundred percent. Oh my goodness. Well, Derek, thanks so much for your time today. We'll make sure to include links below to Couplr and some of the other pieces you mentioned. Again, I'm excited to see this roll out and the learnings that come from it.
Likewise. Thanks a ton, Lauren. I really appreciate it.