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The Beginning: RME Originates the Dinner Seminar

RME owes 20 years of success to what our president, Jorge Villar, calls “an accidental discovery.” In 1994, Villar was working for a direct marketing company in Clearwater, FL. He was asked to speak at a Chamber of Commerce event and there he was approached by a financial advisor who needed effective marketing and lead generation solutions.

The biggest challenge he and others in his investment firm faced was that prospects were guarded when it came to trusting someone else to help them make financial decisions. Their firm wanted prospects to visit the office, but Villar found it odd that prospects who didn’t yet trust these advisors would be expected to take such a big step. He took the advisor’s concern back to his office, designed a creative and personalized invitation package and proposed the idea of having prospects meet the advisor halfway in a more comfortable, neutral location. What type of location could it be? Here comes the accidental discovery: the advisor’s brother-in-law managed several Red Lobster restaurants in the area and Villar thought that would be a neutral location that could help prospects meet advisors halfway. 

Villar mailed 5,000 invites for this advisor and 350 people called in to RSVP. That’s right: RME’s first mailing had a 7% response rate! The advisor had to hire two receptionists to handle the RSVPs and the coordination of the event. “What was amazing to us was the discovery that the food and the neutral site of the restaurantwas ideal. We built our company on that first single mailing,” Villar said. A year and half later, after Villar left his old direct mail company and opened RME, his new company had acquired over 400 advisor clients who had heard of the dinner seminar concept and wanted to try it. Those advisors who, prior to working with RME, had struggled with getting in front of prospects 55 and older with money to invest and retirement questions answered now had a lead generation solution that changed the way they did business.  
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The Past 20 Years: What Has Changed in Marketing and For RME360

“The formula of why people respond to direct mail hasn’t changed; if anything, we have validated the formula over and over again with our business model,” Villar said. But, as he noted, what has changed is how direct marketers grab the attention of consumers in the mailbox. Villar’s answer to that? A combination of technology, appealing graphics and compelling copy. In 1995, RME had data such as name, address, city, state and zip code. 

Today, thanks to technology, we have data on behavior patterns, interests, hobbies and lifestyles, among many other things. We know that personalized invitations and direct mail pieces make an impact. We know that the audience financial advisors markets to has become more guarded and confused about their finances; they are bombarded with different messaging about when and how to invest. That consumer sentiment extends beyond just marketing financial services; it applies to almost every product and service in the marketplace. “We help position our clients as trusted subject matter experts who can bring a calming voice in their local markets,” Villar said.

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The Past 20 Years: Why Breaking Bread Hasn’t Changed

The way we promote and market has expanded. Good marketers have to include social media and digital messaging in support of their direct marketing, but the psychology behind why prospects need to feel comfortable before meeting with an advisor hasn’t. Breaking bread in a neutral location and at a social event allows for that comfort level.

“Our 20 year anniversary reminds us that we wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for that accidental discovery and the fact that people who are guarded about their money won’t go to your office and don’t want you in their homes. Instead, they’ll meet you halfway,” Villar said. “After 485,000 events and over 17 million attendees, we have the data, the proof that that dynamic hasn’t changed.” 

We also know that there is security in numbers. Seminar attendees feel more comfortable in a full restaurant with others who share their concerns. With hotels or meetings rooms, attendees know the door shuts behind them. “When they receive the invitation, they visualize a podium and chairs lined up as if they’re being spoken to,” Villar said. But when they see the name of the restaurant on the invitation, they realize the social component and are put at ease. That level of comfort is the strongest part of our formula.

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