I thought that the best way to develop relationships with plan providers around the country and get referrals for ERISA work for plan sponsors was to develop free content that these providers could use for their clients and solicit potential new clients as well. Thankfully, I have had a very supportive audience that has appreciated my work and I’ve been able to build a practice thanks to it.
In the almost 9 years that I’ve developed my practice and written this content, I have never turned down a plan provider from disseminating my materials or even posting my articles directly on their website. The further it’s out there the more exposure I get, and the providers seem to enjoy using it.
I have never asked for anything in return for my content. Many plan providers have referred me business when there is an ERISA legal need for themselves or for their client. Most plan providers haven’t referred me work at all and that’s fine because I believe that with these plan providers, you never know when they will need me. I’ve networked with plan providers for some years, and some will refer me work many years after I first met them.
The thing that drives me nuts about my content are the typos. When you are an Army of One and you have no proofreader on site, a typo here and there will happen. One of my last email newsletters, there were several typos in a discussion about That 401(k) Conference because I wrote the content in Constant Contact that has no word processing function. So there was a spelling mistake and several grammatical mistakes.
So I was extremely irked when an advisor who I haven’t been in contact for 3 years, tells me that there were several typos in my last newsletter and that he can’t send that out to his clients. He then asked whether I could edit it, fix the errors, and send it back so he can distribute it to his clients. That irked me because it reminded me of the time when I worked at a law firm as a law clerk and we had a restaurant client who gave us free bagels every Wednesday. The secretaries were complaining about the quality of the bagel, but even as a native New Yorker, I didn’t complain because the bagel was free.
So I was offended when an advisor who has never referred me a dime worth of business and only contacts me when they need to ask me some questions, actually wanted me to take some time to re-edit my work and send it to his clients. I would have probably done it for any other advisor whether they referred me work or not, but he has always been an advisor that doesn’t contact me to say hello, but only contacts me when he wants something for free. Where I come from, we call that person a schnorrer, which is Yiddish for cheapskate or freeloader.
When I told him that I’m a sole proprietor and these typos are an unfortunate extension of that, I made a point to tell him that he clearly knew what was best in providing free content for his paying clients. I guess he didn’t understand my point because he was trying to say that providing him with free content would be beneficial to both of us and again, the free content is to really benefit him with the hope that maybe I can get some referral work but like some slot machines, this one isn’t going to pay off.
I’ve been providing content now for 9 years and this is the only time I’ve publicly complained about a provider using my content because I think that you shouldn’t abuse something that is free.