Although referrals are the preferred way to win new clients, plenty of advisors are using seminars for building business. However, if you are focusing your efforts on filling a private room at a local hotel or restaurant, you may find that your expenses are up and your seats are empty.
With advances in technology and a shift in consumer behavior, regulatory issues and overall lack of trust in the industry, the stage has been set for a new way for independent financial advisors to incorporate seminars into their practice.
At the same time, the Do-Not-Call list has reduced the efficiency of cold calling and increased competition are minimizing prospecting efforts. So how do advisors find new clients and grow their businesses? It’s time to learn a new approach to an age-old process.
In today’s environment, marketing strategies need to be dynamic and each piece of marketing must work in conjunction with the others, addressing a myriad of issues through a variety of methods in order to penetrate a selected target market. An effective seminar program can attract more clients, generate more referrals, and enhance all of your marketing efforts while saving you both time and energy.
Business coach and author Adri Miller-Heckman believes a well-designed, small-scale seminar program can bring all of your marketing efforts together. “An effective seminar program can emphasize your value as a financial advisor and differentiate you from those financial advisors who continue to build their businesses the old-fashioned way.”
“Although there is a time and place for large-volume events, most seminars today should be smaller, more intimate events that create an environment conducive to building trust and confidence. By incorporating a combination of educational, specialty, client-appreciation and image-enhancing events, you will reach more participants and generate more referrals and introductions,” she wrote.
When financial planners Lisa Miller and Eileen Price teamed up to open their practice in Syracuse, NY, they knew they wanted to target women. Instead of putting on a traditional seminar, they began holding informal sessions on financial topics at local day spas. Launching from the success of their early sessions, Miller and Price have created a regular Sunday afternoon Women, Wealth & Wisdom Spa Event program where prospects receive free manicures and pedicures and participate in a give-and-take discussion about finance.
Miller and Price have added new clients. Plus, they’ve strengthened relationships with CPAs and attorneys, whom they’ve also invited, by providing a glimpse of how they interact with potential clients.
Advisor Kimberly Foss also targets women investors by planning events with other local businesses. Her Investing for the Look You Want teams with a local dermatologist and is aimed at women who want to spruce up their appearance and their finances.
Creating and producing a successful smaller and more intimate seminar means thinking out of the box, like Foss and partners Miller and Price. The traditional larger public seminars held at restaurants attract what Craig Faulkner, CEO of FMG Suite, calls “plate-lickers” — people coming for a free meal, rather than for financial advice. It’s a format often favored by less-experienced advisors trying to build a client base, though veterans are known to use it, too.
Producing a smaller event also means not just focusing on winning the business but providing an education, not a sales pitch. A great example of this is Chicago advisor John Nersesian’s approach to an event for a wirehouse branch which was held at an Oriental rug store. Several advisors invited wealthy clients, their friends and prospects to hear a 30-minute talk about carpet craftsmanship. At the end, the advisors spoke briefly about market conditions.
Every aspect of your event should focus on your target market. With so much information available on the web, you need to cut through the clutter. That means avoiding more general topics — retirement planning basics and the like — and pinpointing topics that people are interested in and what’s important to them. After all, if the topic is not relevant, no one will want to attend. “People want to hear what’s important to them,” Mike Bayly, head of Bayly Presentations, a communications consulting firm in Overland Park, Kansas, told wealthmanagement.com. “You’ve got to get straight to the hot button that the audience needs to hear.” If you must discuss your services, address them at the end — and briefly.”
In time, your events will position you as a trusted resource for education, enhance the value you bring to your clients, and elevate your client service and ability to generate referrals. For advisors who take the time to target prospective clients and think out of the box, the payoff comes in building relationships and new business.