Implementing Education Workshops into Your Practice

Implementing Education Workshops into Your PracticeThe financial services industry is a relationship business, but it’s also a business of providing a service. Implementing education workshops can be one of the most effective marketing strategies that independent investment advisors can utilize for business development.

Take Dan Fisher of Northbrook, IL-based Fisher Financial Group, for example. Fisher recently launched a new division of his company called Financially Fit Women, which specializes in coaching, educating and empowering women to understand their investments and long-term goals.

“I took a look at my practice and found out that two-thirds of my clients are professional women, mostly single, divorced or widowed,” Fisher told the Chicago Tribune. “I felt that women were grossly underserved, so I wanted to create a forum for those who want to become more secure, take control of their financial future and make a positive change in their lives.”

Financially Fit Women hosts educational workshops, seminars and wine tastings where Chicago women can not only learn, but network and socialize as well.

“Women are very social, and our events are more relaxed and less intimidating,” said Fisher. “They can enjoy themselves and become educated at the same time. We aim to help people develop the confidence and knowledge to make critical decisions that will affect their financial well-being in the future.”

Mark Keller, CEO of Confluence Investment Management in St. Louis, an RIA with $1.8 billion in assets under management and supervision, regularly hosts seminars for prospects, current clients and financial advisors. The RIA usually rents a conference room in a hotel. In order for a seminar to build an advisor’s credibility with prospects, the location “must be somewhat sober” Keller told Financial Advisor.  The topics at Confluence seminars are strictly about money management. “Our conferences are heavy on straight-up investment,” Keller added.

Some advisors, like Ken Fisher, author and CEO of Fisher Investments, like to go all out for attendees. Since the mid-1970s, Fisher has spoken at investment seminars held onboard cruise ships co-sponsored by Forbes, where he was a columnist for 29 years. He speaks to passengers who pay thousands of dollars for the privilege of listening to him expound on the markets.

Creating content-rich, topic-specific workshops that are informative, inspiring and enjoyable create a real life journey for seminar participants. Workshops can cover a wide range of topics to help attendees understand the options available to help them achieve their financial objectives. Whether you’re providing basic investing information or in-depth subject matter, remember to never include overt sales pitches.

Workshops provide independent investment advisors with an opportunity to shine in front of a captive audience.  However, advisors need to understand that workshops are not a quick way to bolster their client roster.  “You have to go into these workshops thinking of a long-term commitment,” Jania Stout told Financial Advisor. Stout is a Baltimore-based practice leader with HighTower, which hosts workshops for retirement-plan sponsors. “You won’t get the return on your investment if you shut your door to people who don’t want to meet with you right after the workshop,” she continued.

“We don’t turn it into a sales job after the workshop either,” said Stout. “We continue to be a resource for those attendees after they leave, even if they don’t work with us.”

An important factor in ensuring workshop success is creating a personal and hands-on experience that attendees cannot find elsewhere.

“Existing clients sometimes hear questions they never thought to ask,” added Amy Saban, senior wealth advisor at Chicago-based RMB Capital, who hosts four workshops per year. “And, sometimes, questions our clients do ask help us understand we need to improve our client-education efforts. If you structure it properly, then the message gets through — and not just to the potential clients.”

Once you’ve decided on hosting an education workshop, there are many things to consider before event day:

Choosing a Topic. Decide on a topic or a niche relevant to your area of expertise that you feel knowledgeable enough to talk about.  Consider inviting other experts to participate in the event.

Choosing a Time and Location. You need a location that fits your budget and can accommodate the number of people planning to attend. Consider a location that provides beverages and allows you to either serve hors d’oeuvres, breakfast, lunch or dinner.  As for time, structure a workshop to last anywhere from One  to three hours, depending on the topic, panel and audience involvement.

Marketing Your Workshop. Use social media, e-vites and direct mail invitations to target your audience.

Develop and Provide Educational Materials. Providing educational handouts will help attendees get the most out of your workshop.  If you have the time and expertise, you can create more in-depth reference and/or workshop materials, such as manuals, workbooks, client program or assessment tools, and DVDs.  Don’t forget to include your contact information, along with company logo, on these materials.

Administration Costs. You will need to provide registration confirmations, receipts and any other workshop-specific materials or information for attendees. Automated event-marketing services such as those offered by Constant Contact may offer budget-friendly assistance with this aspect of your workshop.

Developing the Presentation. Once you land on a topic and have solidified the details, it’s time to polish your presentation. Practice the key concepts you will highlight. If you are inviting guest speakers, be sure to meet with them to discuss the format and content they will be discussing. It can be helpful to develop a PowerPoint presentation to highlight these key points. Once you are satisfied with the content, practice your production in front of co-workers, friends and family.

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