12 March 2020

Learn best practices to succeed in financial advisor seminar marketing!

Seminar marketing is usually a must for financial advisors. Now, despite the rise in digital marketing, many advisors still have a plan to host live events. After all, seminars are a good opportunity to showcase expertise and build relationships. We show you nine best practices here.

Image Source : modelfa.com

Every advisor usually faces the same questions. Will it be worth the time and investment? What’s the best way to go about it? Which details make the difference — and which ones don’t matter?

Unfortunately, finding reliable answers to those questions is a challenge. Small studies (like this one by Advisor Websites) have reported that 50% of surveyed advisors have thought face-to-face events were the most effective way to connect with prospects. The problem is that the Advisor Websites study was done a decade ago with a very small group of advisors.
And yet, the last few years saw a proliferation in vendors selling services that make it easier for advisors to host live seminars. So, workshops must be working for some advisors!
In our own practice, we have seen advisors have tremendous success with live workshops (25 buying units, 80% appointment schedule rate, $2M in AUM added within a week) — as well as fail miserably (2 RSVPs, both of them no-shows). Like many other marketing strategies, seminar results are driven by a complex mix of the advisor’s presence, event promotion strategy, and a dash of luck.
However, there are several things advisors can do to improve the success of their seminars. 
As an advisor, we are responsible for important variables, from event targeting (audience, topic, time, location) to promotion strategies, pre-event relationship building, and post-event follow up. Testing those variables and getting them right takes time, and too many advisors give up on seminars before they have given themselves a fair chance to get good at it. 
We show you nine best financial advisor seminar practices.
1.  Define the objective of the seminar
This tip applies to all of your marketing efforts, and you would be surprised at how many financial advisors skip it. 
It is not enough to go into a seminar with the goal of adding a certain amount of AUM, or scheduling a certain number of appointments. The problem with these goals is that they don’t help you plan a successful event. 
Instead of focusing on us, we could outline our objective for the event using this prompt: 
“At the end of the workshop, I want attendees to do this: _________________.”
Notice that this prompt is focused on the audience. It also requires us to think in actionable terms. After all, the goal of any marketing is to change people’s behaviour. If we can verbalize the change or action you wish to see from our audience, we can then align the presentation to naturally lead your prospects there. 
2.  Know the audience – then choose event logistics
A solid understanding of the audience will help us define the topic of the seminar, the promotion strategy, and even event location and start time. 
There are some general guidelines
  • Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays work well for seminars. 
  • Monday and Friday are to be avoided
  • Avoid scheduling events on the day following national holidays (Memorial Day, Labour Day, etc.) 
  • The 5-6 weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year is not too good a time to host a seminar, as people tend to focus on family and holidays. If we are planning to use Facebook ads to promote the event, we will also have to deal with holiday price surges. Apart from this, best practices for logistics will vary by audience, location, and advisor. 
For seminars that target seniors, 4:00-4:30PM start times work best. For Boomer-focused events, 6PM – 7PM start times are more appropriate. For events that face prospects, we recommend that we stay away from daytime scheduling (some research has shown that conversion costs could be 30% higher for a daytime event than for an evening event). 
Consider location options carefully. If we wish to host  a seminar outside the office, there are two main choices for workshop location. We can opt to host a seminar in a library, local college, or a community center, which could make it feel more “educational”. We could also pick a food-centric venue like a restaurant, coffee shop, winery, brewery and so on.
Each option has its pros and cons. Educational seminars typically have a lower response/show-up rate. They do however make up for it with stronger audience engagement, as attendees have come to learn. Dinner seminars tend to have higher response and show-up rate, but lower engagement during the seminar (even despite a more intimate feel and the trust-building dynamics of breaking bread together).  We need to think about our message, budget, and personal fit before you make our choice. 
3.  Scout out the location
When it comes to these seminars, location is very important. We need to to walk through the entire space, from the parking lot to the room itself. Make note of any special directions that may be required. Some locales are straightforward. Others come with tricky parking or less-than-obvious navigation. 
Be cognizant of the time that your event is scheduled for — and match your walkthrough to experience the facility in the same conditions as your attendees will. Will they have an easy time finding the event? Do you need to post directions or signs? Take notes and ask the facility staff about what’s allowed. 
4.  Build a plan to promote the event
The outcome of a seminar is driven in large part by the quality of attendees. And, if you want great prospects in the room, you need a plan to reach them and give them a compelling reason to attend! 
The earlier strategy for promoting financial seminars had relied heavily on direct mail. While direct mail is still relevant, response rates hover between 1% and 2% (which is light years away from the 5%-6% response rates of the past). Advisors have had success with mailers that stand out (hand-addressed envelopes, wedding-style invitations, etc.) However, those eye-catching extras tend to be more expensive. We need to evaluate the lifetime value of an ideal client against the quality of our typical prospect and our budget to make a balanced choice that makes sense for you. 
Even if we plan to use direct mail, we could consider multiple channels to expand our reach and improve attendance. Here are some options.
  • A facebook campaign could be run. Facebook advertising can be finicky, but the recent iterations of the platform allow you to fine-tune your ad’s settings, reach, and audience. Start small, test different visuals and headlines, and monitor ad performance closely. Advisors can connect the ad directly to a sign-up form, or they can build a simple landing page to showcase the event’s date, location, topic, and key value points (i.e. reasons why someone should attend). 
  • Send workshop announcement to your email list. Keep in mind that a sequence of 2-3 emails that highlights different value points of the seminar will have a better chance of building your attendance list. For example, if we are hosting a workshop on preparing for retirement, one email could highlight taxes in retirement, another could address paying for healthcare, and the third one could speak to the importance of estate planning. 
  • Call the prospects we know of and invite them to attend the seminar. This may not be practical for all, so we need to consider our resources and make the choice accordingly.
  • Announce the event on your social media. Social media posts are easy to share, especially if your posts add value and focus on the pain points that are highly relevant for your audience. 
  • Consider adding event announcements to the signature block of your email. Email signature is an underrated but valuable piece of marketing real estate. Change it up periodically to promote upcoming events!
  • We could reach out to our active referral partners and ask them to promote the seminar to their lists. Offer to provide the email they can use to make it even easier on them. 
5.  Confirm attendance — and stay in touch
When someone registers for a seminar, plan to send a minimum of 3 emails: one immediately upon registration, another one day before the event, and the third one on the day of the event. If the prospect registers for an event far in advance, our sequence should include 2 additional emails to be sent 10 days and 5 days before the event. 
In addition to these automated emails, it’s a best practice to also:
  • Call each prospect within 24 hours (sooner the better). A personal phone call can solidify that they have made a good decision. It will also make the seminar more “real” in their minds, which can lead to better attendance. Definitely, mention any subsequent communications the prospect should expect. It helps prepare them for what’s next while also building trust.
  • If time permits and if you get the prospect’s mailing address, send them a physical letter. It will serve as a tangible reminder of their commitment to attend. 
  • Call to remind them 24 hours before the event. Highlight that you have saved them a spot and that you look forward to meeting them. 
6.  Make it professional
A seminar is a great opportunity to show us as a credible, authoritative figure. Here are some ideas to raise your perceived expertise (some are free, others require an investment). 
  • Have a team member introduce you before you get up to speak. This requires minimal prep and doesn’t cost anything at all — and yet it can be very effective in setting the stage.
  • Consider getting a banner with your branding. It will look good in pictures and instantly dress up and elevate the room. A simple retractable stand-up banner can cost you as little as $100, is easy to store and transport, and will last for years. Any printshop will have some options to offer. Online, you can look at Displays2Go, Ace Exhibits, and Vistaprint
  • Professionally printed handouts and brochures make for nice take-aways. We need to work on getting several quotes from local and online printers, and be cautious with ordering large quantities to bring the per-piece pricing down. We don’t want to get stuck with thousands of pages of collateral if we decide that they need an update 6 months down the line. 
Finally, if you are planning to use a presentation deck, it’s a good idea to invest in a polished set of slides. The deck does not have to be  stunning to be effective. Opt for a clean look given by well-chosen text and visuals, and clear branding. If we don’t have internal resources to handle deck layout and design, we can hire a freelance designer on a platform like UpWork. Be sure to get clear quotes and estimates before proceeding!
7.  Have a plan to maximize your time with prospects
The time we spend in the seminar room is precious — from the moment we first walk in, and up until the last prospect walks out. We need a plan to maximize every minute. A checklist will help 
  • Use a checklist to double-check all supplies beforehand. We could keep a special box for all seminar-related materials and supplies, organized and ready to go
  • Bring extras. That goes for batteries for the clicker, pens, business cards, note pads, and a flash drive with a copy of your presentation
  • Greet prospects as they come into the room. Many advisors  prefer to escape into a conversation with a co-worker (checking email on a smartphone is another popular distraction). Resist those temptations and spend the time with the audience instead. 
  • Give each team member a well-defined job to do. That will help us set expectations and make the seminar more productive for everyone
  • Make a plan for getting you out of conversations that don’t go anywhere. Unfortunately, seminars often have one or two attendees that are happy to chat with you for an hour — even when it’s clear that they are not a real prospect. Brainstorm with the team on some polite ways to wrap up the conversation and give you the chance to connect with others who have questions
  • Decide how you will deal with disruptions. Occasionally, we may encounter an attendee who comes in just to throw a wrench into your presentation. We need to be prepared to remain calm, de-escalate the situation, and move on.
8.  Commit to post-event follow up
As we wrap up the presentation, we and our staff will be inviting prospects to schedule the next step (usually a one-on-one appointment). 
Our experience tells us that the show-up rate will be higher the sooner you can schedule the appointment. One to two weeks after the event is a brief enough period where the seminar will still be fresh in the prospect’s mind. Go much beyond 3 weeks, and we may see a drop in attendance and interest. So, it’s a good idea to clear our schedule beforehand to make sure that you will have sufficient open time to accommodate prospect meetings.
Keep in mind that you will need a separate follow-up plan to address each of the following 3 scenarios:
  • The prospect attended the seminar and scheduled an appointment
  • The prospect attended the seminar but didn’t schedule an appointment
  • The prospect RSVP’ed but did not attend the seminar
Be sure to add any new contacts to your CRM system and tag them properly to allow for follow-up email sequences, drip campaigns, and future event outreach. 
9.  Have a plan for project-managing the event
As we can probably see by now, putting on a financial advisor seminar is a big project. As such, it can benefit from a dedicated project manager. We need someone who is committed to managing all the logistics, from venue to supplies, promotion, and post-event follow up. 
The best place to start is by making a complete list of everything that must be done. From there, you can assign responsibilities and set deadlines. We will also need a plan to supervise the preparation. This is the process that forms the foundation of every successful workshop. 

Keep in mind that the first workshop is likely to be more labor-intensive than any subsequent events. Be sure to save any checklists, scripts, emails, and any other collateral for future use. 

We can see this is really not all that difficult. As they say, anything which is done is worth doing well.

We hope you found the above useful and would love your views on this article

This article was originally published at ModelFA.com

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