Financial advisors have long favored in-person seminars as an effective prospecting tool. That changed when the pandemic hit, forcing advisors to adapt, using online webinars and Zoom meetings. But, while online webinars have been helpful in broadening advisors’ reach, they haven’t necessarily led to more appointments for some Advisors—certainly not at the level of in-person seminars. If that is true for you too, with the pandemic receding, it may be time to get back to tried-and-true in-person seminars.
The reason why in-person seminars are more effective in converting leads is the high level of engagement the audience has with the presenters. It isn’t easy to achieve that level of engagement through online webinars. We’ve all been on a Zoom call where it’s too easy to mentally check out or multitask. That doesn’t happen with in-person seminars, but it’s still up to the advisor to ensure the seminar is well-planned and executed correctly.
The challenge is to build a seminar marketing format that produces consistent, profitable results to maximize your ROI over time. It requires planning, with attention to minor details. And you have to recognize opportunities to outsource the tasks that don’t match your abilities.
Here are eight time-tested tips financial advisors use to ensure the best possible outcomes from their seminar marketing:
1. Choose the topic well
To fill the seats, you need to study your target prospects and align the seminar topic with their primary pain points. This will also make it easier to target your marketing efforts to likely qualified prospects.
Also, a more narrowly focused topic covered in-depth will have a more significant impact on your audience than trying to cover multiple issues. You want your audience to feel like they received something of value. They want to be educated.
They also want to be entertained. Make sure to choose a topic that allows you to include relevant stories or personal experiences. The more your audience can relate to your message, the stronger the connection you can build with them.
As you create your presentation, look for opportunities to engage your participants, using techniques such as a show of hands, yes and no questions, polls, and workbooks that allow for filling in the blanks. Invite participants to relate a brief story relevant to the topic.
2. Make it easy for your prospects to say “yes”
To increase attendance, you must remove all possible obstacles that might prevent your prospects from attending. In addition to choosing the right topic, it means carefully considering the event logistics, specifically its timing and location.
In seminar marketing, timing is everything. There are better days and times to have a seminar.
- Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Wednesdays – in that order – are best.
- Never schedule a seminar the day following a holiday (i.e., Memorial Day, Labor Day, 4th of July).
- Avoid scheduling a seminar the week of Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day.
- The best start times depend on your audience. For seniors, 4:00 – 4:30 works best and, for pre-retired baby boomers, 6:00 – 7:00 receive the best response.
The location choice sets the tone of the seminar. For instance, if you host your event at a library, community center, or local college – it could have the feel of an educational workshop. If you pick a hotel meeting room, restaurant, or catering facility at a winery or brewery, it could be a more social event.
3. Use multiple marketing channels to promote your seminar
Direct mail has been the mainstay of financial advisor seminar market efforts for decades. However, in this digitally wired world, response rates have declined dramatically over the last ten years. For the best results, you should consider working with a direct mail vendor who can help you target qualified prospects. You can expect to pay more for the mailing, but a vendor will handle everything, including design, copywriting, printing, and fulfillment.
If you have been building and cultivating an email list of prospects, a well-conceived email campaign around the seminar can be very effective. And don’t neglect your client list. Clients will respond to personalized email invites, and when asked to, they may bring a friend.
While direct mail can be more expensive than digital marketing, it still generates a higher show-up rate. An increasing number of advisors find that direct mail and digital marketing don’t have to be mutually exclusive. Using a multi-channel marketing approach can expand your reach and improve attendance.
4. Nurture your seminar registrants
To increase your show rate, have a process to nurture your seminar registrants. Here are a few ideas:
- Create an automated email sequence designed to keep the seminar top-of-mind. Send the first one immediately after a prospect registers for the seminar. The second email should be sent one day before the event and send the third email on the day of the seminar.
- Call each prospect within one day of registration to reinforce their decision to attend the event. Take the opportunity to let them know what to expect in terms of future communications.
- Call all registrants one day ahead of the event. Let them know their seat has been reserved and that you look forward to meeting them.
5. For a successful financial seminar, it must be as professional as possible
Seminars are your best opportunity to position yourself as a credible professional with authority. It’s essential to consider every detail that can increase your stature, including:
- Have a team member with you so you can greet all attendees as they register.
- Have a substantial introduction that conveys your capacity to teach the material, your desire for student success, and your enthusiasm and approachability. Whenever possible, have a team member introduce you.
- Get a high-quality banner with your branding. For less than $150, you can get a retractable banner stand from a commercial print shop.
- Use professionally printed materials for seminar handouts and marketing collateral.
- If you use a PowerPoint presentation, make sure to invest in professional-looking slides. The design does not have to be cutting-edge. A simple, clean look with clear branding works best.
6. Make it easy to set appointments
The whole point of the seminar is to get new clients, so it’s critical to have an appointment-setting process in place. Following the seminar, call the attendees on your registration list. However, you should also set the stage for a follow-up call during the seminar.
Place a seminar feedback form at each seat to be used by attendees to list any questions they have regarding the topics as you move through the seminar. Be sure to call attention to the form at the beginning of the seminar and then give them a few moments at the end to complete the form.
The form should also include feedback questions about the effectiveness of the seminar and which concepts were of most interest. Most importantly, the form should include a place for attendees to indicate their interest in a consultation or more information.
7. Have a post-event follow-up process
Some attendees will express interest in setting an appointment at the event, so you should have a team member standing for scheduling. For the others, make sure you have a process to contact them within one to two days following the seminar. It’s important to schedule the appointment date within two to three weeks of the seminar to ensure it’s still fresh in your prospect’s mind. Make sure you clear your schedule during that period of time.
Have another post-event process to follow up with no-shows. They, along with attendees, should be entered into your CRM system with the appropriate tag so you can follow up with them through email campaigns.
8. Create your own best practices for a successful financial planning seminar
Advisors who have had success with financial planning seminars will tell you that seminar marketing is a long-term commitment. The results, both in terms of the execution of your plan and the outcomes, are cumulative. With each seminar, the execution becomes more systematic and less labor-intensive. By your third or fourth seminar, you will have your own best practices format, refined through trial and error, and a better understanding of your strengths and weaknesses.
The results are cumulative as well. Over time, your direct mail, email lists, and digital marketing will become more refined, resulting in better targeting and higher response and attendance rates. As you refine your appointment-setting and follow-up process, your conversion rate should increase as well.