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Rating:Seminars: They're the Rage for Business Development Not Rated 3.0 Email Routing List Email & Route  Print Print
Friday, May 19, 2000

Seminars: They're the Rage for Business Development
Guest Column by: Martin Baird

Seminars have become very popular in the financial planning industry. Last year, I conducted marketing seminars for financial professionals in 30 cities from coast to coast and was constantly asked questions about holding seminars to generate business. Here are a few of my thoughts. Location, Location, Location.

You've heard about it for years. When it comes to real estate, location is "the" most important part. When it comes to seminars, I won't say it's that critical, but it is certainly quite important!

When a prospect or client receives your invitation for the seminar, one of the first things they look at is the location. They want to know if this is going to be a nice seminar or a boring coffee-and-donuts session at the local library. (On the other hand, I know people who are very successful with library seminars.) Location will be one of the first impressions the prospect has about your seminar.

You need to know your target audience and what they want. Are they looking for an informational program? Libraries and local universities can be great for that. Or do they want more of a social seminar where you will share a few ideas that they may need to know? This could be a good time to contact a nice quiet local restaurant.

At one of our sessions, an attendee told me that none of his clients invited friends to his seminar. When he asked his clients why, they told him they did not want to "waste" money. The seminar was at a very posh restaurant, and they knew it was going to be an expensive lunch. You need to inform and educate your attendees about why you want them to bring friends.

My last comment about location is that it will be one of the things that the people you invite and the people that attend will remember. If the place where you hold the seminar is impressive, they will think you are impressive. The opposite is also true! Make sure staff at the location is prepared and capable of handling your style of seminar. You want to make sure the location leaves a positive, lasting impression about you and your financial planning services.

Make It a Dynamic Program
The good news is you can make your seminar fun and dynamic. The bad news is that's precisely what most seminars are NOT! I attend my fair share of seminars, and I'm amazed by how dreadful some are.

Here are five keys to making your next seminar memorable.
1 - Involve the attendees. This is crucial! If you want people to do more than just sleep and doodle, they need to be actively involved. In Training 101, you learn that you should talk for seven minutes or less. After that, the attendees start to fade away. Develop exercises and activities that will keep them interested.

2 - Focus on what is important to them. You may find a tax law fascinating, but most of your attendees could care less. What they care about is how it's going to affect them. Remember to use WIIFM - What's In It For Me. The attendee cares about their family and their future. They want to know how the tax law is going to cost or save them money.

3 - Have a very definite focus. What do you want the attendee to walk away with? Sure, you want them to know how great you are. But what do you want them to learn? How are you making their life better by attending this seminar? The more you focus, the better it will be.

4 - Don't let anyone give a boring talk! I'll talk about sponsors in a moment, but don't let a sponsor do a boring "product pitch" just because they have underwritten some of the cost. You need to see them do their program before you let them talk to your prospects and clients. Some are great and others can be real duds.

5 - Keep it simple. In a two- to three- hour seminar, you don't have time to explain complex concepts. You need to keep it as simple as you can. If you must be technical, save it for face-to-face discussions. You don't want attendees to become financial planners!

You want your attendees to have fun, learn and get excited about you and the solutions you can provide. If you follow these points, you will be well on your way!

Pack the Room
When it comes to packing the room, you need to think about your attendees' fears and dreams. People will take the time to attend a program that will help them avoid their fears or reach their dreams. Your topic needs to match your market.

Once you decide on the topic, you need to develop a theme or headline that will convince people they want to attend. This will have a major impact on the ultimate size of your audience. It's not enough to have good information. You need to position it so that people want to learn about it.

Lastly, you need to attack your target from different angles. I would use a minimum of direct mail, public relations and telephone calls. Many people would also include advertisements in their mix. You need to have people learn about the seminar from a variety of sources.

The more often you reach your target, the more likely they are to respond.

Sponsors, Sponsors, Sponsors
Using seminars as a marketing tool is not without cost. From the promotion to the actual cost of the room, it can be very expensive. One way to reduce your direct cost is to have a "sponsor." By working with some of your vendors, they may pay some of your costs. It's important that you explain how this is going to help the sponsor. The key to getting sponsor support is to ask.

Martin Baird is president of advisormarketing.com., a Web site that offers free marketing information for financial advisors. Baird may be reached at mbaird@advisormarketing.com.  

Martin Baird is president of advisormarketing.com., a Web site that offers free marketing information for financial advisors. Baird may be reached at mbaird@advisormarketing.com.

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