You can go to the mountain or you can get the mountain to come to you. That’s the client/prospect conundrum in a nutshell.
Bringing in new clients is one of your goals for 2017. Prospecting often means doing mailings, advertising or calling prospects. In other words, you go to them and get on their radar screen.
Soliciting referrals seems more attractive by comparison. Your clients send them to you. It seems like a no-brainer.
But problems develop.
The first is motivating your clients. You can’t push or continuously ask because you appear desperate. The solution is to cultivate a wide universe of clients and hope the law of large numbers works in your favor.
Here’s the second problem: Clients aren’t good at selling you to others. You can help by gently coaching clients how to tell your story.
The easiest way to initiate a call to action is to plan an event where you invite clients to attend and encourage them to bring guests. The example referenced above suggests a small dinner with you footing the bill.
Now we are talking about a small seminar. Less eating, more talking and mingling. Below are some points to consider:
- What to Call It – Seminar sounds academic. It also sounds sales oriented. You get mailings for “retirement planning seminars” in the mail constantly. A successful financial advisor held “Briefings” for clients. "I’m inviting you to a briefing I’m holding for clients on potential tax law changes under the new administration in Washington…"
- Guest Speaker – Celebrity sells. Everyone knows you, but this familiarity can backfire. “Why can’t you just brief me over the phone?” When identity theft seminars became popular, FBI agents would often be invited as featured speakers. The FBI website features a section on Community Outreach including CREST (Community Relations Executive Seminar Training). You would need to learn if they would address clients and the public at your event or if they only work with community organizations. You will notice one of the topics mentioned on the website is: “Businesses to protect themselves from hackers and economic espionage.” "We have a great guest speaker…"
- Odd Numbers of Chairs at Tables – You rent space at a hotel, a hall or conference space in your office building. Here’s a great strategy I heard about years ago: Set up chairs in odd numbers at round tables. Clients and guests arrive in even numbers. This leaves a seat for you as you float around the room meeting guests.
- Feed Them – In his book “How to Run Seminars and Workshops”, sales consultant Robert Jolles says, “What you feed your audience will go a long way toward helping them maintain their interest in what you have to say.” If you gather a group on a workday evening, they usually arrive hungry. Avoid alcohol. Refreshments will be served.
- You are the Ringmaster – It’s your show. You do the introduction and conclusion. You moderate questions. The guest speaker fills the majority of the time. People will remember you afterward.
- Take Names – Who were these guests? Did you have some gatecrashers or walk-ins? Registration with nametags is good, but it slows checking in. Raffling off something usually gets registrations cards completed. This could also be done as feedback form. "We are hoping to plan more events. Don’t forget to complete a feedback form."
- Send Them Home With Something – How will they remember you? Prepare some kits explaining your practice. Distribute them as people leave.
You aren’t in the sales business. Pestering attendees will do more harm than good. Besides, it isn’t your style.
Send a short e-mail or personal note afterwards, thanking them for attending. Let them know you are planning additional events in the future.
Give them the option to opt out of future contact announcing these events: "Check here if you prefer NOT to be notified about future briefings." (This could be on your feedback form, too.)
FYI: "An unsubscribe rate of less than 1% indicates you are within the (marketing) industry norm."
Pros and Cons
Do you want to bother with this strategy? Consider the pros and cons:
- Pro – A series of client/prospect events should initiate a flow of new clients.
- Pro – Your clients do the work of getting additional attendees.
- Pro – Introduce new services to current clients.
- Pro – It’s scalable. Your clients and guests are the invitation pool for the next event. Everyone is encouraged to bring guests.
- Pro – The marginal cost of additional attendees is small.
- Con – You are spending money organizing an event.
- Con – You are spending time getting it right.
- Con – Some attendees are freeloaders.