How Your Firm Can Hold Educational Seminars
You know you need to add new clients, yet you don’t want to spend time prospecting and you think the jury is still out on advertising. Consider an educational seminar series instead.
Many practitioners dislike seminars as a client acquisition tool. It takes enormous effort to assemble an audience from the general public and there’s no guarantee qualified prospects will be filling those seats. Besides, they cost money.
Approach it from a different direction. Put on a series of educational seminars for your clients and let them know this is a benefit of being a client. The appeal to clients is they might learn how the tax law changes apply to them.
Clients may have to pay to get this information or do research on their own, but the benefit to you is telling this story with many clients instead of multiple individual phone calls. Encourage them to bring a friend or colleague along and then it becomes a client/prospect event. That’s the prospecting component.
8 Steps to Organizing Your Educational Seminar Series
Here’s an example of how you could put together your series:
Step One: Segment your client base. Some are higher earners with multiple sources of income. Others are small business owners. You have retirees with extensive investment portfolios. You have people owning renal property and others with homes in different states.
Step Two: Develop a talk targeted to each group. Although people want the full story, they don’t want to sit for two hours. Aim at 45 minutes max. Assemble PowerPoint slides. Structure your presentation in simple English, avoiding jargon. Verify your facts, especially if you intend sending them home with a handout or homework. Give each topic an attention getting title.
Step Three: Find a location. Assuming these are small groups, the conference room at your office is probably fine. If you are in a larger office building, the management company may have conference room space on another floor tenants can rent for meetings. This keeps the costs down vs. planning a meeting at a hotel. Ideally, every confirmed invitation yields four people. Your client and spouse, their guest and spouse. Ten accepted invitations might be forty people.
Step Four: Schedule dates. You might think “One and done” is the path you want to take, but realize your small business owner client might really want to come and bring a friend, but they are busy that day. Others like what they heard, but want to hear it a second time. Plan to repeat the seminar series in each of the following two months.
Step Five: Market the educational seminars to your client base. A financial advisor in the Midwest found “Briefings” sounds better than “Seminars.” E-mail is good, print is too. Assume you need to tell clients at least six times before it sinks in. This means reminder e-mails and a phone call to confirmed attendees the day before.
Step Six: Consider logistics. Expect to feed them, but don’t go overboard. Coffee, water, light snacks are fine. Check off people as they arrive, so you know who attends. You want guests, who are now prospects, to leave with something in their hand. They need your name and contact information. Ideally you want contact information for the guests. Asking for their permission to send your eNewsletter is a good way to stay in touch.
Step Seven: The day has arrived. Greet everyone personally. Start and end on time. Let people ask questions. You will want to include a "commercial" aimed at the guests who aren’t clients yet. It can be low key. “I’m a CPA working with (describe the characteristics of your audience.) You probably work with one already. If you are happy with them, that’s great. If not, perhaps we should talk.” Very low key. Individually thank each person for attending as they leave.
Step Eight: You are an accountant. Aggressive follow-up isn’t your style. Try sending a handwritten thank you note or email to clients for attending and bringing a guest. Indicate they can call with questions. Few people send notes by surface mail anymore. You will make a good impression.
This is a basic approach and there are many ways you can modify it. You might tie in with another professional (financial advisor) and build a shared audience together in a larger venue. Their clients become your prospects and vice versa, which eliminates the need to encourage clients to bring guests. You can also share costs.
Want to learn more? Other Accountingweb.com articles have also addressed this subject. Here’s one example.
Bryce Sanders is president of Perceptive Business Solutions Inc. in New Hope, Pennsylvania. He provides high-net-worth client acquisition training for the financial services industry. His book, Captivating the Wealthy Investor, can be found on Amazon.com.