Seminars are not dead; old techniques are
By Brian Lucius
Gradient Financial Group
In the second half of the year, many of the top advisors I work with are planning heavy seminar activity to fill their calendars. Many of the nation’s top producers utilize seminar marketing as their preferred method of prospecting, and it continues to be my recommendation for building a high-volume practice. I get several questions from readers as to what’s happening and why some advisors are seeing declining seminar results. There are a few key areas one can focus on to ensure seminars remain a viable marketing strategy.
There are three things you can easily implement to start transitioning your practice to encompass the boomer generation.
No. 1 -- The time your seminars are held
No. 2 --The content and position you present
No. 3 --The appointment setting process (the “call to action”).
Let’s start with the time seminars are held. The traditional seminar has been either held for lunch (11:00 a.m.) or dinner (4:30 p.m). If you agree with a more active boomer lifestyle, you’ll find holding your seminars later will add several benefits to your current seminar. First, successful people are oftentimes successful because they enjoy working. By holding a seminar at 6:00 p.m., you’ll give some of the high-net-worth investors the time to get off work and attend your presentation.
Think about it for a second, you know they are getting invited to several seminars a week, so do you really think they’ll take time off work to come? You’ll also cut down on some of the “professional seminar attendees,” as they will choose an earlier seminar for the free meal to ensure they get back home at a reasonable time.
Next, let’s talk about the content of a seminar. By now, most advisors have steered clear of the “product pitch,” annuity-based seminar. Often, we’ll go out of our way to make the seminar not seem like an annuity presentation. I have had the privilege of seeing several seminars from successful advisors all across the country, and the good news is, there is not a recurring topic that one could link to success. There is, however, a recurring theme to their seminars. They all seem to be advisor-based in their topics. What I mean is they cover general financial planning topics, not salesperson topics. The only thing they are selling is the advisors themselves. The only goal of their seminar is to generate a first appointment, not sell a product.
Let’s quickly discuss advisor-based topics. I think we can all agree that investors want advisors, not salespeople. One of the easiest ways to accomplish this is to actually become an advisor. Becoming an investment advisor representative, whether it’s your own RIA or an established RIA, is the only way to become a true advisor. You can then truly illustrate to the public the difference between insurance-only agents, registered representatives and investment advisors. The boomer generation is also more open to listening to someone who is less objective to the way they have been taught to invest. What do I mean? The boomers have grown up around portable retirement plans, with mutual funds being the main investment in most. Boomers have almost singlehandedly built the mutual fund industry. They often do not appreciate advisors who bash the market, as it seems to come across as “you have made bad decisions your whole life.” Instead, an investment-friendly seminar will become much more effective in saying, “You have done a decent job thus far, and there may be better ways of investing your money today.” Remember, the seminar presentation itself has nothing to do with the recommendations you make for the client. That is based around the client’s situation and retirement goals set in the first appointment.
Again, getting the first appointment is the single goal of the seminar itself. So what are they doing to set 70 percent, 80 percent or even 90 percent appointment ratios? It’s all about the call to action. A call to action is what motivates prospects to come see you. The most common call to action is a “free review” or “free consultation.” Although these are effective, many studies have shown that in the consumers’ minds, it is the equivalent of offering a free sales pitch.
Rather, if you have an IRA-based seminar, try using a complimentary guide to IRA taxation or a guide to structuring IRA beneficiaries . If you are using an investment advisor-based seminar, you could use an investment fee report to illustrate the fees being paid in their investment accounts. Even an annuity-based seminar could be improved by adding an annuity owners guide as a call to action for coming in. Always remember, these are not free. The word "free" means there are no strings attached, including an appointment. You should reserve the right to withhold the offerings if they do not set an appointment.
Do not get discouraged by dwindling seminar results. Seminars continue to be the number one prospecting method in the country, and my opinion is shared by several of the top advisors in this business.
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