If you’re struggling to fill seats at your seminars, the solution can be easier than you thought. Sometimes all it takes is making a few simple changes in your marketing strategy. Let’s take a step back and reassess your marketing process from start to finish.
“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”
Albert Einstein said that. You do that.
Effective direct marketing campaigns do not just materialize based on luck; success requires lots of planning, strategizing, and revising. Before blindly jumping into your next campaign, take the time to review these proven marketing tips. If you need more help, our marketing consultants can further help you settle on a streamlined process that may make the difference in your next campaign.
1) Seminar Invitations: Differentiate yourself from your competitors.
If you’re like many financial advisors, you believe the falling response rates to your seminar mailings are due to saturation from local competing advisors. Historically, that is not usually the case. The saturation isn’t in volume of advisors, it’s the volume of stock invites being used by a few local advisors. It’s more common that you may realize, since there’s just a few large seminar marketing companies, these companies all operate on a template-based business model. Meaning they have pre-printed templates stacked floor to ceiling, and thousands of advisors just select the template and mail off all over the country. It’s pretty simple to see how this could lead to confusion at the mailbox.
When prospects receive the same seminar invitation repeatedly from the many different advisors in their area, it’ll definitely lead to negative impacts in your response rates. Not only will it diminish your credibility, they can’t even tell you apart from the competition. Any sense of urgency a prospect may have from reading your invite is lost when your competitor used the same template, and the prospect didn’t realize the difference. They’re going to toss the invite and know another offer will arrive before the event.
The obvious solution is to avoid templates from direct mail house marketing companies. They boast about the volume of seminars they produce invites for every month, but do they tell you how many times this month your template was mailed out? Separate yourself from the competition and watch your response rates increase. Customizing unique invites specific to you and your firm’s brand isn’t hard. Keep your message fresh and topics current, and consult experts like us to polish off the pieces and mail them to your list of prospects.
2) Use Quality Target Lists.
The top three factors that are vital to the success of any direct mail campaign are: LISTS, LISTS, LISTS! The results you receive will only be as good as the lists you use.
A perfectly written invitation with a flawless design is worthless if it’s not delivered to the ideal client. Outdated lists that aren’t continuously updated against the National Change of Address (NCOA) Database can result in mail being sent to the wrong mailboxes. The most expensive invite is the one that costs you a meal, a seat at your seminar, and wasted time. That’s no longer just a seriously outdated list, that’s a serious blow to your marketing budget.
It’s important when ordering your lists to understand the selections you’re using to narrow your targets down. Many, such as age, income, employees, home ownership and others, are inaccurate models that’ll vary from source to source. Ever wonder why you’ll see more records with a competitor using the same search criteria? Because not everyone actually uses gathered data, the factual and verifiable data that gets you the best list. Most use those models, and some even over-model some data elements, which costs you in the end.
3) Implement a Confirmation Process.
Master the confirmation process that works best for you. That’s the whole point of these seminars, getting to talk to your prospects, getting them to attend, and getting them comfortable with you and your knowledge so they stick with you. You’re much more likely to establish profitable long-term relationships if you don’t just invite guests, you get to know them. From the moment they RSVP, there are multiple opportunities for you to “touch” these prospects. Failure to followup with a solid confirmation process means you fail to reach out and “touch” these prospects. It can ultimately lead to a loss of up to 50% in prospects that registered to attend.
If you don’t have a confirmation process, or need inspiration on perfecting yours, here’s our perfect confirmation process that we recommend to all our clients:
- Personal Touch #1 – This is the initial call to thank them for registering. You’ll confirm names of all attendees, date, time and location of the seminar, and you’ll make sure they’re familiar with the directions to the venue. At the end of the call, they should be told to expect another call the Friday prior to the event. Setting the tone for the second call, let them know that these workshops are usually very full with a waiting list, so by confirming a second time you’re just making sure everyone who wants to attend can get the chance to.
- Personal Touch #2 – The second call should be made on the Friday prior to the seminar the attendee signed up for. This is your second opportunity to personally connect with these potential new clients.
- Personal Touch #3 – This last touch takes place either the morning or afternoon before the seminar. This is to once again confirm attendance as well as get their meal preference. This step usually increases the probability that the RSVP shows up, reason being that they’re gently being told that the restaurant needs counts for meals that you’ve committed to pay for. They’re now aware you’re on the hook for the food, even if they don’t show up, therefore lessening the chance for no shows.
Approaching all these interactions in a personable manner, not as someone trying to sell them something, is important. By the time the guest arrives at your seminar, they should be calling you and your team by first names. Failure to follow up with a proper confirmation process can cost an advisor up to 20% to 40% in closing ratios. All of our clients using this process have seen a real drop off in no-shows and an increase in attendance and appointments set at their seminars.
4) It’s All About the Time and Place.
Timing Is Everything!
Keep in mind that seminars should be held at times that are convenient for the attendees you are trying to reach. This may be complicated depending on your target demographic.
- When targeting Boomers (Ages 45-65) or business owners, demands created by work and family obligations will not allow them the opportunity to attend an event you are holding at lunch or early afternoon. The best times for these particular seminars generally seem to be around start times of 6:00 – 6:30 p.m.
- If hosting senior workshops, you will have another set of issues to deal with. Driving at night or eating too late may be an issue. You will also want to pay close attention to heavy traffic patterns in the vicinity of the restaurant at particular times of the day. Seniors will know what areas to avoid and may pass on your invitation if that is an issue to them. Earlier start times, between 3:45 to 4:30 p.m. have proven to be the most effective for this age range.
Identifying and planning these events based on the concerns of your target audience will allow you to hold your seminar at the most opportune times.
Choosing the Wrong Restaurant
You may have not noticed, but you’re kind of in the food business. Don’t downplay the importance of a restaurant! The venue you choose should match the class of prospects you are attempting to attract to your event, and if you don’t think it does, maybe you should upgrade your demographics with IPA or age and income adjustments. Keep this in mind:
- Try to find a restaurant with a private banquet room that has a door.
- To get the best deal with restaurant, dates should be booked up to one year in advance.
- Be careful in choosing meals. Sticking with basic steak, chicken and a vegetarian entree are perfect.
- Negotiate with your restaurant regarding carryovers for no-shows.
- Check with your mail house on restaurants and time suggestions. If they can’t give you any, consider giving our marketing team a call, we’ll walk you through the best options.
5) Improve the Seminar Presentation.
- Cold Topics: Just as different types of investments come in and out of favor, so do seminar topics. Last year’s seminars are just that – last year’s seminars. Keeping the topics of discussion updated can make a real difference in your seminar response rates.
- Consider an Additional Professional Speaker: We’ve seen an increase in seminar attendance for advisors that added another professional to the event lineup. Someone like a CPA or Elder Law attorney. Someone from within your referral network is perfect for this. They can provide a significant boost in response rates due to the added value of information they can provide to your audience. In addition, they can also be a valuable resource to co-op costs associated with your events.
- Change up Your Game: As marketers we must embrace positive change, so maybe changing your type of seminar could benefit you. Try senior seminars bi-weekly, and on off weeks hold boomer and Social Security events. A topic that’s asked for a lot – a women only seminar – may revive your reputation as a speaker and expert.
Like we’ve been saying, it’s important to be different for the right reasons, so keeping the information you present current and listening to what your audience asks of you is vital for appealing to your prospects and sealing the deal on some new clients.
If you still feel like something is missing, or you really need the guidance of a seminar marketing expert, give us a call and we can walk through it with you: 866-855-3710.