Seminars are an excellent opportunity both to build new client relationships and strengthen old ones, says Cherry Reynard, but a little planning and forethought should pay extra dividends.
Seminars should – at least in theory – be one of the more cost-effective ways to build and retain your client base. Instead of seeking out one client at a time, advisers have a captive audience to whom they can deliver targeted messages. Mixing in existing clients with potential leads creates a valuable sense of community as well as a source of immediate recommendations. However, successful seminars require more than simply mass-emailing some potential prospects and chatting about inheritance tax, say, or offshore bonds.
Attracting sufficient attendees is the first hurdle and, to this end, any email or written invitation needs to be friendly, inviting and, above all, sell the benefits of attending. Rather than “Come along and learn about bonds”, try “Come along and learn about generating a tax-free income”, for example. Again, rather than “Come along and learn about inheritance tax”, try “Come along and learn how to keep your wealth intact for your loved ones”.
The invitation should also say a little about why the host is qualified to provide this information – how long has the business been established? What is its background? Gently authoritative without showing off is the ideal tone.
In building up a list of attendees, it is worth sweating the existing client base a little. People will cheerfully bring their friends for a free lunch or glass of wine. It is also worth making it convenient – somewhere central at the right time so people do not have to go out of their way in either respect. As far as possible personalising invites reaps rewards. In the era of spam and junk emails, “to whom it may concern” will not bring a lot of traction.
The subject matter should be chosen with care and with an appreciation of the audience’s concerns. Those nearing retirement are unlikely to want a seminar on emerging markets while a group of thrusting young lawyers is unlikely to want to hear about annuity options.
That said, it is worth choosing a variety of subjects to keep things fresh and interesting. A number of IFA groups have had some success with inviting well-known fund managers to participate in their seminars. This can add extra gravitas and obviously reflects well on the individual advisory company.
It is also worth providing some high-quality literature to take away. Ideally this should be something more than simply ‘this is what we do’ so, for example, it could be a white paper on inheritance tax options or – if we might talk up our own book for a moment – a guide to, say, income investing or portfolio diversification. This should showcase an adviser’s expertise without giving it away for free. Seminars are an excellent opportunity to build new relationships and strengthen old ones, but they have to be handled with care.