Bill Good Marketing

10 Issues to Resolve So You Can Succeed at Seminar Marketing

The original version of this story was published on ThinkAdvisor®

A number of advisors have told me, “Seminars don’t work.” True, many have failed to make it work. But for those who get it right — and yes, seminars do work — the results can be explosive.

Here is a look at 10 key concerns about seminars. Addressing these issues is critical if you are considering, or are actively engaged in, seminar marketing.

1. What’s the biggest challenge?

You must identify and control all the factors necessary for seminars to work. If just one of these fails, your seminar will fail.

I have analyzed the six factors necessary for seminar success in my white paper, “Seminar Success Zone.” These success factors are: invitation acceptance rate, show-up rate, appointment request rate, appointment show-up rate, close rate and post-seminar management. There is a metric for each and each must be in a certain range.

These metrics working together put your seminar “in the zone.” Obviously, you can have an astute, penetrating presentation, but if only a few people show up, your seminar flops.

2. Why do most people fail?

This question is almost a complete restatement of the first. But not quite. You fail for two reasons.

First, you do not stick with it long enough. Your first seminar flops, and you say, “Oh well, seminars don’t work.”

Second, you do not hold enough seminars close enough together to work your way through the six factors in the success zone.

To launch a seminar marketing campaign, schedule at least one seminar per month and be prepared for an overflow seminar. The optimum would be two events per month for several months.

I have coached thousands of advisors through tens of thousands of seminars. Maybe one or two got it right out of the gate. Odds are it will not be you. Seminar marketing is a complex and sophisticated activity. At a minimum, it takes several seminars to get all factors in the zone.

3. How do I find out what topics prospects are interested in?

Competitive research. Ask six clients in different areas of your market to save all their seminar invitations for a few weeks. This tells you who is doing seminars, what topics they are promoting, and what kind of invitation they are using.

Now go look to find out which invitations are working.

One of your competitors has a seminar scheduled at that famous eatery, the Blue Lizard. Take your spouse or significant other to dinner that night. Walk by the room. Look in. See how many people are there. Is the room packed? Empty? Do this several times. You will get an excellent idea of what topics, invitations, and locations are producing an audience.

4. What’s the best type of invitation?

As you inspect the mail your clients have saved, you will find two or maybe three styles of invitation: wedding style, letter style and, occasionally, flyer style. Odds are that you will notice one dominant style.

Match up a topic and style with the seminars that produced the audience.

Start a similar topic and invitation. If that does not work, it could be that your competitor owns that topic. At least you know what topics and invitation styles are working in your area.

5. How many invitations should I send?

Start small. It is called testing. Instead of blasting out 3,000 or 5,000 invitations for a first seminar, send out 1,000 to 1,500.

If your invitation is “in the zone” and pulls at least 0.8%, increase your mailing next time. If it flops, and only one person accepts, round up a few clients, have a nice dinner, and try it again. Change your invitation, change your list, change your topic, change your location. Do not blow your budget on your first mailing.

Continue testing until your acceptance rate is “in the zone” (around 0.8% or better). Now calculate how many to send to fill your primary and overflow seminars. To do that, you need the answer to this next question.

6. How big should a seminar be?

The optimum size for a seminar is no more than 24 people. This datum comes from countless instances of large seminars producing few appointments, and smaller seminars producing more.

It is really a bonding thing. Unless you are an outstanding speaker, you cannot relate to more than about 24 people.

That’s three tables of eight. Unless you are brand-new in the business, and do not have any clients, make certain to have a client at each table. With a goodwill ambassador hard at work at each table, you have a much better chance of getting your “appointment request rate” in the zone.

The 18 people you need are about 10 buying units. Allowing for about a 20% no-show rate, you would need to send about 1,250 invitations. Because what we really want is two seminars, double it. If our mailing flops, we can fill one. Ideally, we fill two.

7. Do I have to serve a meal?

No, you don’t. You can struggle with response rates of 0.1% or so. It is called FAILURE.

I do know of instances where the presenter does not offer a meal. These are exceptional presenters who have been doing this for years in the same market. They often draw on big lists of past attendees, as well as no-shows and people who have expressed an interest in future seminars.

For a new or revived seminar campaign, offer a meal. There seems to be a social contract between seminar marketers and investors.

The contract says, “You buy dinner, and I will give you a couple of hours of my time.”

Wine and cheese is not dinner. Dessert and coffee is not dinner. Hors d’oeuvres is not dinner. Dinner is salad, beef or chicken, dessert and coffee. Offer a no-host bar if you like.

Furthermore, do not select an ethnic restaurant. Not that I have anything personally against Mexican, Thai, Japanese, Greek, Chinese or whatever. They just do not pull well.

The restaurant you select will play a large role in your invitation success. Think: location, location, location.

8. How do I keep out “eaters”?

People attend the seminar primarily for the food. It is the skill of the presenter that converts the hated “eater” to a prospect.

Countless poor presenters have told me, “The only people who came were eaters.” Sorry, the problem is not the “eaters.”

9. How long should a seminar last?

At least an hour.

“Oh no! My market is seniors, and they have a very short attention span.”

Wrong again. You have a poor presentation.

A couple of years ago, I sat through a seminar primarily for seniors. The presenter was outstanding. His seminar lasted an hour and 15 minutes. Participants were alert, took lots of notes. At least a half dozen people hung around for 45 minutes asking questions.

What you think is a short attention span = BORING PRESENTATION. You need at least an hour, preferably an hour and 15 minutes to engage and bond with your audience.

10. How many slides should I use?

Three or four. Some people believe slides enable them to communicate with “visual learners,” and end up with dozens. That’s wrong. To ensure your seminar is filled with eaters, with short attention spans who don’t set appointments, go ahead, pile on slides.

People do not come to a seminar to watch slides. They come to evaluate a speaker to see if this is someone who can help them with an event coming up in their lives.

Don’t destroy your opportunity by relying on slides and think you have a presentation. You don’t.

Bill Good

Bill Good is the founder and chairman of Bill Good Marketing. His latest book, “Hot Prospects,” is No. 88 on the 96 Best Prospecting Books of All Time list and is available on Amazon. He created the Bill Good Marketing System and has been named one of the industry’s top five coaches.

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