The continuously-evolving financial services industry has returned to seminars as the most effective method for building a business as a financial advisor. With continued corruption, regulatory issues and overall lack of trust in the industry, the stage is set for a new way to incorporate seminars into your practice.
With an ever-increasing base of products and services, combined with growing demands on everyone’s time, an effective seminar program can attract more clients, generate more referrals, and enhance all of your marketing efforts while saving you both time and energy. It’s time to learn a new approach to an age-old process.
I started in the financial services industry in 1982. At the time, limited partnerships were the rage, and tax shelters were a haven for investors and a big ticket for advisors. Cold calling was the most effective method to grow a practice, and there were few to no compliance issues. We could open an account and place a trade over the phone with just a name, address and social security number.
In the 1990s there was a shift toward fee-based business. “Limited partnership” became a dirty phrase, and mutual funds and collateralized mortgage obligations began filling the void. Although cold calling was still a viable form of prospecting, seminars began to play an increasing role in generating volumes of potential clients. Product-focused breakfast seminars at the local coffee shop were not uncommon. Participants were seen as “buying units” and success was determined by products sold.
Over time, the term “stockbroker” was replaced with financial consultant; today, the terminology is shifting toward “wealth manager.” What was a low-touch, transactional and sometimes impersonal business in the 1980s has become a high-touch, relationship driven, fee-based business in the 21st Century. While we used to be content to sell just stocks and bonds, now we are looking to provide planning, insurance, lending, banking, estate planning, and a multitude of products and services that extend our reach well beyond the stock and bond markets.
As we continue moving toward total wealth management, specialization is becoming increasingly critical to professional survival. Depth of resources is the foundation of today’s practice, and a high level of client service and added value is what encourages client loyalty and inspires referrals. Our relationships with clients are reaching new levels, becoming stronger and penetrating multiple generations. All of this creates greater demand on our time, leaving less time to develop new business, which leads us to the new push for partnerships and teams. With broadened capabilities and growing expectations from clients, teams are becoming a critical component in building dynamic businesses – ones that can continue to focus on organic growth while actively pursuing external growth.
At the same time, the Do-Not-Call list has reduced the efficiency of cold calling, high-volume seminars are riddled with empty seats, and increasing competition has diluted our prospecting efforts. So how do we find new clients and grow our businesses in this environment, all the while maintaining high levels of client service?
Just as our role as financial advisors has become more dynamic, so must our marketing strategies. In today’s environment, each piece of a marketing must work in conjunction with the others, addressing a multitude of issues through a variety of methods in order to penetrate a selected target market.
A well-designed, small-scale seminar program can be the thread that weaves all of your marketing efforts together. An effective seminar program can emphasize your value as a financial advisor and differentiate you from those financial advisors who continue to build their businesses the old-fashioned way.
Although there is a time and place for large-volume events, most seminars today should be smaller, more intimate events that create an environment conducive to building trust and confidence. By incorporating a combination of educational, specialty, client-appreciation and image-enhancing events, you will reach more participants and generate more referrals and introductions. To achieve these results, you must create a multi-tiered program that addresses even non-financial issues using a multitude of venues and methods that appeal to the gender, age, and preferences of your target market. By going beyond just financial concerns, you enhance your ability to connect with participants in a way that updates the traditional stockbroker image.
Every aspect of your seminar program should stem from your target market, with programs driven by client needs and issues. By tapping into your available product wholesalers and building outside alliances with other service professionals, you can expand your reach and develop strong referral sources. In time, your events will position you as a trusted resource for education, enhance the value you bring to your clients, and elevate your client service and ability to generate referrals. A well-developed seminar program is a powerful way to meet all the needs of the 21st Century financial advisor – and her clients.