Women are great prospects for financial services. They earn 60% of U.S. bachelors degrees, own 48% of the countrys businesses and make up about 40% of the domestic high-net-worth market. But, you need to do more than add a few pictures of dynamic women to your company brochures to appeal to women and earn their business.

One answer is to organize educational, needs-based seminars.

Seminars may be even more effective at reaching women than at reaching men because of the way women make financial services decisions.

Women have told us that they are looking for long-term, trusting relationships with their financial professional. They also want to understand the financial recommendations made to them. And they want to take a systematic approach to developing and updating their financial plans. Create a successful client relationship with a female consumer and youll have a long-term client.

Standard industry approaches are less effective with women. First, you cant expect to convert women prospects into clients successfully unless you are willing to invest the time in developing a professional relationship. Women need to feel comfortable with you. They rightfully expect you to earn their trust.

Second, “disturbers”alarming statements designed to motivate prospects to take actionare often viewed as offensive. Some women will view disturbers as unjustified scare tactics, while others will see them as yet another attempt by others to make them feel guilty about something in their lives.

Finally, when you have taken the time to develop a proposed plan of action for a woman prospect and she tells you, “I want to think about it,” she means exactly that. She wants time to digest the plan and perhaps to review it with others whose opinions she values. This is part of her decision-making process. If you treat her request for time to “think about it” as an objection that must be overcome, youll be severely disappointed when she walks away, convinced that you dont respect her need to reflect before taking action.

Seminars are a way for you to present yourself effectively to this important consumer group.

A successful seminar for women will:

–Remind the women in your audience of their thirst for knowledge by offering them a taste of new financial, investment or business planning ideas.

–Give the women in the audience time to build a rapport with you.

–Help you showcase your expertise and present yourself as a trusted advisor.

So, how do you give a successful seminar for womenand generate attendance? Keep in mind that women lead extremely hectic lives. Your seminar will be competing for time on their calendars with families, businesses, friends, careers and community obligations. You have to persuade women to make time for your seminar.

Providing a sit-down meal is not the answer.

Dont misunderstand me: You will need to provide quality, thoughtful refreshments. But simply serving a free dinner may not be enough to get busy, successful women to come to your seminar. Instead, find a way to give participants a rare chance to nurture their souls while also getting your information across. Consider holding your seminar at an art gallery and allowing participants time after the seminar to view the latest exhibits. Or, hold a wine-tasting after the seminar and offer wine-purchasing tips from a local sommelier. Give your guests time to mingle with each other and just relax, if only for a few minutes.

Here are some other considerations:

1. Keep it short.

When developing the content for your seminar, limit the total length of the presentation and the Q&A to 90 minutes. Remember: You dont need to include every possible detail you know about estate planning or investment diversification. Sharing too much information will lead to a room filled with glazed-over eyes.

2. Come up with terrific invitations.

Dull, cookie-cutter invitations send a clear message to the recipients: “Not worth my time.” Also, always invite your guests to bring a friend. A woman is more likely to attend if she can bring an ally.

3. Ask for feedback at the end of your seminar.

Women will respect the fact that you ask. Asking for feedback lets women know that you value their time and opinion.

4. Before you close, offer guests a chance to schedule private appointmentsbut dont pressure them.

A woman might not be comfortable with you after only one seminar. Keep all of your guests who let you send them mailings on your invitation list for future seminars. A woman who doesnt become a client today may become a client tomorrow.

Susan W. Sweetser, J.D., CFP, CLU, ChFC, is second vice president for womens markets at Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company, Springfield, Mass. She can be reached via e-mail at ssweetser@massmutual.com.


Reproduced from National Underwriter Edition, February 18, 2005. Copyright 2005 by The National Underwriter Company in the serial publication. All rights reserved.Copyright in this article as an independent work may be held by the author.