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Financial Planning > Trusts and Estates > Estate Planning

Building An Estate Planning Practice Using Seminar Marketing

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The tips I am about to share with you require commitment, investment and the courage to believe. While I have counseled dozens of agents, managers and business owners, the basic concepts to move your practice upstream by at least 25% over the next three months are in this presentation.

Tip 1: Hold seminars at places where attendees are comfortable. Most advisors situate their events at hotels and country clubs. Some choose expensive restaurants where folks aren’t comfortable. This is overkill and you can’t keep it up long term.

We’ve discovered that when we go to a nice neighborhood restaurant, close to where prospects live, our attendance and believability picks up at least two notches and our cost is reduced. Many restaurants have meeting rooms that go unused most evenings. Owners are often happy to rent out these rooms and work with you.

Tip 2: Leave the big city behind. Small town folks are largely underserved. Get a map of your area and go to towns and villages 20 or more miles outside of town. Your conversions of invitations to attendees will more than double. This will allow you to reduce the number of invitations. On average, we triple the number of attendees when we go to virgin territory.

What day works best for seminars? We prefer Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday evenings. As to Mondays, even if the restaurant is open, most people are still mentally getting over the weekend. We start at 6 p.m., early enough to finish by 8:15 p.m. and return home at a reasonable hour.

Size does matter. Big crowds are hard to handle. We prefer groups under 25 people. Our statistics point out something strange: No matter how many attendees we have, we typically average five appointments. So, I recommend small groups. You’ll spend less and get similar results.

Tip 3: Keep it simple. Some advisors feed attendees first; others serve courses as they cover different topics. This can be disruptive and confusing. I speak before dinner and do not serve alcohol or soft drinks. Beverages are limited to water, coffee and tea. Rarely do I get a complaint.

If they are waiting for dinner, the audience, in general, is polite. After I talk, I take questions (the wait for “chow” helps minimize these), attendees complete evaluation sheets and one of my staff begins the “visitation process.”

While attendees are eating, my staff person asks whether they enjoyed the presentation and if they want an appointment. It’s that simple. I’ve told them what to expect before I talk. When we do what we promise, they are more apt to tell us “yes” or “no” and be honest.

If they say they want us to call, we say we will, but only twice. After two weeks we’ll be too busy with other folks. We get 70% of our appointments booked at the dinner; the rest are arranged within two weeks. In total, from 25% to 40% of attendees agree to appointments.

Tip 4: Create Value. During my seven years as a Strategic Coach class member, I learned about several things, none more important than “value creation.” However, before you can create value, you must get prospects’ attention and interest.

To that end, I ask participants questions about estate planning issues of concern to them. Next, I discuss how estate assets can be passed–will, title, beneficiary, gift, in trust. I also talk about the expense of probate. Then I discuss mortality and the possibility of running out of money.

Thereafter, I’ll talk about a document we call “the survivor’s guide” or what attorneys refer to as an “ethical will.” This is not a legal document but a labor of love transcribed by Mom and Dad while they are alive.

Created with or without the kids’ involvement, the guide has the power to keep the family peace, avoid hard feelings, shorten the probate process and reduce the cost of estate settlement.

You need not be an attorney or an estate planning expert to use this document. The guide can create clients, bind clients to you and, in the end, make the client love you and recommend you to friends and family.

Here are a few points I want to stress:

1. The better the fact-finding, the better the long-term success is with clients. I probe and probe; this is critical. The more that prospects share personal information with me, the more committed to the process they become. When I cross a certain information threshold, they are mine.

2. We only solve one problem at a time. The more times that clients come to my office, the more they love me and my staff. If you slow the process and build a relationship one piece at a time, the sale will take longer, but you’ll establish a better client relationship and do more business.

3. I delegate most things. I am a team person. I know initially that delegating will hurt profitability but will lead to greater success long term. The less I do, the more I give others a chance to shine. Long term, we’ll keep adding good people and our business will flourish.

4. Develop your own mailing lists. Early on, we bought commercial lists, then database lists. Later, we found that by developing our own lists from local resources, they were quite a bit better than those we could buy.

By giving away books, for example, we add at least 50 names a month to our master list. Any seminar attendee who lists four friends on a referral sheet gets a book. We thereby add several new names, often well qualified people, during each seminar.

5. Meet regularly with clients. When I was a young producer, my GA said to meet with clients two times each year. I did, and it worked.

Today, I attempt to do one better: When you become a client, you are invited to our offices either two or four times each year. I believe this keeps those who stick to the commitment close to us. They become better clients and, ultimately, refer their friends to us.

Before the initial meeting, the prospective clients receive a packet from our office. It includes detailed, door-to-door directions, and information about our firm and our staff. We suggest they visit our Website so they know about us when they arrive.

We attempt to create what some folks call the “Starbucks Experience.” When clients get to our office, our staff members greet them, place their names on a daily inner office marquee and hang up their coats. They are offered our best non-alcoholic libations and are made to feel comfortable.

When they have to wait more than five minutes, one of our staff goes out to chat with them. In general, people appreciate the visit. We have three conference rooms and often all three are being used in reviews, taking new applications or in interviews.

All first-time visitors get a clock to take home with them. It has our name and phone number on the front. Our reading materials are current. And there are free books for them to take home and add to their libraries.

If clients personally refer their friends to us, they receive movie tickets. And if they refer a person who becomes a client, they receive a gift certificate to a nice restaurant in their neighborhood.

Use these tips and you’ll increase your production.