Steve Delott, CLU, ChFC, has a rebuttal to proclamations that the seminar is dead, a feast for plate-lickers and a famine for advisors seeking new business.

The seminar is alive and well, and probably still the warmest appointment you can get,” says Delott, principal and founder of Delott and Associates, an annuity-oriented field marketing firm in Rolling Meadows, Ill.

While the formula for seminar success differs from advisor to advisor, the bottom line is making every detail count, the experts say, from the invitation on through to the appointment that hopefully lands that coveted new client. Here are some tips for realizing a robust seminar return on investment.

Before the seminar:

  • Target prospects with precision. Methodically select the zip codes where invitations are mailed, recommends Jennifer Butts, field marketing manager at GP Creative, an arm of GamePlan Financial Marketing. And avoid mailing to high-net-worth targets. They tend to not respond to direct mail solicitations.
  • Go with a pro. “Use a professional service for list selection, invitations and mailing,” says Maribeth Kuzmeski, head of Red Zone Marketing, an advisor-oriented consulting firm. “If you try to do it yourself, at the end of the day, you’re going to spend time and money on something that doesn’t really work.”
  • Choose a compelling topic. “It’s a matter of having an issue that people can relate to, such as ‘Are you going to have enough income in retirement?’ ” Butts says. Nowadays, Delott adds, asset-protection topics resonate the most.
  • Keep seminar subjects fresh. “I consistently change seminar topics to avoid hitting the same area with the same information over and over,” Delott says.
  • Practice creative cost-control. To reduce seminar expenses, “think out of the box a bit,” Butts suggests, noting many vendors, such as mail houses, printing companies and venues, offer discounts for prepaying for a year’s worth of services. Partnering with community facilities, senior centers and affinity groups can also save on room fees, she adds.
  • Choose the day, time and venue wisely. Delott says events held on Tuesdays and Thursdays, starting around 3:30 p.m., tend to produce the best results. “You need a nice restaurant, but not one that’s over-the-top. Make sure it has a great private meeting room,” he says.
  • Confirm attendance the day before. Having staff call registered attendees on the eve of the event makes for better attendance, Delott says.
  • Get licensed. “I tell all my agents to get their Series 65 license, so they’re qualified to talk about a wider range of solutions, including switching a variable annuity to a fixed index annuity, fixed index annuity income riders and annuities with a long term care component,” Delott says.

In part two we’ll go over some best practices to consider during and after the seminar.

For more on successful seminars, see:

3 out of the box tips for successful seminars

4 keys to seminar success for advisors

Seminars 101

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David Port is a Denver-based freelance writer and a frequent contributor to Senior Market Advisor. He owns and operates his own writing and editing business, Southpaw Print/Net Communications.