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Build Trust Before Hosting a Joint Seminar

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With this article, we wrap up a series on how not to structure strategic alliances. In my opinion, it’s almost as helpful to know what not to do as it is to know what to do. But don’t worry, beginning next week, it’s all about how-to.

I wanted to take this week to highlight a major mistake that I’ve seen many advisors make in their joint venture relationships, one I came close to making myself. Before making the transition to a 100 percent professional referral-based business, I had been a successful direct mail seminar producer by most people’s standards. However, as my direct mail responses plummeted in 2008, I knew I had to find a smarter and more strategic way of growing my business. I couldn’t deny the power of seminar marketing, but the declining response to direct mail was killing my business.

That being the case, I asked myself, “How can I continue doing seminars but market them in a much smarter way, a way that will fill my seminars with high-quality prospects on a basis of trust?”

The answer came to me surprisingly quicklyform alliances with other professionals, namely CPAs, enrolled agents and accountants, and do jointly sponsored seminars. It sounded easy enough at first. But what wasn’t as easy was implementing this concept successfully. One error I almost made, but fortunately avoided, was jumping too quickly to the jointly sponsored seminar. That’s the big idea I want to convey to you this week.

I’ve talked to a number of advisors who at some point have had the idea of hosting jointly sponsored seminars, but found the response and results they got from these events was nowhere close to what they were hoping for. Why?

The Problem

By forming an alliance with another professional (the CPA in this example), and then jumping right into co-sponsored seminars, you are circumventing the most important part of the Strategic Alliance process: “The Transfer of Trust.”

The CPA’s clients who may show up to your co-sponsored seminars oftentimes come in expecting to be educated by the professional they know, like and trust. But then seemingly out of nowhere, they find themselves sitting in the audience being introduced to you and sitting through your two-hour sales pitch, all the time wondering, “Who is this guy? And how did we get talked into sitting through this?” Jumping right into jointly sponsored seminars leaves the clients feeling as though they’ve been “tricked,” which is obviously not the first impression you want to make.

Solving the Problem

Before hosting my first CPA-client seminar, and with the understanding that this approach would cause a negative reaction, I took the time in my practice to ask myself the question, “How can I build relationship with this CPA’s clients before they ever come to one of my workshops?” That was a question that took me months to answer. But once I developed a plan and strategy for building those relationships, I found that by the time the CPA’s clients were invited to a jointly sponsored seminar, the “Transfer of Trust” from their CPA to me had already taken place.

In all honesty, it was like doing a seminar for my existing clients. These prospects were very open-minded and had a high level of trust, which is of course what made the seminars so successful. It was this strategic planning that led to me getting a response rate of 40-plus percent to my CPA-jointly sponsored workshops. As someone who had become conditioned to expect a 0.5 percent response rate to my direct mail seminars, you can only imagine how excited I was for my business again. I still remember my first CPA-client workshop when I mailed 250 invitations (which cost me next to nothing) and had 107 of the CPA’s clients show up at the event. Looking back, that really was and still remains a game-changer, and it can be the game-changer in your business as well if you’re willing to take the time to plan and think like a Strategic Alliance Advisor.

I was able to transition my practice to being 100 percent referral-based within six months of incorporating the strategies that I’ll be sharing with you and outlining over the coming weeks and months. So stay tuned because May’s going to be an exciting month with lots of strategic alliance-building how-tos. As always, thanks for following and for more insights and articles on working with CPAs and other professionals, check out our website at

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