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5 Ways to Boost Seminar-Based Referrals

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You may already know that the top three methods for bringing in new clients are:  1) referrals from other clients; 2) referrals from centers of influence (particularly CPAs); and 3) seminars.  It’s not hard to see why. The seminar environment can be a powerful way to add value to your existing client relationships and allows you to position yourself as a useful resource to prospective clients. 

Now, here’s something you may not know. Many financial professionals like to combine these strategies to achieve maximum prospecting effectiveness. In other words, they like to meet new clients in the way they prefer to be met.

See also: 10 Simple Steps to Seminar Success

Below are five reasons why you should pair these prospecting tools for maximum success.

1. Referrals help make seminars a worthy investment.

If you use seminars as a prospecting tool (or a client service tool), make sure you leverage the time, money and energy you’re investing by employing the referral process at every opportunity. 

2. Event-driven referral requests work.

Many of your clients who may generally be reluctant to give you referrals will be perfectly willing to give you names and addresses of their friends and colleagues to invite to your seminars. If they like you and your work, this is usually a very easy referral for them to give. 

3. An endorsed mailing can boost results.

To take the above idea a step further, you can ask some of your satisfied clients to send letters to their friends and colleagues endorsing your seminars. You can include an invitation with the letter, or the letter can foreshadow an invitation that will come at a later date. (Of course, offer to pay for everything, including letterhead, envelopes and postage.) This method allows you to leverage the trust your clients have with their friends and colleagues, who can number in the hundreds for each client. Lastly, if your clients are likely to be attending your seminar, encourage them to state that in their letter (e.g. “Hope to see you there!”).

4. Seminar-based referrals are easy to collect.

There are two basic types of referrals you can gather at your seminars. First, attendees can refer names of people that should be invited to your next seminar. Second, they can refer prospects with whom you can attempt to set up appointments immediately. 

Here’s a real-world example to help you understand the power of combining referrals and seminars. Michael Flanagan hosts about eight seminars per year. Before he established a dedicated referral program, people learned about his seminars in two primary ways: through direct mail or through his weekly radio show on personal finance. Since he had to pay for the radio air time, and since direct mail can be rather expensive (though worth it if it produces the desired results), his cost per lead was very high. To bring this cost down and make his seminar program more profitable, he needed to add the referral element to this process.

Michael didn’t want to ask for direct referrals, but he did want to get referrals to upcoming seminars.  The solution was simple.

Michael charged $20 for his seminars. He found this nominal charge increased the quality of the attendees.  So, he printed special invitations that were made available to all his seminar attendees. These special invitations were to be given free to anyone they thought should experience Michael’s powerful ideas.

The success was overwhelming. People asked for two or three. The called in later to have others sent to their friends, colleagues, and family members. His attendance went from 10 percent referral-based to over 40 percent referral-based. He was soon able to cut down on his direct mail, resulting in a highly profitable program.

5. Prospects find it easy to recognize value at the end of a seminar.

The best time to ask for a referral is when value has been delivered and value has been recognized. In a seminar scenario, the right time to do this is when you have about five–10 minutes left in the seminar. At this point, you’ve given your audience some important things to think about, so it’s a good time to ask what about the program they found valuable. (If you have them discuss it briefly with a partner first, they’ll be more inclined to share it with the group.) Then say something like, “I’m glad so many of you found value in this program. That was my goal. As we went through the material this evening, you probably thought of friends… family members… and colleagues… who should have been here. True? (Heads will nod.) Well, you can give them a gift. You can let them know about this valuable program.

We have special invitations for our next seminar — next month — that you can hand deliver or mail to people you think should hear what we have to say. If you have their addresses with you, we’d be happy to take care of the postage. Just be sure to write a personal note somewhere on the invitation, so they know it’s from you. Kathy — wave Kathy — has as many invitations as you’d like; just see her as you leave.”

There are infinite variations on this approach. Be creative. Make it fit your situation. Whatever you do, if you’re hosting seminars and not leveraging them for referrals, you’re clearly leaving money on the table!

For more from Bill Cates, see:

Upgrade Your Referrals to a Higher Quality

6 Referral Seeds Worth Planting

Do You Have the Right Mindset for Referrals?


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