The first workshop I ever did was in collaboration with Western Technical College in La Crosse, Wis. It was a “Financial Strategies for Successful Retirement” workshop back in October of 1989. The employee workshop was meant to help 401(k) plan participants make smarter choices with their money, fulfilling the company’s 404(c) educational requirements. We met with about 25 couples, and only one of those workshop attendees became a client. However, that client invested approximately $600,000 with our firm. That’s how I began marketing to pre-retirees through workshops.
The first company to create this type of event was Northern States Power (NSP). NSP hired us and paid a portion of the workshop costs. We gave participants a discount voucher, which they could use to offset some of the costs of the materials. The course was a four-night, 2½ hour educational event designed to cover many topics. Each night, we covered a specific theme, such as retirement planning, tax and investment planning, financial planning, and insurance and estate planning.
The director of non-credited adult education decided to invite all of the human resource directors within a 20-mile radius of the college to a special meeting to overview how this course — in collaboration with the college — could help employers fulfill the 404(c) requirements. We had about 30 HR directors attend, and each received a complimentary workbook and sample overview of the presentation.
So that’s where it all began for me. We had a college to sponsor our workshops, and they put our course offerings in their course catalog every fall, winter and spring. This began to grow our business at a much faster pace than before.
Yesterday, on my monthly study group phone call, one of the participants told me that one of his consultants broke down the marketing results from the consultant’s top advisory firms. Forty percent of a successful advisor’s new business comes from referrals. Forty percent of their new business comes from marketing through workshops. Twenty percent of their new business comes from existing clientele.
Your workshop marketing
Workshops may or may not be right for you. They require your firm to develop processes and enlist a team to handle all of the work. Just last week, at the end of our workshop, 17 attendees signed up for our no-obligation, complimentary consultation. Each of those attendees will meet with us, on average, three times. If the average meeting takes 1½ hours, that means we just scheduled another 76.5 hours of meetings.
Think about that for a minute. Every week, you might have 10 appointments slotted to see this flow of new prospects. That means you will average 10 meetings per week for these prospective clients for almost two months. That does not count time for service work and review meetings with your current clients. This is a lot of work. But it can be well worth it. Didn’t Thomas A. Edison say that most opportunities are missed because “they are dressed in overalls and look like work”?
Your team must work together to set up the workshop, take the registrations, oversee all the details, schedule appointments, process paperwork, and coordinate marketing and advertising.
When I started doing workshops, I had a part-time secretary and another advisor who shared in the follow-up and teaching responsibilities. You can do it! Start with what you have and be extremely patient. The results don’t come overnight. Workshop marketing is a terrific but expensive way to grow your business.
For more from Brent Welch, see: