Prospects usually hate to be “sold.” But they love to be taught. That’s why seminars remain a staple of advisor marketing plans. By sharing helpful insights, tools and processes, advisors build good will, credibility and motivation for prospects to book an appointment.

But here’s the problem: Putting together a content-rich, compliant and current seminar (pardon my “Cs”) is a full-time job. Consequently, most advisors outsource development by purchasing a program from a seminar publisher or getting one from their FMO. This can be a great solution. But when the developers use deceptive practices to attract attendees, trouble can ensue.

Consider this real-life case:

One of my colleagues received a seminar insert in his Sunday newspaper touting the importance of boomers revisiting their planning, given recent events. Offered by “The Prosperity Foundation” (not its real name), the multi-week program was positioned as a highly academic opportunity — developed by a nonprofit organization, based on extensive academic research, delivered by “instructors” and taking place on college campuses.

Approaching retirement himself, my colleague decided to pay the $75 fee to attend. But first, he did some due diligence. Here’s what he found:

  • The nonprofit sponsor was indeed a not-for-profit LLC, registered with its secretary of state. However, he couldn’t find the touted nonprofit initiatives on the Internet. 
  • The nonprofit sponsor’s phone and address matched those of an industry FMO.

Ethical alarms ringing, he decided to attend anyway to see what the program entailed. After paying online, he received a confirmation email from “The Prosperity Foundation.” And then, a couple days before the seminar, he received a voicemail from the “instructor,” giving logistical details and his phone number. Googling that number revealed the instructor worked at a local tax planning and financial advisory firm. Surprised? 

My colleague attended all three classes. Want to hear what he encountered? Watch for part two of this series. Then, learn what constitutes an ethical and compliant seminar in part three. Until then, here are some ethical pointers to consider before building or buying a prospecting seminar:

  • Whether a sales or marketing tactic works and whether or not it’s ethically appropriate are two separate questions. Don’t confuse them.
  • You never have a second chance to make a first impression. Why attempt to attract customers through misrepresentation when you can do it on your true merits? 
  • It only takes one attendee to file an insurance-department complaint to ruin your online reputation. Once your reputation is damaged, it’s very difficult to fix.
  • Never say anything to seminar attendees that isn’t 100 percent true. Anything else is a slippery slope for your credibility and serious risk to your long-term business survival. 
  • Finally, opt for quality, not gimmicks, in your seminar package. That’s the surest, straightest path to the marketing summit.

For more from Steven McCarty, see:

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