Here are 3 top ways to hold a free meal seminar without clashing with the new NAIC consumer alert...

1. Make sure you're in good compliance shape.

The NAIC is urging consumers to check out seminar organizers' compliance records and professional designations.

2. Understand the needs of the prospective guests.

The NAIC is asking consumers to consider whether the products recommended during the seminars are easy to understand and suit the consumers' needs.

3. Talk about risks and product limitations.

The NAIC tells consumers to be, "Be cautious about any promises that one product can meet all of your financial needs." Regulators also warn against speakers talking about unrealistic financial returns.

The National Association of Insurance Commissioners is paying meal seminar marketing a grudging compliment.

Officials at the state insurance regulator group believe that seminars are so powerful at getting consumers to buy insurance products and other financial services products that they have developed a new meal seminar alert. The alert warns consumers, “Be Skeptical About ‘Free Meal’ Financial Seminars.”

(Related: ‘Leave Your Checkbook at Home’: New Seminar Alert Update)

“Do your homework before: attending a free financial seminar or meeting with insurance or financial experts,” the alert warns, in big, bold type right below the headline.

The NAIC is not prohibiting use of seminars, or telling consumers to stay home. But the NAIC is telling consumers to think hard before going to the seminars.

The NAIC’s Advice to Consumers

“Before you accept any invitation about financial, retirement or estate planning, the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) wants you to know that many insurance and financial firms reach out to middle-aged and older adults or host free meal seminars,” the NAIC says in the alert.

“The offer of free meals, door prizes, and/or free advice may lead you to attend a seminar when you wouldn’t otherwise,” the NAIC says. “Some invitations make you feel it’s urgent to register due to ‘limited space.’ A nice restaurant, an expensive meal, and a well-dressed presenter may be impressive, but it doesn’t mean that what they’re selling is right for you. There is always a purpose to a ‘free’ seminar, even those advertised as unbiased and educational.”

Later, in a collection of tips for consumers, the NAIC says, “Decide before you go that you won’t give out any personal information, sign any documents, or make any decisions while you’re there. Leave your checkbook at home and consider getting a second opinion before you sign anything.”

The Power of Seminar Marketing

The NAIC reports, in a press release announcing the new meal seminar alert, that it recently commissioned an online survey on seminar marketing.

The participant sample included 1,003 U.S. adults, ages 18 and older.

  • About 20% of the participants said they had attended at least one free meal seminar.
  • 41% of the seminar attendees had purchased a product or service as a result of attending a seminar.
  • 58% of the seminar attendees in the 18-34 age group had purchased a product or service as a result of attending a seminar.

In the past, financial services marketers have talked about the power of seminar marketing as a vehicle for reaching retirees and near retirees.

The results of the NAIC survey suggest that seminar marketing might also be an effective vehicle for reaching consumers in the Millennial and Generation Z generations.

Resources

The new consumer alert is available here.

A related press release is available here.

— Read ‘Free Meal’ Seminars Work: Researchers, on ThinkAdvisor.

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