Accountancy Marketing: Client Winning Seminars
By Shaz Nawaz
When I first started running seminars and workshops, I thought about the numerous ones I’d attended and tried to work out what it was that made any of them stand out. You’ve got to spend either time or money – often both – so your aim should be to make your event a key ‘must-go-to’ event in the business calendar.
Why should you run events?
- To showcase your services
- To highlight your profile as the ‘go-to’ expert
- To build credibility
- To share your knowledge, experience and expertise
- To win new customers
- To cross-sell to existing
- To be visible in your marketplace
- And the list goes on – and on!
Shaz Nawaz – Managing Director at AA Accountants
If you think of the range of any professional advisers in terms of a pyramid, you’ll find that the largest (bottom-most) tier is the generalists – those who offer a standard range of services, but don’t have a specialism. Above them come the specialists – they probably started off as generalists but developed a specialism in one or more areas of professional expertise. There’s nothing wrong in belonging to either of these levels – but will running events at this level bring you any more new business than more routine marketing?
Above the specialist tier, things start to get interesting! If you’re on the third tier, you’re an authority – so people will look to you as the arbiter and purveyor of correct, up-to-date information. Move up again – you’re a celebrity! Not only are you an authority, but you’re sought-after. And finally, the pinnacle, you have the power to prescribe – you draw the blueprint for others.
Of course you can’t achieve all of this by giving one or two seminars, but it’s an excellent route to getting yourself off the bottom two tiers.
There are several possibilities. First, when there’s a change in law or regulations – but beware, there may be many other similar events, so you’ll need to make yours stand out.
Better to pick a topic that’s current, relevant, and fairly specific – and try, if you can, to give it a bit of a twist. Business time is at a premium nowadays, so if you want people to give up half a day, or even an hour or so, you need to show it will be worth their while. Give details not only of content, but also the expected outcomes – what will the participants come away with? Incentives such as a free one-to-one consultation, or a benchmarking exercise, can also be offered to encourage further contact with potential clients.
Once you’ve got started – how about making some of your events regular, as part of a series? These could be in informal workshop format with maybe a core of regular attendees.
Who to invite?
To some extent it depends upon the topic, but in principle there’s three categories of invitees:
- Existing clients
- Potential clients
Building on the reasons for running seminars, inviting your existing clients will reinforce your position as ‘trusted adviser’ and introduce them to services they may not know you provide, or may not thought they needed.
Use seminars as an opportunity to showcase to other potential clients and those who can introduce new clients. The value of mixing these attendees with some existing clients, is that your existing clients can be your ambassadors – ‘the best recruit is an old soldier’!
What will you get out of it?
Statistics show that clients of an accountancy practice remain clients, once attracted, for an average duration of five to seven years. So when you sign up a new client, as a result of your seminar, you need to calculate the return on investment as the cumulative total of at least six years’ fees. That’s in terms of gross recurring fees.
But there’s more – depending upon the content of your seminar, don’t overlook the potential for offering ad hoc advisory work – maybe your clients would benefit from a detailed personal taxation strategy review, for instance. Then there’s the cross-selling opportunities – expanding your practice isn’t just about getting more clients, it’s also encouraging your clients to buy more from you, more often. This applies to accountancy just as much as to say retail business. You’ll also get more referrals if you’re seen as a pro-active ‘go-to’ expert.
And finally, don’t overlook the networking opportunities and the publicity value of running a noteworthy event.
Events demonstrating your value can convert clients
Why do events fail?
Many accountants are put off running events by the cost, in terms of financial outlay (including time), when compared to the return. Of course you’ll want to evaluate the return on investment both in terms of new or increased fee income and in terms of publicity. But why do events fail to be as successful as they could be?
There are three main reasons:
1. Lack of innovative approach – running a seminar on the same tired old topics is not going to make it worth people’s while to attend, especially when they can get the information off the internet without leaving the office. Maybe it’s worth getting in a guest keynote speaker, although this will put up the cost of your event.
2. Failure to publicise the event – make no mistake, it’s hard work to get bums on seats. You’ll need to use a combination of emails and telephone calls to likely attendees, including reminders the day before. Especially if it’s a free event, people will promise to attend and then not turn up, if they are not reminded.
3. Failure to follow up – to maximise the potential, you need to have a prompt follow-up system, by thanking attendees, acting on feedback and making early contact with any leads. Research shows that for every day that elapses between the ‘interest’ and the follow-up, the potential client grows progressively cooler (on an exponential basis!). So if you’ve taken details (either verbally or on your feedback form), make sure you act promptly.
Freebie or paying?
Free events will attract more promises of attendance but your n0-show rate will be higher – sorry, but that’s a fact of life.
One way round this problem is to create a degree of exclusivity in the advance publicity – advertise the fact that there’s a limited number of places. Another idea is to offer an incentive which is only available to those attending.
There’s no easy answer, but don’t forget that the true value of the seminar to you is how much does it bring in directly or indirectly in terms of fees. If you have a good client management system, you should be able to work this out.
And if you get to celebrity status, paying customers will be queuing up to hear you – something to aim for!
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