10 tips for brilliant client seminars

Financial brokers are always seeking out different ways to keep your clients engaged throughout the year. Many of you send out regular updates and newsletters, you of course meet clients face to face and some of you use technology to deliver excellent webinars and conference calls.

A popular marketing tool is client seminars, as these offer great opportunities to interact and engage with lots of clients. When carried out well, seminars can be significant brand enhancers. On the flip side though, when they are not done well they can significantly undermine your brand. Quality needs to sit at the heart of every aspect of them.

Here are some thoughts on delivering high quality seminars.

 

1. Don’t make it a once-off event

The best events are the regular events (this being even once a year) that clients really enjoy, get value from and look forward to the next one. Not easy to accomplish! But if you spend the time planning a regular event from the outset and think through themes that will carry forward to future events, this will always be much more powerful that a once-off event that in reality will deliver little long-term brand value.

 

2. Focus on quality throughout

Focus on quality throughout – the venue, speakers, the messages, room layout, presentation template, food, invitations, takeaway packs etc. Every aspect needs to be high quality. Spend a little extra and really wow you audience. This will make your event memorable and will encourage them back again.

 

3. Choose speakers carefully, even better if they are unexpected

The quality of the speakers is of course a really important ingredient. This is not a time for sales pitches, you want to add value through informing and educating (see point 6 below). In a previous life in 2008, we hosted a seminar for Financial Brokers at which the CFO of Ryanair spoke about cost cutting. At that time cost cutting was the no. 1 challenge for almost everyone in the audience. We got huge kudos for this seminar, as it was seen as providing information that was really valuable to the audience, at no direct gain to the company that was hosting the event.

 

4. Cut down your number of slides, and then cut them down again!

The number one presentation killer…… You have a very good message to deliver but you can’t understand halfway through why people are starting to nod off! More often than not, it’s because your presentation is just too long. The audience has just got bored!

A rule of thumb I use is to allow at least 2 minutes per slide (excluding the cover and end slides). That means if your presentation is 20 minutes long, there definitely should not be more than 10 slides.

 

5. Reduce the content on each slide

Assuming you will present yourself, don’t have more than 5/6 lines of text on a single slide. The audience have come to listen to you the speaker, not to read your slides! Otherwise they could just have asked you to email them a copy of the slides the next day. You are the main act and your slides are simply a visual reminder of what you’re saying, not the other way around!

If your presentation requires the audience to be given every detail, give them a hand-out at the end – how bad is it if they ring you the next day with a question?

 

6. Make your presentation engaging and educational

As mentioned earlier, your goals are (or should be) to inform and educate. Ensure your message is crafted with these in mind. Then you need to make the presentation more engaging, both in terms of your spoken message and any supporting slides. Use simple visual prompts by bringing in graphs and diagrams to make points. A single video (no more) can add a lot but only if it is very relevant.

This can be a lot of effort but is really worth it. If you don’t have the PowerPoint skills yourself, use someone who does. You’ve gone to the bother of getting a room full of people together, it is so important now that you engage the audience fully. Oh and talk to your audience, not your slides! If there is an opportunity to interact with them by questions / looking for a show of hands, then this is even better.

 

7. Make sure everything works at the venue

Check out the venue beforehand and then on the day, get to the venue with loads of time to spare in case time is needed for any unforeseen problems. Nothing will damage your confidence and ultimately the delivery of your presentation more than rushing to try and sort out issues…. If possible, have someone there as a support to deal with any potential problems for you.

Is there enough parking nearby? Is the sound good enough in the room and are there enough chairs? What about the temperature in the room? Also, do a complete run through of the entire presentation with someone at the back of the room – not just the first few slides. Can they read the slides or is the typeface too small? Is the projector strong enough? Do all the links in the presentation work and will your video play properly? Once you see everything working perfectly, you will relax and can go and greet your guests.

 

8. Practice, practice, practice

I know, this is really obvious but so often ignored! The benefits of practice? Well first of all, the more prepared you are, the more confident you will be and the better your delivery will be! How many times have you finished a presentation and thought “I meant to say…… but just forgot”. This is less likely to happen if you practice. If you practice, you are more likely to stay on track in terms of the message and also your timings, so you’ll probably finish the presentation stronger.

 

9. Spend time thinking about the Q&A

What are the likely questions and how will you respond? What are the potential curveballs and how will you deal with them? How will you deal with any unexpected and very negative question – think how you’ll cut this off cleanly and quickly and enable yourself to move on. Listen to the news that day. If there’s a current and relevant story, develop a position on it. If you want an easy start to the Q&A, plant a question in the room to get the conversation going.

 

10. Close the event out well

As soon as people start to get up from their chairs, there is a temptation to get back to the day job. Now though is the time to seek feedback that will help you plan future events, either through a feedback form or via a survey. And follow up then personally with people afterwards. You might just have opened up a new line of thinking in their heads that will result in opportunities for you.

 

Quality throughout is the key. High quality seminars, particularly a series of them over a few years can deliver excellent long term brand value to your business.

 

How important is SEO for financial planners?

SEO – Search Engine Optimisation is a marketing tactic that divides opinion among financial planners and advisers. Some believe it is almost the holy grail and a critical part of the marketing mix, others don’t see it as important at all.

First of all (and just in case…), what is SEO? It stands for Search Engine Optimisation which effectively means getting your website to appear as high as possible on Google rankings for relevant search results.

How important do I think it is? Actually I don’t think it’s very important at all for financial planners. And I don’t say that lightly… but I say it for a few reasons. SEO is a critically important marketing tool for providers and sellers of many products and services, but I’m just not convinced that the provision of expert financial plans and advice is one of them. There are a few reasons why I think that SEO doesn’t belong as a core part of a financial planner’s marketing mix.

 

Do your target market clients make contact as a result of a web search?

Yes some people may make contact with you as a result of a Google search result, but from my experience they are rarely the type of client that financial planners are really looking for. They are not people seeking to build a long-term valued relationship with you (which is your target market), instead they tend to be looking for a transaction, and usually a discounted one at that.

 

What is the purpose of your website?

Most financial planners want to have a very informative and credible presence on the web. If an existing client refers a potential new client to you, your aim is typically that your website will demonstrate your credibility and professionalism. This is very different to building a website with the aim of generating leads. It’s important to understand what you’re trying to achieve, as this needs to clearly come through in the structure and content of your website. I firmly believe you are better off writing with your target audience in mind, seeking to establish that credible presence, rather than writing to appear at the top of search engine results.

 

 SEO is great for location-based services. How important is that for financial planners?

SEO is of course an extremely powerful tool for many businesses. For example, if I had a bike shop in Howth, I would want to appear at the top of the Google ranking when people search for buying bikes and parts in north Dublin. Those buyers will either want to buy online or will want to travel a short distance to the shop. SEO is great for location specific businesses.

How important is location for financial planners? You definitely don’t want to be driving to the four corners of Ireland, but at the same time most planners tend to have clients from a relatively wide geographical area – a county maybe, a province for some and for others maybe two centres of their own location and Dublin.

 

You need an expert in your corner for SEO

There is lots that you can do to get your site fit for purpose yourself to help you in the Google rankings. Talk to your web developer for a steer on what you can do in terms of indexing the site, correct page titles, use of keywords, tagging your images etc. However this really is only the start of it…

One of the challenges is that clever people keep “gaming” the system to get their website higher in the rankings than they deserve to be. So Google keep changing the rules and you need to understand technically what Google are looking for, if you want to be at the top of the rankings. Did you know that the speed your website displays on mobile devices is becoming an important factor in your ranking? As is the quality of links to your website and what people are saying about your business. It’s a minefield and you need specialist help.

 

Get ready to produce a stream of fresh, original content

This is probably the biggest challenge. If you want to appear high in search results, a minimum requirement is for lots of fresh, original content being uploaded on your site. And regularly means just that – weekly or more frequently than that.

Is that worth the effort for you? Do you have the time? I suggest that maybe your time, energy and money is better spent elsewhere.

 

Yes, SEO is a great tool for certain businesses. However for financial planners, I think that your energy and budget is better spent elsewhere.

How do you connect with today’s prospects?

Prospects will approach you with a wide variety of requirements in mind. This applies both to the type of advice or potential products they are seeking, and also at various stages of their “buying cycle.

We’ve previously covered the buying cycle of clients in more detail in a previous article here, however as a very brief reminder we set out the concept of AIDA. This is an acronym that is usually used in relation to advertising to describe a buying cycle, but can also be applied to the services offered by a financial planner or broker.

AIDA in this context stands for

  • Awareness
  • Interest
  • Desire
  • Action

Each of these steps is part of the mental journey that a client will embark upon, before he or she decides to use the services of a financial planner. However when they come to you initially, they can pretty much be at any of the four stages – they may have moved through some of them before contacting you. It is important for you to remain alert and capable of delivering on each of the steps, to meet the needs of each specific prospect.

Our previous article covered the key steps that you need to take with prospects at each of the four stages of their buying journey. The focus of this piece is on some of the conditions you need to consider to connect with a modern consumer throughout the buying cycle.

 

The importance of relationships

Of course building strong, trusted relationships sits at the core of the proposition of virtually every single financial planner. However not all planners seek for this relationship to extend to the partner of the prospect that reached out to you. Some financial planners still happily meet clients, without seeking the prospect’s spouse or partner to also attend.

Decisions about household finances are often not made on the spot by clients, instead they are made back in the comfort of their homes with the input of their life partner. Not having attended the meeting with you can result in the partner missing some of the nuances behind your advice, and also results in the partner not having the opportunity to ask questions that are bothering them. And the outcome is that action can stall… or issues can arise down the road. Where possible, always meet the client and their partner.

 

Research sources are far more accessible for prospects today

Prospects approach you far more loaded (with information) than before. Often when they speak to you for the first time, they know a lot about you, in fact significantly more at this stage than you know about them! If they have initiated the contact, this probably means that they were sufficiently impressed with what they read / saw / heard to still press ahead and make contact.

But are there prospects out there who hear about you, carry out some research and then not make contact? It’s critically important that you can tick the following boxes to connect with today’s consumer.

  • Your website must look very professional, be very engaging and must demonstrate your particular proposition and points of difference.
  • Today more than 60% of Google searches are carried out on mobile devices. Having a website that is not responsive to mobile devices is simply a business death wish.
  • Your social media presence is so important too. Just Google your own name and see how prominent your LinkedIn profile is in the search results. Your LinkedIn profile must impress.
  • All of the above require a constant, consistent stream of fresh content. Digital assets that are clearly not maintained say a lot of (not good) things to consumers…

 

Your “seller journey” must lead to a face-to-face meeting

Advisers today all have a common goal – to get the opportunity to sit down face-to-face with prospects who they have qualified as suitable clients going forwards. Then you get the opportunity to properly set out your proposition and how you can positively influence their lives. To achieve this, it is so important that wherever the prospect is on their own buyer journey, they must be gently encouraged towards this goal of meeting you. The benefit and value for them of actually sitting down with you must be positioned carefully within your messaging at every opportunity, so that the client also shares that goal of actually meeting you.

Simply asking to meet the client with no context or positioning can feel like a sales push to the client. Your chances of building a lasting relationship are far higher where you have carefully set out the value for them of meeting you.

Good financial planners today can transform the lives of their clients by bringing strategy, structure and sense to their financial affairs. However prospects need help to discover this value that you add. Help them do it!

Pleased to meet you…

Networking is a very traditional, but still a very effective and important marketing activity. It’s also one that fills a lot of people with dread… They think of standing around in crowded rooms with no one to talk to, or being pinned in the corner making small talk with someone who they frankly have little interest in meeting. And so while most people recognise the importance of networking, very few people do enough of it. In fact, I find it’s the one activity that causes the most discomfort when it ends up on the marketing plan for a financial adviser!

So what can you do to make it easier and more effective? After all, if it actually works and helps you generate new clients, you are much more likely to continue to do it.

 

Recognise that it isn’t easy

Networking isn’t easy and doesn’t come naturally to lots of people… but it isn’t easy for anyone. So while you might think that it’s so easy for certain people, that tends to be because they’ve worked really hard at becoming good at networking.  However, while some people might appear to find it easier than others, everyone at least has a common purpose  – they are there to build connections. So approach it from the point of view that at least everyone has the same goal and are open to talking to you.

 

You must have a strategy

At the end of the day, you’ve got to be standing in the traffic if you want to get knocked down! But it’s not enough to wander blindly into a networking event without a clue of how you’re about to approach it. This starts before the event where you try and get a handle on who is likely to be there. Are there lists of attendees available in advance? Can you check out who members of the business group / conference attendees are? Once you’ve an idea of who will be there, you can start thinking about who your preferred “targets” are. And then you can start doing some quick research on them through their website and LinkedIn profile. And this research will hopefully come in very handy later…

 

Be a first mover

Don’t just head for your pals and spend your day in deep conversation with them! By all means, if they are in a group of people that you want to meet, take the opportunity to get introduced into the group. But be active and make the first move to start conversations. Others will thank you for this and it also gives you the opportunity to guide the conversation.

 

Be interested

And this is where your research comes in really useful! If you can show a level of interest in the people you meet – some knowledge of their business, some connections you have in common, it might even be that you know about some quirky interest of theirs, this will ease them into the conversation as you are opening the door for them to talk about themselves. And then be interested because your interest in them will come back in spades. Remember you’ve two ears and one mouth for a reason! People will naturally want to reciprocate and turn the conversation towards you, which of course is then your opening…

 

Hone your own pitch

When you get over the initial chit-chat and move on to talking about your reason for being at the event and what you have to offer, this simply must be interesting and must grab their attention. At the end of the day, they will be talking to many people that day so you must be in some way memorable. If you are pitching your wares, paint pictures of solutions, not saying why you’re such a great financial planner. Let people see how you can solve problems for them and enrich their lives in some way.

 

Follow up brilliantly!

Then when all the hard work is done, make sure you take the final step. Contact people after the event saying how it was great to meet them and thanking them for their time. Connect with them on LinkedIn and if you send out a company newsletter, suggest that they be added to the circulation list. Send them information if this makes sense. If there’s a favour you can do for them, maybe there’s someone else you can introduce them to – well then this is even better.

 

So yes, networking is not easy. But hopefully these few thoughts might make the task a little less daunting for you!

Have you some spare time over the summer?

It’s that time of year again… The weather will (hopefully) be great and everyone is trying to spend a bit more time outdoors. The downside is that business may be getting just a little quieter for the next month or two.

So here lies the opportunity! It’s possible that you’ll have a bit more spare time on your hands over the next while and rather than sitting there thinking about the beach, how will you use this time? It can be hard to keep your focus when there’s not the pressure of constant phone calls and emails and achieving deadlines to meet client expectations. I suggest you either go to the beach (rather than think about it), or put the time into driving your business forwards.

If you want to put the time into your business, it’s easier to keep focused when you have a plan. So what sort of things might be in that plan for the summer months? Here are a few ideas;

 

Arrange to meet your key clients

This is a great time of year for catching up with key clients, outside of your advice process. This is not a business meeting; it’s a game of golf, a coffee, an early pint – whatever works best for them and you! This is an opportunity to show your interest in their business and lives without looking for anything back in return. The cost is small for both of you as you probably both have the time to meet. However there is real benefit in it for you, as the client will appreciate your interest without it being an “advice” or “sales” meeting.

 

Revisit your LinkedIn presence

I rate LinkedIn as a very important tool for financial planners and brokers. When prospective clients are researching you, they’ll check your company website and your LinkedIn profile. It’s really important that you’re putting your best foot forward through both of these.

In relation to LinkedIn, there are 2 areas to concentrate on over the summer.

The first is your profile. Go through your profile section by section. Are there areas that you can expand the information a little to make it more engaging? Are there new areas that you can add to your profile? Are there clients that you could seek recommendations from? All of these will provide prospective clients with richer information about you, hopefully making them more inclined to actually do business with you.

The second area is expanding your network of connections. There are 3 ways of doing this;

  1. Check the “People you may know” section to identify people suggested by LinkedIn.
  2. Check the connections belonging to your existing connections. Are there people here that you should seek an introduction to?
  3. Search for people using the search bar at the top. There are new people joining LinkedIn all the time. They just might not have found their way onto your LinkedIn radar as yet.

And then when you find people that you want to connect with, remember to personalise every invitation. Don’t just use the default LinkedIn invitation.

 

Update your CRM system

Rather than wasting an hour or two mindlessly surfing the web, set yourself a target to review the records of a set number of clients every day within your CRM system. While you may have all the data in the system to meet your compliance requirements, now is the time to populate some of the softer information that can help you build really rich relationships with your clients. Information such as;

  • Their stated life aspirations
  • Their financial goals and objectives
  • Their communication preferences
  • Their interests and hobbies
  • Wider information in relation to their families

 

Develop a plan of attack for the rest of the year

Plot out how you’re going to approach the second half of the year. Who are the prospects / clients that you need to contact in the next few months? What will this contact consist of? How are you going to get these prospects to engage with you?

While you have a bit of time, put a structured plan in place with clear actions and dates to make sure these contacts then happen.

 

Take a holiday & recharge your batteries!

The most important one of the lot! Nothing helps you get your focus and your energy back better than a well earned break. I hope you and your family have a great holiday and enjoy the summer!

Annual Meetings are your most important client interactions

Annual Review meetings are so important in the eyes of many clients. And if they are not, they should be. And it’s your job to convince clients of the importance of these meetings. This is particularly important as we see the news of Vanguard offering fund admin services in the UK for 0.15% and fund fees from as low as 0.07%! In the US, they offer financial advice (delivered by CFPs) for an additional 0.30%. So they will offer an “all-in” fee for advice and investment management for a little over 0.5%.

If this arrived on our shores, how would you compete and how would you justify your ongoing remuneration, on top of the investment management fees?

I shudder when I talk to some financial advisers and hear the haphazard approach that is taken to review meetings. They see it as a win when the client says they are happy not to meet! Could you compete with Vanguard on this basis?

The importance of developing an engaging Client Value Proposition has been picked up and acted upon by many Financial Brokers in the Irish market over the last year or so. A lot of time and effort has gone into identifying where clients are experiencing value, the advice process that is being used, the client services that are provided and indeed how all of this should be paid for by clients.

I can tell you as the client of a financial planner that I can’t at this stage really remember our initial interaction. But I remember clearly our last review meeting, and I’m also very clear about what we will discuss at our next meeting. And that’s the way it should be. The initial advice stage set me off on the right path; the review meetings keep me on it.

With some advisers, the focus is almost exclusively on attracting new clients, at the expense of minding the existing ones.  However having a brilliant review meeting is the means by which you’ll lock in those clients year after year, and as a result enjoy an ongoing income stream from the clients.

As a core part of your initial engagement with a new client, it makes sense to explain to them in detail what will happen every year into the future. It’s not enough for review meetings to be positioned as a “by the way” 10-second conversation at the end of the initial product implementation.

And what should a review meeting include? Well of course there is the standard (and necessary) tasks of reviewing a client’s portfolio, getting up to date values and potentially even writing a short review report. And of course you want to explore further protection needs based on changing circumstances etc.

However the real opportunity to demonstrate your value on an ongoing basis to clients rests outside of the traditional review meeting agenda. Why not take a little extra time and set out for your clients some financial benefits that you’ve delivered to them such as;

  • The growth in actual euros of their investment portfolio
  • The tax saved as a result of their pension plan and any other tax efficient policies in actual euros.
  • The actual money saved in euros as a result of a protection review you carried out previously.

Now your ongoing fee / trail commission starts to look very small! However there’s still a lot more you can do at these review meetings to demonstrate further value to you clients.

  • Help your clients with their household budgeting. This is an area that many clients continue to struggle with. By getting clients on the right path here and reviewing it with them, you can add enormous value to them.
  • Obviously if you carry out future cashflow planning using Voyant with your clients, this is an exceptionally valuable exercise every year. This can completely change the conversation, enable you to look at “what if” scenarios and approach the client’s financial affairs in a very engaging and collaborative way.
  • Talk to them about their broader financial needs where you don’t provide the solutions. You can add value by tapping them into your network of solicitors (for their will or enduring power of attorney), tax advisers (tax advice) or accountants. Now you’re the person centred right at the hub of their financial affairs.

Review meetings are also the opportunity to remind your clients of the work and interactions you’ve had with them throughout the year – the rebalancing of their portfolio that you carried out, the interim meetings you had, seminars you invited them to, the content you sent them etc. How can a client question your ongoing fees when they realise that you are actually providing value to them right throughout the year?

So place review meetings at the heart of your proposition. Make them memorable and ensure your clients come back to you year after year.