“Seminar Marketing” is a catch-all phrase that includes public presentations, speaking engagements and classes. In some form, it should be a mainstay of your Marketing Action Plan (MAP). When done right, seminars produce a bounty of leads, client loyalty and billing and brand you a niche expert. Here are five specific dos, don’ts and thumb-rules when it comes to seminar marketing.
Do: Have a Goal for the Year
How many seminars do you want to do this year? “As many as I can,” may be your answer. A goal is meant to challenge you: How many seminars do you do now? If the answer is close to none, or sporadic, at the very best, then a goal of four seminars in the next 12 months would be a good start. In my column, Six Marketing Seasons of 2010, I revealed the pros and pitfalls of two-month segments. You can use that as a guide as to when you should schedule your seminars.
Don’t: Educate on a Variety of Topics
At first blush, a variety of topics may help to answer the multitude of accounting questions and concerns out there. While your seminars should be informative, it should conjure more questions than it answers. That is, participants should want to meet with you privately, to get their specific questions answered.
Stick with one or two topics that you can repeat (what you repeat, is what they will remember and recommend you for). A perennial favorite is “End of year Tax Planning.” How can you make this specific to a profession, industry or demographic?
Do: Answer With Questions
Keep your seminars interactive. Accounting and taxes can be very boring, complicated, and overwhelming for the general public. Your clients want their questions answered, but they don’t realize that their questions are only symptomatic of deeper issues. It’s your job to reveal the proverbial onion layers.
Your handouts should itemize more questions than answers. Help your seminar attendees ask the right questions of their partner, accountant, office manager, bookkeeper or CFO. Coach them on how to pose their questions correctly about where they are taking their business profits.
Don’t: Host Your Own Seminars
I always delineate between marketing Collaterals versus marketing Channels. Collaterals are support materials, like a PowerPoint presentation. Channels involve action like listing your event in a newspaper’s calendar. Likewise, hosting a seminar requires action to fill the seats, whereas, when you are invited to be a speaker at a trade or civic association, it gets you in front of prospective clients.
Work on developing relationships with “group leaders.” They can invite you to speak in front of their group. You can probably go to their group as a guest. While many groups prefer CPAs to sit on their Board, you’ll probably end up as Treasurer in no time. Since your clients belong to trade and civic associations, they can invite you as their guest and through them you can meet the group leader.
Similarly, speak with the Chair of the Business Department at your local university or college. “Adjunct Professor” is an impressive title that can cost you no more than a few hours a month. Helping the school’s graduate, adult or continuing education courses will bring you closer to prospective clients as well.
Do: Video Record Your Seminar
Haven’t been invited to present anywhere yet? Show group leaders what you can do right by embedding a YouTube video or Slideshare (a “YouTube-like” website to share PowerPoint slides, even synced with audio) on your website. When you do a live seminar, be sure to set up a video recorder with a tripod and a wireless microphone. If this is too much, attach a lapel microphone to a digital recorder. You can sync your audio to the slides on the Slideshare website.
Nowadays, it’s simple to cut the full recording into two-minute “web-friendly” clips. Don’t let your live seminar be lost in time. Many interested individuals often can’t attend seminars due to schedule conflicts. Use this to your advantage to sell your product.
Video clips or answers to Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) are a great way to distinguish your website. It’s a handy reference for referral sources. Your clients can simply tell others to, “Go watch the videos on the website!” Post client interviews of you answering their questions. This is great way for your clients to give you a testimonial and for you to be informative. Moreover, you spark more conversation about you by your clients — this will directly increase client referrals.
You don’t have to wait for anybody to launch a “Seminar Marketing” campaign. Start with your goal in mind. Focus on one or two topics. Ask clients to introduce you to group leaders. And record your seminars. Have you implemented or violated these rules-of-thumb? Tell me about your experiences.
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Vikram Rajan is a Practice Marketing Advisor™ for CPAs and other practicing professionals. His PracticeMarketingBLOG.com receives over 100 hits every day. This November in New York, Rajan will be serving on a Social Networking for Your Practice panel, moderated by the AICPA’s Journal of Accountancy.