By Philip J. Kavesh, J.D., LL.M. (Taxation), CFP®, ChFC, California State Bar Certified Specialist in Estate Planning, Trust & Probate Law
Many seminar speakers forget (or don’t realize) that the main goal of a seminar is not to educate, but to motivate the attendees to make appointments with you before they leave the seminar!
Our goal is always to make appointments with a minimum of 80% of the “units” attending (husband and wife equal one unit). That may be a lofty goal for you to begin with, but you should at least shoot for an initial appointment rate of 50%. Even if you only improve your number of appointments by two or three per seminar, that will represent a lot more revenue flowing to your bottom line!
Here are seven, time-tested and proven ways for you to improve the number of appointments you make right at a seminar.
Tip #1: Actually Ask for Appointments!
I’ve seen a lot of attorneys simply end a seminar by thanking the audience for coming and passing out business cards or their phone number and telling the attendees to call if they want to schedule an appointment. This lack of a strong call to action is a major reason why seminars fail to produce consistent bottom-line results. As estate planning attorneys we know that our clients will find virtually any reason to procrastinate and defer the estate planning process for as long as possible. You should have a very clear call to action at the end of the seminar where you ask for the appointment, explain your appointment-making process and how easy it is to do and, of course, show the attendees why they will want to make the appointment before they leave. The audience should be prepared for this call to action at the very beginning of the seminar and during the seminar, when you reiterate, “At the conclusion of the seminar, you will be offered a free attorney consultation that you’ll definitely want to take advantage of.” Show them how simple the process is (utilizing the response form discussed below) and why to do it before they leave (offering them an incentive to do so, also discussed below, and reminding them of the fact that, if they don’t make an appointment before they leave, they’ll probably keep on procrastinating and won’t do anything!).
Tip #2: Use a Simple Response Form.
A big mistake I see made by attorneys who give seminars is that they fail to utilize any handouts to attendees, but most particularly, fail to give attendees a simple response form that can be pulled out and walked through at the close of the seminar. Without a response form, you don’t have any means of getting attendee feedback, collecting data on attendees and securing legal and ethical means of following up with attendees who fail to make an appointment. More importantly, this response form is a big part of an efficient appointment-booking process at the conclusion of the seminar. You basically walk people through this response form, literally instructing attendees to pick up their writing instrument and complete each item one at a time, explaining why each piece of information is important. The response form requests their basic contact information and asks them to check a box indicating they have an interest in a free consultation or obtaining more information on certain estate planning topics. You can also enhance your response form by including a request for their e-mail address, so they can get your e-mail newsletter. Once you go through the form, you instruct the audience that once they have completed the response form, they should go to the back of the room to make their appointment. This takes me now to the next tip…
Tip #3: Using Appointment Cards.
Appointment cards are usually postcard-sized (or smaller) and printed on colored cardstock so that they will be recognizable and standout wherever attendees later post them (like on the fridge). These appointment cards simply contain the day, date and time of the appointment, the address and phone number of your office and a reminder to call if they have to reschedule their appointment. The card should also remind them to bring their questionnaire, deeds and investment statements, or any other forms that you utilize for your initial estate planning meeting process. These appointment cards are spread out on a table in the back of the seminar room, next to where your assistants/staff are seated. The cards have available dates for only the next two weeks after the seminar. The reason why we limit this to two weeks following the seminar is because any dates beyond that typically result in higher reschedule or cancellation rates and leave lots of gaps in your calendar. The attendees are instructed to pick the card with the day and time that looks best for them and to hand the card and response form to the staff member in the back who will complete the appointment-booking process. The staff member then collects the response form and records the appointment at the top of the response form for our own records and gives the attendee an appointment packet, which includes a questionnaire for the attendee to complete prior to their appointment and a map with directions to the office.
Attendees are encouraged to make these appointments even if they don’t have their calendar with them or don’t have their spouse or some other significant party with them. They are urged to pick the best day and time that looks best for them, make the appointment before they leave and, once they go home, if they determine that they need to reschedule their appointment, they can do so at that time. At least this way they make that appointment before they leave, because if they don’t, they are most likely going to do nothing and then you’ve lost a potential lead. By utilizing these appointment cards, it makes the process much more streamlined and easier for your staff members since there is no hassle in flipping through a calendar, no unintentional double-booking (particularly if you have more than one staff and more than one calendar) and, generally, not as much confusion in the appointment-making process.
Tip #4: Incentivize Attendees by Offering a Discount and Enforcing a Deadline!
Some attorneys think that offering a fee discount to attendees is “tacky” or “unprofessional”. However, the truth of the matter is that everyone likes a discount and, frankly, seminar marketing does save you a lot of time you would otherwise spend meeting individually with each attendee going over all of the same information. I actually explain this time-savings to attendees as the reason for offering the discount. Additionally, I only offer this discount to people that book the appointment at the seminar and come in within 2 weeks of the seminar. The sooner prospective clients book an appointment after a seminar, the better the chances are that they will actually attend the seminar and engage you when you meet. Attendees who want an appointment a month or two away from the seminar are most likely to lose interest or continue to procrastinate or just cancel or fail to show up for their meeting. When discussing the appointment-making process at the end of the seminar, I hold up a discount certificate and emphasize to attendees that this discount is only available if they book their appointment before they leave. I remind attendees that even if they don’t have their calendars and aren’t sure if the day and time works for them, that they can call us when they get home and reschedule. I then repeat that they won’t get the discount certificate if they don’t book an appointment before they leave.
Tip #5: Make Sure You Have Enough Facilitators (and They Know What to Do!).
The general rule that we have at my firm is that at least one staff member will attend for every 15 people that are registered. However, even if you have fewer than that number of people expected, it is always advisable to have a second staff member (even if he or she comes just at the end to help with the appointment-booking process). The reason why it’s good to have more than one staff member at the seminar is that while one person is at the table, collecting response forms and booking appointments, the other person can be helping direct people to the appointment cards or stand at the door to make sure that everyone that leaves has booked an appointment and, if they haven’t, at least handed in their response form before they leave. Most state bar ethics rules treat a follow-up appointment call to a seminar attendee as a prohibited solicitation, the response form has been completed, indicating interest in scheduling an appointment.
Monitoring the door to make sure you collect all of the response forms is critical to getting maximum results from your seminar. The person at the door can encourage anyone trying to leave without booking an appointment to take advantage of the discount that is only available if they book the appointment before they leave. This results in additional appointments that would have been otherwise missed without someone there to monitor the door.
Tip #6: Smart Use of the Question & Answer Session.
You should always hold a question and answer session at the end of a seminar. Holding a Q&A session is, of course, important to help answer attendees’ questions or clarify areas that you may not have explained clearly or in much detail (remembering that one person’s question may also be in other peoples’ minds too). More importantly, the Q&A session is a key part of the call to action and appointment-booking process. I use the Q&A session as a means of crowd control so there’s not one big, mad rush of people to the back of the room when I finish. This can result in people bypassing the appointment table and leaving. Worse yet, they may not even hand in their response form and then you’ve lost your opportunity to follow up with them. Throughout the Q&A session, I frequently encourage attendees to complete their response form and go to the back of the room and book their appointment and take advantage of the limited-time discount. (By the way, I have put together a 20-page white paper that you may be interested in entitled, “How to Handle the Question & Answer Session at the End of a Living Trust Seminar”. For more information, click here.)
Even if you start a Q&A session and you don’t get any questions from attendees, you should always be prepared to ask yourself a few mock questions to get the ball rolling. This also gives people additional time to complete their response forms and go through the appointment-booking process at the back of the room while you go through your Q&A.
Tip #7: Make Sure Your Staff Does Proper Follow-Up After the Seminar.
As mentioned above, the response form is a great way to follow up with leads after the seminar. Sometimes people turn in this response forms even though they don’t immediately book their appointment. Now that you have the response form, you have a legal and ethical means of following up with a phone call and booking the appointment. When the call is made, they can be told that the special discount has been extended for them if they book the appointment right then. These calls need to be made within 24 hours of the seminar or, if a seminar occurs on a weekend, on that following Monday. Even if the person does not want to make an appointment when they are called, this follow-up is still important to make sure that you have obtained their e-mail address so that you can get permission to subscribe them to your e-mail newsletter. That way, you can continue to market to them and build a relationship with them, which can later result in them booking an appointment to come in and engage your services.
BONUS TIP: Before you give each seminar, once you know the number of units attending, you should set a specific goal of the number of appointments to be made. You should be sure that this goal is communicated to your staff prior to beginning your presentation. If, for some reason, you do not reach your appointment goal, you can use these seven tips as a diagnostic tool and repair checklist to make sure that the next time you do meet your goals!
WANT SOME PERSONAL GUIDANCE ON YOUR SEMINAR MARKETING EFFORTS?
Afraid to do seminars? Think seminar marketing is dead? Not finding the same results with seminars as you used to? Your results may be due to some very important details, systems and procedures that you aren’t doing correctly (or even at all!). The devil is in the details and not following the tested and proven procedures for successfully implementing seminars may severely impact your seminar results. If you’re not regularly getting business from seminars, booking appointments with over 75% of your seminar attendees and closing over 75% of those coming in from your seminars, you might benefit from this brand new expert consultation we are now offering. >>MORE INFO
- BRAND NEW WHITE PAPER: “How to Handle the Question & Answer Session at the End of a Living Trust Seminar”
- The A-Z Guide to Seminar Marketing for Estate Planners
- The Basic Living Trust Seminar Marketing Package
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Attorney Philip J. Kavesh is the principal of one of the largest estate planning firms in California – – Kavesh, Minor and Otis – – now in its 32nd year of business. He is also the President of The Ultimate Estate Planner, Inc., which provides a variety of training, marketing and practice-building products and services for estate planning professionals. If you would like more information or have a question for him, he can be reached at [email protected] or by phone at 1-866-754-6477.