For estate planning attorneys, all of the technical and legal education in the world is great, but if you are not able to bring in prospective clients to plan for, there is no way for you to be able to successfully run your own estate planning practice. If you regularly receive referrals from other sources, such as financial advisors, CPAs, life insurance agents or other attorneys, that’s great. However, what happens if those referrals stop? How consistent and predictable are those referrals? It probably is not a very smart business decision to rely entirely on the referrals of clients from others.
This is one of the many reasons why over 30 years ago, I realized the importance of marketing, and began to do seminars. While I know that the idea of sales and marketing seem so unprofessional or tacky to some lawyers, if you’re running your own business, marketing is everything and it doesn’t have to be done in an unprofessional or tacky manner.
Most people either don’t think about, don’t want to think about, or simply aren’t aware they need estate planning. So, as estate planning attorneys, it’s important that we seek to educate and motivate these prospective clients to better understand the importance of estate planning and what services are available to them.
One of the most effective ways I have found to do this over the years is through the use of seminar marketing directly to the public. There are many benefits of doing seminars and I will take the time through this article to explain what I believe to be the top six reasons estate planning attorneys should be giving seminars. (By the way, these same benefits may be divided through CE type seminars to other potential referral sources, like CPAs.)
#1. Predictable income while hunting for white elephants!
With the current estate tax exemption, many attorneys have seen their estate tax planning and trust administration work drop dramatically. You can either spend your time hunting for the top 0.4% of the population that the estate tax now applies to, or you can find a way to create predictable income. Seminar marketing helps accomplish this.
#2. No longer dependent on third-party promises and referrals.
As noted above, it’s a dangerous situation for any business owner to be 100% dependent on the promises of client referrals from outside sources. Also, how can you repay those referral sources with any referrals back (and maintain and grow those referral relationships) if most all of your business was referred by others? Seminar marketing keeps you from having to be so dependent on others’ referrals each month, while also allowing you the freedom to refer back new clients to your loyal referral sources.
#3. Best way to build and someday exit your practice.
Seminar marketing is, by far, one of the main ways that I have been able to build (and currently semi-retire from) my practice. The basic model is this:
More Clients –> Make More Income –> Do More Seminars –> Get More Clients –> Hire More Attorneys –> Make More Income –> Take Fewer Client Meetings –> Take More Time Off –> Do More of What You Love (Marketing? Other Hobbies? Exit Your Practice?)
#4. Efficient use of your time.
Time is everything to most business owners and professionals. You can choose to either spend multiple private meetings with prospective clients, basically giving mini-seminars to them to build up the importance of estate planning, what it is that you do, what it is that each of them needs, and then quoting the fee (with the possibility that they won’t engage you), or you can stand before several prospective clients, give the same message, and then have them decide whether or not they want to meet with you. It’s far better to spend a couple of hours doing a seminar for a group of people than several hours meeting with each of those same people in one-on-one meetings.
#5. Non-threatening way for people to refer (and be referred) to you.
When people are referred to you, they may not want to commit to a meeting just yet. And, even worse, some attorneys charge for that initial meeting (because it could be a waste of time), which is an even bigger turnoff to a prospective client. Seminars are a great way for prospective clients to have a non-threatening way to come and learn about what it is that you do, be able to develop some trust and rapport with you before they come in, and then make that decision for themselves about whether or not they want to proceed with a meeting. Referral sources may distribute invitations to your seminars as an easier way to make referrals to you.
#6. Increase your closing rate (because prospects already know fee and process).
Have you ever spent a couple of hours with a prospective client, quoted them the fee, and pretty much have them walk right out? Seminars are a great way to screen out the lookie-lous and price-sensitive prospects that would never pay your prices. Most people are not going to bother booking a meeting if they would never pay your prices. The seminar is a great way to explain the benefits and value behind your unique practices, differentiate yourself from the competition, and pre-close the prospects right on the spot by making the appointment. Then, when you meet with them, you spend most of your time planning for them, not trying to close them.
“This makes sense, but…”
As you can see, it’s really hard to object to the benefits of doing seminar marketing. However, your mind may have jumped to one of the following four common excuses why seminar marketing ”is not for me.”
- “There’s far too many details and I don’t have the time or staff to do them.”
There are definitely a number of details that go into successfully giving seminars, but there are equally many resources and training sources out there (including those available through The Ultimate Estate Planner. As far as having enough time or staff to do it, chances are that it’s not a matter of not having enough time or staff, but rather deciding how to be more efficient with your time and your staff. If you’re currently monitoring your own e-mail, picking up your own telephone, or drafting estate plans, then you may want to look at whether or not you’re truly spending your time on the tasks that are the highest and best use of your time. More often than not, attorneys are spending far too much of their day on administrative tasks than on tasks that attorneys and business owners should be, like marketing.
- “I can’t/hate speaking in public.”
I can definitely relate to this particular excuse. I remember at my very first seminar, I was so terrified that I stood stiff at the podium, staring down and reading off my note cards. I was afraid to raise my hands and gesture because I was sweating so much that I soaked through my suit jacket! But I started from scratch, without any of the resources referred to above. The truth of it is, public speaking is a matter of practice and becoming more confident and comfortable with it. You are effectively giving a seminar every single time you meet with and close a prospective client. If you are a great closer in your one-on-one meetings, then chances are, you’d also make a great seminar speaker. (Also, we have some tips about how to give seminars that might be helpful!)
- “Seminars are too expensive.”
This excuse is the one that bothers me the most. Seminar marketing is only expensive if it doesn’t work! You have to remember that it’s all about your return on investment. If you made $2 to $3 for every $1 you spent, would it be worth it to you? Keep in mind, there are low cost ways to start getting into seminar marketing so you can develop the cash flow, skills and practice before developing a complete public seminar marketing campaign. For more information about that, see our article, “Successful Seminar Marketing 101: Tips for Getting Started” for more details.
- “I tried it and it just didn’t work for me.”
First, I do commend you for at least trying. However, there are several factors why seminars don’t always work. There is definitely a science to it and sometimes tweaking or changing just one or two of those factors can impact your seminar results. Over the next couple of months, I will be sharing some of the common seminar marketing mistakes that people make (based on my own experience!). Hopefully, I’ll convince you to give it another shot.
If you have been thinking about how to bring in more clients or if you’ve been on the fence about incorporating seminars into your practice, now’s the time to get started!
RELATED TRAINING & EDUCATION
If you’re looking to improve your current seminar marketing efforts, or are thinking about doing seminars for the first time, or have given up on seminars but would reconsider doing them again the right way, join us for a special 3-part presentation series re-broadcast entitled, “Everything You Need to Know About How to Successfully Plan, Market, Facilitate & Present Successful Estate Planning Seminars” is a must for you. You can attend the live re-broadcast or download the series immediately.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Attorney Philip J. Kavesh is the principal of one of the largest estate planning firms in California – – Kavesh, Minor and Otis – – in its 39th 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 firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 1-866-754-6477.
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