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Strike new ground with events marketing

1st Dec 2015
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Hosting events might be seen by some as a frivolity reserved for big software companies, but by following some common sense principles, accountants can get in on the act, too.

Firstly, there’s the obvious matter of logistics: “If the venue is hard to find, or there’s a lack of parking, people won’t show,” says Steve Pipe, practice strategist and founder of AVN. “Time of day is also crucial: First thing in the morning is always best.” If attendees are given the chance to go to the office first, they might get caught up in their work.

But over and above that, according to Pipe, it is necessary to focus on the finer philosophical points of your event. The event needs to have its identity constructed and must be objective oriented. “If you see the seminar as an opportunity to just educate people, you’re going to spend a lot of time but you’re not going to get any commercial playback,” said Pipe. “You’ve got to be clear on the commercial return on investment you want and then structure the event around that.”

A seminar isn’t just for getting new clients, either. It’s an opportunity to offer existing clients expanded services. In fact, says Pipe, existing clients is where you can possibly extract the most value. “Existing clients already trust you and like you. They’re more receptive.”

As Karen Reyburn of the Profitable Firm wrote on her blog recently, “It’s easy to look at [a large event] and think, ‘our firm couldn’t run something of that size, so oh well’.” The beauty of events marketing, according to Reyburn, is that you don’t have to run an event of that size. For a smaller practice, it makes sense to limit the scope, anyway. “For your firm, if you get ten people who are already clients to sit around a boardroom table, or come to a local coffee shop, your event can be just as much of a success.” The key is focusing on yourself and on what you, not others, want to achieve.

The cardinal principle, though, is creating value for attendees, says Pipe. Ensuring that when people attend your event they leave with new knowledge. It’s not a chinwag or a coffee date. People will attend your event with the intent of developing professionally. You can do this simply by offering them your professional insights on specific, key points.

“Focus on content that can make a significant difference to delegates’ professional lives: Profit, cash flow, tax bills. Be specific,” says Pipe. “The event is explicitly to showcase something that’ll lead the audience to say ‘I need your help with that’. It can be looking at the nuts and bolts of making AE pain free, for instance.”

When your seminar ends is when you begin to extract value. “There needs to be some kind of call to action,” says Pipe, using an old marketing term meaning “an instruction to the audience to provoke an immediate response”. The event needs to culminate with an initial offer on the table. Pipe recommends a next step meeting or a cheap initial service, anything that deepens the client relationship.

“Half the events work is done after the event,” writes Reyburn. Don’t just let attendees wander back to their businesses. “Call attendees and discuss the event, contact registrants and keep the relationship going, provide a follow-up offer to encourage them to engage.” And subject your post-event action to just as much planning as the event itself, says Pipe. “Design the feedback form carefully - give delegates a choice whether to accept the offer, a chance to request a no obligation meeting; and give you names of anyone they think would be interested,” wrote Pipe in last year’s Practice Profitability Guide.

The event’s success hinges on your ability to focus on your objective: Gaining new clients or increasing the value of existing ones. “If you just intend to create a warm feeling in your audience and that warm feeling isn’t, at some point in the future, going turn into a commercial payback for you, then it’s just an indulgence,” says Pipe.

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Steve pipe
By Steve Pipe
01st Dec 2015 11:46

Very useful

Karen is spot on when she says that your events don’t need to be large affairs. Small group meetings can be very powerful.

And small firms can generate great results too.

For example, in October a sole practitioner in Yorkshire emailed me to explain that at a seminar he had just ran for 16 local businesses, 62% (ie 10) of them ticked the box on the feedback form to say they wanted to pay him £250 for a follow-up meeting.

So he generated £4000 in instant fees for what were effectively “initial consultation free” meetings, and 3 of the 10 signed up to become new clients on the day (some of the others were already clients).

His email continued “This adds up to around £15,000 in extra fees for us. But perhaps more exciting  is the fact that the two delegates who attended from Leeds Enterprise Partnership were really impressed with what we are doing, and should now become a brilliant new source of referrals for us. So, all in all, another incredibly successful seminar.”

STEVE

PS  I have some guidance notes on how to run successful seminars that I will gladly send to any accountingweb members who would find them valuable

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By Scriptic
01st Dec 2015 12:17

Fortune Telling

Overhead projection is a great tool for such events as long as the parts dealing with the history of the firm and its assets and qualities are kept short and to the point.

We use figurewizard for forecasting profits, cash flows and so on and on the practical side find that by projecting the site's working example onto a big screen, explaining what the forecasts are, what they look like and how we could sit down with them and use it to produce the same for their businesses is always a hit.

This is one useful avenue that not only arouses interest but helps towards  increased fees. We call it "Fortune Telling." 

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By wilcoskip
01st Dec 2015 12:50

Steve

Hi Steve,

Sorry, I may have got the wrong end of the stick here (wouldn't be the first time) but if 10 signed up for a £250 consultation, isn't that £2500 in instant fees, rather than £4000?  Or have I missed something?

Doesn't affect the thrust of what you're saying, of course, but was just wondering.

Thanks.

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Steve pipe
By Steve Pipe
01st Dec 2015 12:59

You are right

Oops. Yes you are of course right Wilcoskip. Sorry!

I should have just stuck to quoting the £15,000 from his email to me.

But as you say, happily my typo doesn't change the thrust of the post. 

 

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By AndrewV12
01st Dec 2015 14:54

Dont run with the hurd

Its a good article, it just goes to show, whether we admit it or not our marketing is virtually all the same, a web site, bit of advertising and a few gifts with logos on.

 

However to make marketing work we have to think out of the box, the above article highlights this, mmmm is hosting an event for me..... I am unsure.  Mind you if you could charge for it, i am all for it. 

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