Strike new ground with events marketing
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.