Targeted events planning for accountants

Many practitioners think that marketing and running events or seminars is something that only the bigger firms can do. There's also a myth that you need an in-house marketing specialist and a big budget to organise such things. Listed below are my own top tips which I know work from personal experience in practice. Even the smallest of firms should have a marketing plan that includes running events and seminars and details of how you plan to keep existing clients happy, as well as win new ones.

Every firm should also put together a 'top 100 target list' of contacts and firms who they want to have as clients. The majority of any marketing effort should then be focused on these people and it is this list you want attending your events.The main objective of holding any type of event is to raise your profile as a firm, provide a better service to your valued clients and act as a showcase for potential new clients and referral sources. With this in mind, you should really consider running a programme of seminars and events - even if it is only every other month or quarterly.

It takes time to spread the word and for people to see your event as helpful and a regular thing. For this reason, plan your topics and send out an annual programme of events and booking forms with your initial invitations. Persistence pays - potential new clients need to be constantly kept in touch with and a series of seminars is a good platform from which to do this.

Targets, topics and times

Think about a subject matter for your event or seminar. Try and make it something 'not too technical and dry' as this isn't very appealing to a wider audience. There are some good business development resources on the market which can be readily adapted to use for a seminar. Similarly, tax planning is always a popular topic.

Decide who you want to invite from existing grade A and B clients and those targets from your Top 100 list.

Set a suitable date and allow yourself planning time. Choose a month and time when you know people will be interested in listening to you. Remember that August is when most people are on holiday or thinking about cricket! September is often a popular month as people have a 'start of the new school year' mentality and want to progress their plans before Christmas. By contrast, don't plan anything for December as it's either party season or pre January deadline panic. Consider what time of day is best for your guest list. Do they prefer early mornings, lunchtimes or late afternoon? Plan around making it easier for them and make an educated guess if you don't know. You can always ask people in future what time suits them best and plan accordingly.

Practical tasks

If you have a PA, get them on board and give them responsibility for organising the event. This will save you time and a good PA will deal with the detail that you may forget. Start with the end in mind: Book your venue, then work backwards - this way you are committed and will ensure it actually happens. It's the fear of the unknown that makes many practitioners procrastinate and keep putting off holding their first event.

Choose your venue. It needs to be somewhere easily accessible with plenty of parking, conference and catering facilities. If you are booking a series of seminars then this will give you more bargaining power on rates etc. You may be fortunate in having your own space in the office suitable for a seminar. If this is the case, even better-just book the date and get the invitations out.

Invites

Send out an invite to all your guests and keep a control sheet. Your PA should follow up after three days with phone calls to confirm places. It is reasonable to expect that only 25% of invitees will respond, and of those who book a place, there will be a further 25-30 % drop out rate. This is normal. It is therefore critical that you either expect to hold a small 'forum' style seminar and one which is more personal, otherwise you'll end up with at least double the number of guests you actually can deal with at the event. The worst case scenario is that you have too many guests for the event. This is brilliant as you can go back to them and say 'due to popular demand we are holding a repeat of the event on xx date' and move non A/B clients and top 100 prospects to the second event.

Three days before the event itself your PA needs to call guests and re-confirm places. If referral contacts, such as bank managers, are coming then ask they bring a customer who isn't a client of yours. You may want to restrict the number of bank managers attending by insisting they can only come if they bring a guest.

To charge or not to charge?

This decision has to be yours as it depends on your client base and target market – you know this better than anyone else. Some firms charge a nominal ticket price to cover costs, while others charge a relatively expensive ticket price to ensure people who attend are committed. There are firms who don't charge at all and see it as part of their overall client care package to offer 'free' seminars and updates. Firms that don't charge view the overall cost of running such events as part of their marketing and business development budgets. This was the approach I took when in practice. The value of new business won far outweighed the cost so we deemed it to be a good return on investment.

My next article will look at some of the practical elements of putting together a successful event, including what to put in the welcome packs and how to follow up with attendees.

 

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