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Dan Richards

If you spend $12,000 to promote an event for prospects, you should expect results. That didn’t happen for an advisor whose recent prospecting events failed.   Here’s how he could have created a successful event – by focusing on the hot buttons that motivate prospects.

In January, I got a call from a Toronto-based advisor whose target market is entrepreneurs, wanting my opinion on a $12,000 mistake.  Last summer he hired a marketing consultant to organize three lunches, each targeting attendance of 20 to 25 business owners.  The consultant booked a room at a downtown hotel and mailed high-quality (and expensive) invitations to 1,000 business owners on a list that she had bought. Hitting the attendance goal required a 6% to 7% response rate.

The title of the talk was Charting a course in volatile markets. The advisor and the consultant he’d hired were sure that given all the market and economic uncertainty last fall, this would strike a chord with prospects.

The response was abysmal – forcing him to cancel all three lunches.  When the advisor followed up with the 11 business owners who did respond and offered to buy them lunch, he discovered that none were serious prospects.  Further, the venture wasn’t cheap – purchasing the list, printing and mailing invitations, cancellation fees for the hotel and the consultant’s fees added up to over $12,000.

“I’ve heard of other advisors who had good success inviting prospects to luncheons,” this advisor said.  “Should I write this experience off or is there another approach that might get better results? I still have that list of 1,000 business owners.”

Two big barriers to action

This advisor learned the hard way of the two big barriers to people take action on your offers.

First is time. We’re all incredibly busy – it’s true of us, it’s true of our clients and it’s certainly true of our prospects. Almost no one is looking for ways to fill their day – I’ve heard many advisors complain about how hard it is to get existing clients out to the events they host, much less prospects.

And second is perceived risk.  People you don’t currently deal with are skeptical of any offer you make; we’ve all had unpleasant experiences going to “free” events and people have discovered that there truly is no free lunch.

All of that said, there are some things this advisor could do to boost response.

I’ve written in the past about the impact of holding client events at venues that convey exclusivity such as country clubs and private clubs. Or you could follow the example of one US advisor who runs 45 dinner seminars a year at Ruths Chris Steakhouse, a top restaurant in his market. (Click here to read more about his approach.)

I’ve also written about the challenges of attracting people downtown in large, busy cities. Very often, prospects who live and work in outlying areas will balk at fighting traffic to come downtown and pay $30 to park. Some advisors have had success by organizing events in locales that are more convenient for prospects than a downtown location.

Another route to boosting response is hiring someone to make follow up calls to the people who get invitations – while this improves response, it also dramatically increases cost and complexity.

Finally, he could put strategies in place to explicitly address the twin barriers of time and risk. To overcome the “lack of time” issue, he could hone in on prospect hot buttons and make his session too compelling to pass up.  And to overcome skepticism, he could work with a trusted partner.