Steve Pipe explains how running your own seminars can hugely influence the success of your business. So how does it work, and what does it entail?
In my article in the September issue of Accounting Practice I talked about the research for my book ‘The World’s Most Inspiring Accountants’. This time on I want to drill down and focus on a Leeds-based sole practitioner who features in that book.
But rather than repeat what it says about them in the book I am going to focus on another aspect of their story: how seminars have helped them to grow from being a start-up in 2007 to earning almost £1,000,000 a year in fees by 2017.
“I can’t think of anything else that would have had such a dramatically positive effect on our reputation, profile, and profit and loss account in such a short space of time” is how the practitioner described the series of seminars he ran.
And that kind of assessment is very common. After all, there probably isn’t any other way to achieve all of this in a single day… line up 36 fee earning meetings, receive 14 new referrals and estimate it will add an extra £75,000 to your gross recurring fees.
That’s as many as 50 potential new clients and/or new pieces of fee earning work in a single day. And they aren’t imaginary numbers. As you will see below, they are the actual results achieved by one sole practitioner.
Example results accountants are getting from seminars
Here is the full and unedited text of an email I received from Leeds sole practitioner Phil Ellerby of Northern Accountants after his first ever seminar in 2013 (when his was still a very small practice). The only changes made have been to embolden certain phrases to make the key points easier to see.
“Thanks so much for presenting the £2m seminar for us last Thursday. As you know we are a small practice, with a team of just three people, so this was our biggest marketing initiative ever. So I am delighted to say that from our perspective it was a HUGE success, because:
- 48 people from 40 different businesses attended.
- As you know, at the end every single delegate said the seminar would help them earn at least an extra £100,000, and quite a few were in the £2 million to £10 million range, which was fantastic.
- The rest of the feedback on the day and since has also been incredibly positive, and I have been walking around with a permanent smile on my face all weekend.
- 36 businesses ticked the box on the feedback form to book a £250 follow up meeting.
- Elsewhere on the feedback forms we received 14 referrals and 32 people wanted to talk to us about some of the tax planning or other issues covered by the seminar.
- And I am hopeful from the really positive conversations I have had with delegates on the day and since that another 17 clients will go on to buy additional services, and 14 non clients will start working with us in some way.
- As a result we now have a lot of leads and referrals to follow up, and a lot of new fee-earning work to do. We have also made a really positive impression on many influencers and serial networkers (since a large part of a BNI group attended), which should generate a lot more referrals for us in the future.
- In total I estimate that it will add about £120k to our fees over the next 12 months, and with £75k being GRF for the following year and beyond.
I can’t think of anything else that would have had such a dramatically positive effect on our reputation, profile, and profit and loss account in such a short space of time. And that, of course, is why I have already talked to you about running it again for us early next year.
Please feel free to share this email with other accountants so they can how valuable this kind of seminar can be, even to a really small practice like ours.”
Five simple ways to make your seminars hugely profitable
For over eight years I have been helping accountants across the UK to run seminars like the one Phil ran. So I probably have more experience – and evidence – of what works than anybody else.
And based on that experience and evidence, here are my five of my top tips for turning seminars into the most profitable way to grow your practice:
- Be crystal clear on your objectives: Unless you have a huge marketing budget, you simply can’t afford to run seminars merely to enhance your reputation. Instead your objective should be to directly win new clients and/or get you existing clients buying additional services from you.
- Ensure they are highly valuable: Don’t bother with Budget update seminars. Focus instead on high value content that has the potential to make a significant difference to delegates’ profits, cashflow, bank account, tax bills, business value, personal wealth or work-life balance.
- Make a compelling offer from the stage: If you are going to turn delegates into new clients and/or extra fees, then you must make a compelling offer from the stage. That offer should involve an easy next step for them to take with the seminar content. And if you want to charge for that next step, you should also make it risk free.
In the example above, Phil Ellerby offered his delegates a £250 bundle of follow up help that included benchmarking them, and meeting them to present his findings and recommendations and help turn them into a prioritised action plan. And he made it really easy for people to accept the offer, by also giving them an unconditional money back guarantee ie if for any reason they weren’t happy they could get every penny of their £250 back. As he says in his email above, 90% of his delegates accepted that offer at the end of the seminar. And that 90% conversion rate is precisely why it is essential to seize the moment and make a compelling risk-free offer from the stage.
- Design the feedback form carefully: You must have a feedback form. But its purpose is not primarily to get feedback on how good the seminar was. The primary aims of your feedback form are (A) to give delegates a simple Yes/No choice over whether to accept the compelling offer you have made from the stage, (B) to also give them a chance to request a no cost or obligation meeting/discussion with you about anything else covered by the seminar, and (C) to give them a chance to give you names (ie referrals) of anyone they think would also be interested in the issues you covered.
By specifically designing it around these three aims, Phil’s feedback form captured 36 instant sales, 32 additional requests to discuss specific issues and 14 referrals. That is the power of a carefully designed feedback form.
- Use free technology to put bums on seats: You don’t need to spend a single penny to market your seminars. Simply use your iPhone or family Camcorder to record a short promotional video. Upload the video to YouTube. And create an Eventbrite page for your seminar, making it really sexy by also embedding your YouTube video in it. All of this is free. And Eventbrite will then manage all your bookings, automatically send delegates booking confirmations and reminders, and provide you with delegates list and contact details. You can then use social media (Twitter and LinkedIn updates etc) and email to tell people about your seminar, and point them to your Eventbrite page to find out more and book. And all without spending a single penny.
Done this way, seminars will become the best way to grow your practice.
What about something even better than seminars?
As you will see on this page of Phil’s website – www.northern accountants.co.uk/services/na-live – his seminars are so successful that he now runs a huge number of them (when I wrote this on 5 September his web page listed 23 seminars in the second half of 2017 alone).
One of the ways he has lifted his seminar programme to another level is by re-packaging some of them into a kind of monthly business club focusing on a different business issue every month. And that is an approach that many firms tell me works even better than running one-off seminars.
Or something much simpler?
If all of that sounds like too much hard work, happily there is a simpler option. You can also get great results by running webinars instead of seminars. And the big advantage of webinars is that they are much easier, much quicker and much cheaper to run. In fact, they often won’t cost you a single penny.
I hope to show you how to make the most of webinars in my next article. But if you can’t wait until then, email me and I will send you more tips and insights into how to make seminars, business clubs and webinars really work for you.
- Steve Pipe FCA is a leading researcher. He can be contacted via email@example.com
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