April 27, 2010

Flubs In A Seminar With A $500,000 Ticket

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We got an invitation to a dinner seminar from an investment advisor at one of the banks. Tiny fine print makes up the bulk of the message. As you know, the fine print taketh away.

The price of admission? At least $500,000 of investable assets.

Clients of the firm aren't invited, though they may want to switch advisors. Neither are clients of the advisor, though their testimonials could sway the undecided (universal principle of influence #5).

Here's a review of the invitation.

The Good

The basics are good. The location is a nice neighborhood restaurant with good food. The seminar is probably upstairs. The private room can accommodate about 8-12. Presentations become a problem because the room is long and narrow. Attendees stay in their dinner seats, which means the small screen is a bit difficult to see. That's common in this type of venue.

The invitation arrived the week before the event, which creates a sense of urgency to respond. The dinner is midweek --- a good choice. Dinner is at 7 PM which isn't too early or too late.

The Bad

The invitation is generic. The topic is the usual how-to-invest-in-tough-times that several advisors have already used in this same neighborhood. Yawn. There's no compelling reason to attend.

The advisor is the presenter. He has no credentials or testimonials. There's no biography to transform him from a name into a person. The advisor has made himself entirely replaceable.

There's no website for more details. There isn't even an email address. A web search shows the advisor is on LinkedIn … interested in job inquiries. No photo. No bio. No testimonials. No university. No designations. Nothing.

To book, you phone an assistant. Even $500,000 won’t get you this advisor's personal attention. Callers are probably asked questions to make sure they fit the admission criteria.

Who Needs Who?

The advisor needs the attendees much more than they need a dinner and sales pitch. Yet the advisor and the communications department at his firm have not created a compelling Twitter-length message.

Who would want to sit through a lengthy presentation and endure the follow-up calls?

Cost cutting

You get colour envelopes at this firm’s banking machines but the invitation card comes in an envelope with a black and white logo. How much does that save?

The invitation is addressed but stamped as junk mail. Why not use real stamps for a nice personal touch? With self-adhesive stamps, there's no licking involved.

The contents aren't a folded invitation card. There's only a single sided page on thick paper. No colour.

Based on the clues, how good do you think dinner will be? Do you think they'll have wine or desert?


Another advisor from the same firm held a dinner presentation in the same restaurant with a similar topic. You only needed $300,000 to attend that one. That event had a wedding-style invitation and a stamped return envelope. Perhaps that was too extravagant.

The new invitation is going to similar prospects but is less appealing in every way.

There's nothing wrong with saving money and taking short cuts unless you turn away the very people you want to attract.

Maybe the dinner presentation will be a mega success. Maybe there's an untapped demand for generic, invisible advisors.


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