15 factors that can influence the success of your event

Over the years I have been invited to attend many events that have had to be cancelled due to low bookings. I’m thinking of receptions, seminars, conferences and networking events. Sometimes it’s possible to reschedule the occasion. Other times the organisers give up and blame one or other of the factors that might or might not have been the cause of the low bookings.
There are at least 15 factors to consider and any one of them could be the cause of the low booking numbers if not properly researched beforehand:
  1. Date – You’ll want to avoid clashes with competing events, popular cultural, tv and sporting occasions. Some days of the week may also attract smaller numbers than others (eg: Monday mornings and Friday afternoons). On the day you can but hope there are no widespread problems with local traffic and transport arrangements.
  2. Timing – Early morning is not so good for those with child minding/school obligations, early evening impacts social and family life, daytime is dependent on work obligations. Attendees may also be disinclined to travel or drive during the rush hour.
  3. Length – Is it long enough to warrant making the effort to attend? Is it too long such that it requires potential attendees to give up too much time?
  4. Venue – Does it have any form of reputation – good or bad? How easy is it to get to from wherever the attendees are starting out? How easy is it for attendees to get to where ever they will be going afterwards? Make sure all these points are clearly spelled out on the invitation and promotional material
  5. Parking – Might anyone want to come by car? It helps to make clear the parking options up front
  6. Advance notice – It’s important to give enough notice when you issue the first invites (a few weeks is better than a few days). You also need to issue reminders both to those who have yet to book and to see if any of those who have booked are no longer able to attend.
  7. Structure – Is there, for example, time for networking before, during and/or afterwards and will this appeal to prospective attendees.
  8. Food and drink – Is the extent to which refreshments will be provided clear? Will those with restricted diets or tastes feel catered for?
  9. Content – Are the topics perceived as relevant, topical and appealing? Can you sense check these beforehand with prospective attendees?
  10. Speaker(s) – Do they have a positive reputation? Do they engage the audience? Are they easy and stimulating to hear? Are they sufficiently well known to your target audience? Have you highlighted their credibility to talk on the chosen subjects? Are you keeping their name(s) a secret? if so, why? If only confirmed after initial promotions have started, remember to update the promotions.
  11. Ticket price – Is this perceived to be good value? Charging a fee, even a low one, can result in fewer drop-outs than when you run a free event. BUT even low cost tickets can discourage those who need to get authority for the expense
  12. Payment methods – How easy are you making it for people to pay? Consider online booking facilities that include credit card and paypal options.
  13. Changes – If any element of the event has to change, what impact does this have on potential attendees? It might make them more or less likely to book or to attend. Some changes have to be notified beforehand. Others can be shared at the start of the event, only to those who are there.
  14. Promotion – How will you get the event into the minds of those you seek to attract? Will they see and respond to a single email or is a more sustained campaign required? Will social media help? Which channels? Can the speaker(s) assist here?
  15. Your list of invitees – Do you have one? How relevant and uptodate is it? Can you get one? Are you reliant on marketing to (relative) strangers? Can you get help or collaborate with someone else who has a suitable list? Can the speaker(s) help here?

On those last two points, when I am booked to speak at events I often promote them to my connections and contacts. My ability to advise on social media and to reach an extensive audience are sometimes factors that lead to me being invited to speak. My focus is typically on twitter and linkedin, sometimes via facebook and sometimes in my weekly newsletters that go to many thousands of accountants in the UK. What else do you think has affected bookings and the number of people who turn up for your events or those you have attended?

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Five modern marketing tips for accountants

I was asked yesterday for my top five marketing tips for accountants and I said I thought these would clear on this blog. Except that I then realised that ‘marketing’ is not one of the categories I use on here.

Thinking back that’s because, in my experience, relatively few UK accountancy firms devote much time and effort to marketing per se. And that ‘marketing’ in isolation can be seen as a bit of a turn off by accountants.

Indeed I recall that I consciously excluded ‘marketing’ from the list of key points to be addressed in one of my most popular talks for accountants:
“Make more profits from your smaller clients.” It’s implicit in the heading ‘Easy high impact tax business strategies that really work’. And I certainly cover numerous marketing related points in the talk, but always in context and only after explaining why effective ‘marketing’ is one key way of achieving the desired end. I’ve long adopted a similar approach when mentoring and providing business coaching advice to firms. And I’ve been adopting the same approach on this blog too.  Consistency counts towards credibility I think.

Have attitudes changed significantly in recent years? Remember I’m referring to the thousands of smaller firms of accountants, rather than the bigger firms with their in-house marketing department.

For what it’s worth I’ve drawn together five key marketing tips that were not described as such in the original posts on this blog:

1 – Ensure that your website homepage is focused on your target audiences.

It needs to contain key words that they are searching for, distinguish you from the other accountants and incorporate at least simple SEO so that your website appears in search results when people look for an accountant in your area.

2 – Identify what makes you/your firm special and different

Don’t rely on your personal charm and personality to secure new clients. Even if that works generally it needs to be supplemented in your marketing materials by effective marketing messages.

3 – Ensure that you and your staff are all focused on quality client service

Many accountants claim that they secure the majority of their new clients through  word of mouth referrals.  But few accountants have a structured approach to securing those referrals. The starting point MUST be to focus on client service. They key here though is to ensure that you see it from your clients’ perspective. That’s what counts. Not how hard you try. Not how hard you work. But how delighted your clients are with the outcome of your efforts, work and advice.

4 – Implement a referral marketing programme

Ensure that you ask clients and contacts for referrals at the right time, in the right way and to secure the right type of new clients.

5 – Focus your marketing efforts where they will generate maximum return

It’s generally accepted that it is easier to secure additional fees by providing further services to existing clients than from strangers (new clients). Identify your top clients, the ‘A team’. Use your own criteria, be they aggregate fees, potential for advisory work,  wealth, or whatever you think makes most sense to you. Then look to identify the additional services and advisory topics that could be relevant to the ‘A team’. In this connection, if you need support on the tax side then of course don’t forget the Tax Advice Network!

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