Event-based marketing to grow your warm list

In the past, we’ve talked extensively about the importance of marketing most heavily to your warm prospect list (your “met database”). Your warm list contains the most qualified prospects that you have, and long-term follow up marketing to this list is really the valuable marketing you can do.

But what if you don’t have such an active prospect list?

All lead generation marketing is designed to answer this question. This blog, as well as most of our advanced courses, primarily focus on methods for converting cold lists into warm prospects, and then nurturing those prospects over time. This entire concept is sort of our “thing” around here.

Today, I want to introduce you to a unique strategy that we haven’t really discussed much, and give you an entire blueprint for putting it into action. This is going to be a long, but highly action oriented, article, so grab your favorite beverage and snuggle up to the computer screen for a few minutes.

The Power of an Event

People love events. It’s something inherent in the American culture, I think. We love BBQ’s, tailgate parties, birthday parties, our seasonal holidays — pretty much any reason to get together. Corporate cultures love their meetings, and the seminar industry just as big as ever, despite the economic downturn. Webinars are just as popular, and growing every day.

An event brings people together for a common reason. At an event, even if it’s full of complete strangers, there is usually something that ties everybody together. That reason might be an interest in growing their businesses, securing their financial futures, a passion for the a sports team, or their kids all play soccer together. Think about the last time you attended a seminar or industry conference, why you went, and what you got out of it. Those are the reasons people attend events.

Events are more than just an excuse to get together, however. Events are an opportunity for us to learn, grow, and achieve. Holding regular events is a powerful way to solidify your relationship with prospects. Your events can help people in numerous ways, not just via the tax and accounting services you offer.

What kind of events am I talking about? The occasional client appreciation party is a good one, yes, but more specifically I’m referring to educational events. Monthly seminars on various financial topics, from real estate and mortgages to asset protection and wealth management. There are scores of topics you can cover in monthly seminars. The best part is that you can invite trusted colleagues in other professions to come in and present information of value to your prospects and clients. Make sure the information is 90% educational, and give your guest presenter a few months to talk about themselves and their services, and you can get a free speaker.

Think people won’t come to an event like that? My friend James, whom you’ve probably heard me speak with on some of our other programs and courses, is a real estate broker and investor in Colorado. He happens to run the Northern Colorado Real Estate Investor group, and has for at least seven or eight years. At the latest monthly meeting of this real estate investing group, James said he had standing room only, and the largest attendance of any such meeting he’s ever held. He even had one gentleman fly in from New Hampshire just to attend. Do you think James is going to get some brokerage clients from this activity? Absolutely!

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By scheduling and holding regular events, you have something powerful: Something to always be inviting people to. Whenever you meet people, and in all of your marketing, you will always have an opportunity to invite people to meet with you face to face. Since people do business with people they know, like, and trust, these face to face encounters are invaluable for getting people to know you better, and appreciate what you are offering them.

Schedule a regular event. You can hold this in your own office, a local restaurant, or in a community room (check your local library and government offices — many have public meeting space available for free or very low cost). If you want something more formal, negotiate a good rate with a local hotel for a small meeting room, and be sure to ask for a discount because you’ll be back every month.

Then, use these events as a cornerstone of your marketing. Everybody you meet gets an invite. Chamber of Commerce networking luncheon? Everybody gets an invite. Web inquiry for your services? Yes, they get an email newsletter, but they also get an invite.

Just so you know, this particular strategy was perfected within the network marketing industry. Every weekly “opportunity meeting” for an MLM company uses this principle in order to introduce new people to the income opportunity. This method has sold billions of dollars MLM products and packages over the decades, and is still used successfully today.

Now that we’ve covered events, let’s discuss the other half of this powerful strategy…

Getting At New Residents

When people move a significant distance from one city to another, they leave behind a plethora of trusted service providers. Everything from their hair stylist and dentist to their favorite grocery store and taco truck. Within certain “verticals” (niche industries), such as chiropractic and real estate, marketing to these recent movers is a time honored tradition. In other industries, it’s almost unheard of.

Well, it’s time you heard of it. “New movers” mailing lists are one of the most common mailing lists for many professions to market their services to. Why? Because new people in town are establishing relationships with all new service providers. Because of that, new movers lists are consistently one of the most profitable mailing lists for many industries to market to.

A new movers list is a compiled list, based on change of address data and home sales data. Every mailing list broker under the sun offers some version of such lists, and some are better than others. Because of it’s popularity, it’s also one of the cheaper lists to acquire. Many list brokers, including InfoUSA.com (that’s where I get such lists from), will even let you select how far somebody moved, which is important for us. A move of 4 miles probably won’t necessitate a change in tax professional, but 50 or 200 miles probably will.

If you are looking for business customers, there are similar lists you can purchase of businesses that have moved, or brand new businesses. New business lists in particular are regularly marketed to for payroll services by the big companies such as ADP, but they are rarely contacted by small, local tax, bookkeeping, accounting, or payroll firms. This entire strategy will work equally well for that market.

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If I do a search right now for new movers into the Vancouver, WA area that have moved at least 50 miles, infoUSA tells me that an average of 291 new households per month meet that criteria. That’s almost 3,500 people per year — and I have the opportunity to be the first (and probably the ONLY) tax professional contacting these 3,500 people to have their tax return done in my office. Even with a mediocre response rate, that can create a compelling addition to seasonal tax prep revenue.

What will it cost me to contact 291 new people each month? About $115, using postcards. It only takes one paid tax return to make up for all of that. Not a bad investment. And the best part is that the response rate should be higher, because I’m not contacting them to sell tax services. I’m contacting them to invite them to a free event.

So what do we have so far? We have our reason for contacting people (the event), and we have a list of people to contact that are significantly more likely to respond than the average person (because they are new to the area and have a need). What’s next? Do a mailing!

Event Invitation Postcards

Event invitation postcards are simple and easy. All you need to do is welcome people to the neighborhood, and invite them to your event. These are simple, 4.25 x 6 inch standard postcards, with just a simple invitation on the front, and the mailing address and return address on the front. It really doesn’t get any simpler than that.

I use Click2Mail.com for most of my direct mail. This is the US Postal Service contractor for online printing and postage.

If you present your event as a compelling enough offer, you will get people registering. Response rates in the double digit percentages have been achieved using this method. Mailing 300 new movers for $115 and getting anywhere from three to 60 registrants is awesome — because that means you have that many new prospects. Will they become client? No, probably not. But having these warm prospects that have spent time face to face with you, no matter how small the gathering, is very powerful.

Long Term Prospect Follow Up

Long term prospect follow up is a subject that I cover extensively elsewhere. Suffice it to say, however, that you should be following up with these prospects on at least a monthly basis, until they either tell you to stop or you get returned mail, bounced emails, and disconnected phone.

These prospects should receive invitations to your other future events. They should come to your client appreciation parties. They should receive your monthly client newsletter. They should get your email updates, birthday cards, anniversary cards, Thanksgiving cards, coupons, special offers, and everything else that should be part of your regular client and prospect touch program.

If you’ve been looking for one of the most effective ways to get new prospects, and new tax preparation clients in particular, then this is one of the most powerful methods you can use to achieve this. It’s a dirt cheap lead generation strategy, but pays massive dividends in the long run for your local tax practice.