Workshops Are Back In Vogue…Really

Quality education never goes out of style

By Tiffany Flanagan

Ms. Flanagan is the Director of Business Development at Centinel Financial Group, LLC with offices in Needham Heights, Marshfield, Bourne, Maynard, Osterville and Walpole, Massachusetts.. She can be reached at 781.446.5025 or by email at [email protected]

Fifteen years ago, financial seminars for the general public were the latest marketing strategy for financial professionals. You could offer a session at night and easily fill the room with 30 to 50 attendees. That wave rode for about five years until the competition set in. Once the idea took hold, everyone began doing them, and eventually the marketplace became saturated. The large wire-houses and money management firms then needed to offer prime rib dinners just to get half to one-quarter of the audience size. Nowadays it is difficult to do public workshops due to the cost, the overall lack of response and interest, and the over-influx of information already available through the web.
For a while, seminar marketing has been quiet…or so it seemed.

The truth is, quality education on money management has never gone out of style – it just needs to be delivered to your audience in a convenient manner with topics that resonate. One secret to success with seminar marketing today is to do your workshops through a forum where your audience does not have to take time out of their stressful daily lives to attend, and give something back in the process. This concept is called Corporate Workshops. Our firm is going on our fifth consecutive year of growth offering value to small businesses and large corporations through on-site educational workshops for employees. In this time of financial austerity, today’s employers have had to make tough choices regarding their employee benefits, sometimes reducing their employer match on qualified plans or making certain benefits voluntary to keep pace with profitability. This has left many employers looking for ways to increase their value proposition to employees, without adding cost to the company. Educational lunch-and-learn workshops fit this need.

The truth is, quality education on money management has never gone out of style

Our firm does over 100 workshops a year to over 60 corporations, small businesses and municipalities. The average audience size is 20 people with many groups reaching 40-50 per session, depending on the size of the company. With financial stress being such a prevalent issue, the goal is to help employers and their employees improve their sense of financial well-being, thus having a positive impact on their productivity and morale. Employees are able to take advantage of education during the day, without having to leave work or their busy lives at home.

Offering customized financial workshops empowers employees and executives with the ability to:

  • Help make informed financial decisions
  • Help understand some of their available financial options
  • Help improve participation in existing group benefits

Financial literacy goes beyond ERISA requirements for qualified plans. A financial education program should address a wide range of money management concepts such as estate conservation strategies, income distribution planning at retirement, building net worth and tax-efficient money strategies. You also need to be flexible with each organization – from large corporations, to companies with limited lunch breaks, to municipal organizations. The focus is not on product, but on strategies that teach your audience life-changing lessons, such as missed market upswings when investors pull out of the market, common IRA mistakes, or the fact that insurance and retirement account beneficiary designations will automatically trump what is in someone’s will. You also need to be cognizant and cater to the diverse age groups that exist within companies.

Granted, the internet allows for web-based meetings and presentations, but nothing replaces the personal contact obtained through in-person workshops. The challenge is do it in such a way that is convenient for your audience and allows the employer to be involved in providing the value.

Your workshops should be set up as a series so that you are able to complete a learning cycle in detail. This also allows you to get to know the employees over time.

Target marketing and referrals are among the best ways to grow a financial professional’s practice. By utilizing a corporate workshop program, you gain entry to new target markets, new clients and referrals. You generate trust and value, all while managing your time and the efficient use of your marketing dollars. The employer gains recognition for providing a value-added benefit to their employees; and the employees are better prepared to take positive financial actions.