How would you react to a call from a bank executive trying to sell you a credit card or a pre-approved personal loan when you are in the middle of drafting an important mail for a client? Some of you may naturally get irritated. Similarly, prospects would perceive you as a salesman if you would call them to invest in a product. You may lose the potential client forever.
Encouragingly, many advisers have realized that cold calling is passé. A visible trend among advisers is an effort to educate investors to create a pull for their services. Indeed, informed investors tend to make smart investment choices, which is a win-win for both advisers as well as investors. Across the length and breadth of the country, advisers are organizing investor awareness programmes (IAPs) to educate people about the virtues of investing in equity, particularly through mutual funds. Education seems to be the new mantra to acquire clients.
There are many benefits of conducing IAPs. Rather than approaching one prospect at a time, reaching out to a group is more efficient, especially for startup advisers. For instance, Mumbai based adviser Gajendra Kothari has acquired 70% of his clients through IAPs. When he started his practice seven years back, he organized a four-hour event in his hometown Assam which was attended by 500 people. By busting the myths of investing in equities, he got 70 SIPs in a single day. Encouraged by the success, Gajendra started organizing such events regularly. Though the conversion rate has been low, he gets a steady stream of referrals from clients acquired through IAPs. He is not disheartened by the low conversion rate. “One prospect signed up for a SIP of Rs. 6 lakh per month after attending my IAP in Delhi. If he finds our services good he will refer us to his acquaintances who are likely to be HNIs. So the number of conversions really doesn’t matter,” shares Gajendra.
If you don’t have the resources to put together an event independently, you can collaborate with your peers. Four years back, a study group of advisers comprising Gajendra Kothari, Mukul Agarwal, Ronak Hindocha, Rajendra Bhatia, Vinayak Sapre, Sanjay Ladha and Saurabh Mittal thought of doing something for their clients. After brainstorming, they came up with the idea of inviting their respective clients under one roof to educate them on the benefits of investing in equities. So far, they have conducted four events which were well-attended and appreciated by their clients.
Mumbai based adviser Deepak Sheth who caters to a completely ignored segment - auto rickshaw drivers, shopkeepers and municipal ward officers, sets aside 1% of his company’s revenues for investor seminars annually. His idea of organizing these events is purely educational; he does not expect any new business. Deepak organized his first event 17 years back in which he had invited an income tax officer to familiarize people with tax rules and tax-saving investment avenues. Around 200 people attended this event. Now, his son Ritesh Sheth is carrying forward the baton. On March 8 2016, Ritesh organized an event for a group of 150 women by charging Rs. 600 per entry, the proceeds of which went to an NGO Koshish which works in the area of education, cancer cure and rehabilitation of people affected by natural calamities.
With SEBI’s mandate for AMCs to spend a portion of their AUM on IAPs, these events have achieved a new scale. Last year, the 225 members of Pune based IFA association Pune Independent Financial Advisors Association (PIFFA) decided to organize an event for their clients. The massive event which had senior fund managers and CEOs as speakers was attended by 1300 investors. “Our event was supported by 16 AMCs. We had started planning for it five months in advance. We chalked out a media plan to promote this event. We advertised our event on radio, newspaper and hoardings which helped us receive a good response,” says Sandeep Bhushetty, Founder President, PIFFA. Their effort paid off. The 300 leads generated through the event registrations were distributed among the members equally. Sandeep claims that he has acquired 80 new clients through this event.
How to conduct IAPs
If you haven’t conducted IAPs yet and wondering how to go about it, here are a few tips. Do not expect instant results. If your content is good, people would remember and reach out to you may be six months or even a year after the event. Also, you can get requests from attendees to speak at other events.
IAPs need not be conducted on a mass scale. You can catch up with a bunch of friends to let them know how you can help them. If you are able to connect and get your point across, your audience will grow through word-of-mouth.
Consider IAP as a long-term investment in your business. While the conversion ratio in IAPs may be low you will be able to project yourself as a thought leader among your community, which will ultimately help you acquire clients.
Here are a few tips for organizing IAPs and how to make them interesting:
- To pull the audience, distribute pamphlets/inserts in newspapers and create buzz on social media.
- Reach out to associations, rotary clubs and corporates.
- If possible, invite a prominent personality from the city where the event is being conducted as the chief guest.
- Call your existing clients and ask them to bring their friends/family members.
- Freeze on the venue and a day. Ideally, people would be free to attend your event on weekends or public holidays.
- Make sure you have enough business cards.
- Provide a feedback form through which you can get their contact details for a follow-up.
- Don’t start calling attendees to push them to invest through you the very next day. If you have their email address, add them to your client mailing database so that they receive your educational newsletters. Follow-up with those who show a keen interest to invest.
- If possible, speak in the local language where you plan to conduct your event.
- Keep the content simple and easy to understand; avoid jargon. Don’t fill your presentation with numbers from excel charts. Rather, present your message through infographics.
- Avoid talking about products. Instead, provide a solution to their problems.
- Share real life stories of how investing in equities has helped your clients achieve their life goals. You can even call your existing client to share his/her experience with the audience which can be a live testimonial. To convince them, show them your personal account statement on how you have benefitted from mutual funds.
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