The Real Housewives of Orange County

I get a fair amount of direct mail from lawyers and other professionals inviting me to a free dinner at a nice restaurant. Basically, they buy you steak or seafood and you listen to a presentation, followed by a pitch to make an appointment.

If the professional gets all the bits and pieces right, this can be an effective strategy for marketing high ticket items like legal services, securities, and insurance products.

The other day, I got one such mailing from one of my neighbors, a financial adviser who is conducting a retirement planning dinner. My wife saw it and recognized the name of the host as one of the stars of “The Real Housewives of Orange County”.

Yep, she’s one of our neighbors.

The mailing doesn’t mention her “Housewives,” connection, however. I’m sure this was intentional. Aside from the fact that she may be contractually precluded from leveraging the show by name, no doubt she wants real prospects to attend, not just star struck folks who want to meet a celebrity.

The mailing contained a brochure, the invitation, and two tickets. Fairly typical and reasonably well done.

There is something on the invitation that’s not that common, however.

The invitation says,

Would you prefer a face-to-face meeting?

If you would rather discuss your retirement questions in a private setting, you can schedule a consultation with [her name] in the comfort and privacy of our office. As a sincere “thank you” for your time, you will be presented with a $50 gift card after completing your consultation appointment. No purchase is required. Call xxx to schedule your appointment.

If you are using free dinner (or lunch) presentations to market your services, you might consider adding this option. You’ll get in front of people who can’t make the event or who prefer privacy. If you’re willing to buy them dinner to hear your presentation, why not make the same offer if they come to see you privately?

Actually, you might want to do this even if you don’t use dinners as a marketing tool.

Am I suggesting that you pay people to come see you for a free consultation?

Yes. It will increase response.

If there are no legal or ethical restrictions, and your numbers work, i.e., you close enough prospects to make it worthwhile, why wouldn’t you?

You don’t have to offer this to everyone. You could use it for special occasions, a holiday promotion for example. You could offer it in some ads or mailings and not others. Or with certain joint venture partners.

For example, if you’re working with a CPA, have him email his clients and tell them about your consultation or seminar, etc. When his clients come to see you and mention the CPA’s name, they get a gift card or other freebie.

If you don’t want to offer a gift card or other cash equivalent, offer a “planning kit,” a copy of your book, a resource guide, or a presentation on CD.

Whatever you call it, bribes work. Even if you’re not a real housewife.

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