I was speaking to one the best 401(k) marketing gurus out there and when talking about my idea for a national conference, he told me that he warns smaller plan providers about how many conferences they attend. I agree because I think f you look at the schedule, you can go broke attending many national and regional conferences.
It’s one of the reasons that I try to keep the enrollment and sponsorship fees for my conferences to a minimum. Maybe I can get three times what I charge, but at least I have attendees and conference sponsors that don’t feel they got ripped off. Having wasted money on advertising, conferences, and networking events that weren’t beneficial, I know the feeling.
Before you decide to attend or sponsor an event (whether it’s retirement plan related or not), identify whether it’s worth the time or money especially if you’ve attended similar events by the same host. Years ago, I’d attend many small business networking events hosted by a really nice guy on Long Island, but after quite a few events, it was quite clear it was the wrong market for my business as I didn’t draw a dime from them. When looking at conferences, see if there are networking opportunities and whether there are any exhibitors or speakers that are worthwhile to talk to. Location is great (I will never attend a conference in Albany), but so is time to actually network. For my events, I make sure (after the first event) that there is enough time for networking. Presentations are great, but so is just talking to fellow plan providers.
If a conference or event isn’t working for you, you can always try someone else’s event, but these events take time and money, which is a luxury most of us don’t have.