3 Lessons to Win the Day (and Maybe Some Business) with Your Next Client Event

client event

I got some great feedback from last week’s charity client event post – and not all of it was about the picture of me wearing a hairnet. A few advisors said an event like that would never work for their firms. As I said in the post, it may not fit your firm’s culture or your client demographics and that’s OK; you know what’s right for you. Some people asked about more traditional events and the best practices I’ve have seen from advisors around the country. In today’s post, I’ll share a few successful events – and the lessons you can learn from them.

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Lesson 1: Know your clients (and the ones you want to be clients).

A few years back, I was working with an advisor who wanted to find a way to connect with more of his clients and get more referrals. A wholesaler kept pushing him to host a client event. They discussed restaurants, menus and event costs, but I could tell the advisor felt uneasy about the suggestion. He was assured that other advisors found it successful, and he had the marketing dollars set aside to pay for it. But for some reason, he couldn’t pull the trigger. So I asked him to tell me about the clients he had that he wanted to replicate.

As we dug into his clientele, the advisor said many times that his best and favorite clients were ones that he called the Everyday Joes. They wanted their advisor to keep things simple for them and give them confidence in their retirement. In fact, the advisor had built up a nice little niche of union truck drivers for a national brewery. The more we dug into it, the more we realized that his clients probably wouldn’t feel any more comfortable with a fancy dinner than the advisor would. So we changed the dinner to a tailgate party before a Monday night football game at a bar near the stadium.

The advisor rented out a corner of the bar and invited his clients to stop by before the game if they had tickets, or to stop by and watch the game with him if they didn’t. The results? For the same expense of that fancy dinner, the advisor bonded with his clients in a fun atmosphere. Clients attending the game brought their friends who weren’t clients (and few didn’t even bother going into the stadium that night). The advisor realized that traditional methods of marketing would not have attracted the type of clients that he wanted and could service well. By creating an event that fit his targeted clients, he became better known in the niche and the go-to advisor for that niche.

Lesson 2: Pay attention to the details.

Last month, I was invited by a local advisory firm to a wine tasting in our area. Although I am known to have a glass or three of wine now and then (he knew his target audience), I typically don’t attend client events like this because I find them a tad stuffy – and since I wouldn’t know anyone other than the advisor, they can get pretty boring for me. But the invitation intrigued me because it described the night as “one part education, one part social interaction – minus the snooty attitude.” The speaker was part sommelier and part standup comedian. My kind of person.

The evening started out great; the speaker started her shtick with your evening “drinking name” (your favorite adult beverage and your mother’s maiden name). For privacy reasons, and to protect my mother’s side of the family, let’s just say my name started with a well-known vodka and ended with a proud English last name (the whole event would have crushed my grandfather). I watched people interact with each other, but I also watched the hosting advisor firm and how they paid attention to the details. Some of the things I noticed:

  • The invited group was smaller by choice. It seemed that the firm wanted to make sure it could comfortably interact with everyone in attendance.
  • There was at least one member of the advisory firm at every table and that person played “host.” The advisor (or firm employee) made it a point to interact often with everyone at their respective table and make sure they were enjoying the evening. They weren’t there to be entertained by the speaker; they were there “work the room”.
  • The lead advisor’s prepared remarks were short but meaningful. He welcomed his friends and their friends with the just right introduction and thank you for “trusting us” and “allowing us to be in your lives,” but that was the only business discussed that night.
  • The speaker’s signed book (the parting gift) had a nice bookmark with the advisor’s logo and phone number. Not over-the-top advertising, but a simple reminder of where the book came from and how to contact their hosts.
  • On the way out, every staff member and advisor thanked us for attending.

Frankly, I don’t remember the food or which of the 4 wines we “sampled” I liked best, but even today, I remember how much I thought that advisor cared about his clients and how they all enjoyed that night.

Lesson 3: Remember client events are an investment, not an expense.

Neither of these two nights was cheap, but both paid (and will pay) for themselves over and over again.
The tailgate cost the advisor about $2,500, all in. Sure, he built stronger relationships with his clients, but he also met about 20 prospects that night. (Who know how many others heard about it but couldn’t attend?) More importantly, he was able to connect with more people than the fancy dinner. Let’s say he converted only 2 of the 20 to clients with an average account size of $250,000. His first-year revenue at 100 bps advisory is $5,000. More than enough to cover that investment in his business. And guess what – his second-year revenue (assuming no market movement) is also $5,000, without any marketing cost. Not too shabby.

The wine tasting evening was $8,500 and the firm said there were 4 prospects (couples) in the room. The average account size for that firm was $1MM. Again, one new client at 100bps more than pays the cost of the event in the first year.

Plan now

As you start business planning for 2017, think about how you interact with your clients. How do you say thanks? Will it be a charitable event or a social event? (You can be “Budweiser Jones” at either.) Will you thank clients with a card or a fruit basket, or will you get to know them, and their family and friends, better? Done right, it can be a win for everyone.

Speaking of planning for 2017, please join me for our next practice management webinar on Monday, December 12th at 4 p.m. Eastern time. The webinar, Plan for a Breakout 2017, will be filled with ideas and strategies (and a toolkit) for those of you who really want to take charge of your future.

John Anderson

John Anderson

John Anderson is the creator and lead author of Practically Speaking blog and Managing Director of Practice Management Solutions for the SEI Advisor Network.

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