In this age of instant communications and frenetic multitasking, financial advisors shouldn’t overlook an old-school respite from the daily grind: the client event. In fact, with spring in bloom, this is the perfect time for nurturing and renewing connections with clients, face-to-face in a relaxed atmosphere.
In the context of wealth management, a client event is simply a get-together organized by a financial advisor for clients (sometimes with stakeholders, “plus one” prospects or business-referral sources included). In scale, these events range from small and relatively brief gatherings to large multi-day conferences. Typically, they play important tactical roles, such as providing financial insights, highlighting the advisor's expertise or just having a bit of constructive communal fun.
The Real Point
In form, client events range from seminars and presentations to cocktail parties and client-appreciation dinners. At Dynasty, we bucket our events broadly into conferences, educational or experiences. Some advisors choose themes connected to hobbies like golf, sailing or cooking. Practically, just about any activity you can imagine could fit the bill for a successful client event, with a focus on creating experiences an advisor would not be able to encounter on their own. I’ve helped with events in venues as diverse as private rodeo competitions, hosted cooking competitions with Michelin star chefs versus our clients and developed full curriculums for our CEOs at MIT.
But the point of hosting a client event isn’t really to share skills, impart knowledge or have fun—even if those are usual and desirable outcomes. It’s about creating an event that leaves your clients with positive impressions of you and your practice. It’s an exercise in strategic brand building. And it’s done with the specific aim of drawing clients closer to you and fostering positive word-of-mouth about you. Putting on a relevant event that creates a memorable experience with your audience is the perfect way to make a positive statement. It gives your clients, prospects etc. a tangible moment where they can relate a positive memory to you and your firm. On the flip side, events can be viewed as time-consuming and hard to track ROI. But in today's age of instant communication, there is still nothing that beats face-to-face interaction & meaningful time spent connecting, networking and engaging.
Further, a well-executed client event can be an opportunity to gather information. By soliciting client feedback on specific events, you can identify areas where you can make future events better for everyone concerned. And, with skill and finesse, you can keep these frank conversations going well past the event itself, improving client service and client relations in the process.
The Seven Steps
While there’s no perfect formula for creating a successful client event, I would recommend starting with these seven steps.
- Know your audience
You understand what clients and prospects would enjoy. Use this understanding to help select an attractive theme and strategic goals for the event itself—whether it’s a cocktail party at an art museum or a ski event at the local mountain.
- Set a Budget
Determine the amount of money you want to spend on the event, not forgetting expenses such as space and equipment rentals, catering, etc.—and then set some more money aside, earmarked for contingencies. Besides giving you a better handle on costs, and more flexibility to handle unforeseen circumstances, this can help determine ROI for the event.
- Send Word Out Early (and Often)
Invite clients to register for the event as early as possible, and consistently drip reminders to encourage latecomers. Also, be aware of other industry events or peak vacation times that can hurt attendance and steer clear of them—unless of course the event is a holiday-season celebration.
- Give Yourself (More) Time
Set aside ample time to plan for the event—and start that planning early. To this end, mark on your calendar when to begin planning. Now cross that out and select an even earlier date to get going. There’s no such thing as starting too soon.
- Have Your Tools Ready
Use resources such as budgeting software, a detailed “run of show” document and an event timeline. If these applications are missing from (or hard to find in) the software available to you, there are free templates available online. And when it comes to the technology you plan to use at the event itself—especially presentation technology—be sure to test it, and test it again—and have backups in case things go haywire.
- Heed the Details
Details make the event. Make sure that your brand and event signage is well-positioned and that your decorations are up and working as intended. Same goes for other event-related content: ensure that session and breakout titles resonate with your theme. Only provide swag that’s relevant to the theme and likely to remind attendees of the event. It's more about how every little detail leads into the overall experience. Tying the gift into the theme so the takeaway reminds them of the event, making sure all the session titles tie back to an overall conference theme, knowing the dietary preferences of all your guests and having meals ready without them having to ask etc. The little details add up to a larger success.
- Solicit Feedback
Immediately after the get-together, send attendees a survey, and tie the questions back to the goals you’d set for the event beforehand. As mentioned, use this feedback to improve future events and ongoing client communications.
It’s good to know you don’t have to go it alone. Event-planning specialists, real and virtual, can help plan, design, organize and coordinate events for companies in every field, including wealth management. Event planners can access and help you get the most from event-planning tools, help select themes and streamline even complex logistics.
Time for Renewal
With the aim of executing successful events and strengthening your client relationships, these specialists can provide email and social-media templates for promotion, guidance on keeping clients and prospects engaged, help create compelling presentations, facilitate networking sessions and solicit feedback from attendees.
In today's fast-paced and increasingly digital world, financial advisors shouldn’t forget the value of hosting in-person client events to strengthen relationships and promote their brands. Advisors can follow the seven steps described above to stage gatherings that offer valuable feedback for improving their client relationships. Advisors can also secure help staging effective client events through:
- Event-planning tools and templates
- Marketing support
- Guidance on effective engagement
- Professional event planners
And it’s all worth the time and trouble it takes to get it right. Hosting successful client events can leave a lasting positive impression on clients, improving the advisor’s brand awareness in the process.
Maybe view it as a new rite of spring.
Nicholas Stile is Head of Community and Events for Dynasty Financial Partners