By Laura Gregg and Stephanie Treccia
Client events should be an integral part of every advisor’s business plan. When done right, they can be a great way to build trust with existing clients, attract new prospects and drive sales. However, with all the demands on your clients’ time, it can be increasingly difficult to organize a memorable event that clients truly want to attend. The one-size-fits-all retirement seminar or steak dinner may not cut it anymore as clients have come to expect more meaningful and personalized experiences.
How can advisors rethink traditional client events to find success?
Target the Right Audience
When planning an event, you may find it natural to segment your clients by surface-level factors like assets or age group. However, focusing on these superficial characteristics can be a mistake. For example, a couple of high-earning millennial parents may have more in common with their GenX counterparts than their millennial peers who haven’t started a family yet or who have inherited most of their wealth. To remain competitive, it’s important to dig deeper and demonstrate your knowledge of clients’ values and motivations. Ask yourself questions such as, “What are their passions?” or “What are their personal and financial goals?” Try to match up clients with similar interests and life goals, rather than their level of wealth. This will help facilitate a more like-minded network among your clients for a successful client-focused event.
Offer a Unique Experience
There are a number of ways advisors can differentiate their experiences from the crowd and push clients out of their comfort zone. You may consider identifying the clients who are interested in out-of-the-box adventures and then organize an experience they wouldn’t normally participate in on their own. It’s even more effective if you can relate these experiences to a financial theme. For example, you can host a hike with an introduction to sustainable investing, an escape-room visit with a conversation about risk as an investment tool, or a scuba diving lesson with a presentation on weathering market volatility. This type of event can both reinforce your authority on investing topics as well as provide unique opportunities clients will want to share with their friends.
Keep the Spotlight on Clients
While not every client may be up for a new adventure, you can show your commitment and knowledge of their interests in other ways as well. For example, events that celebrate client achievements can be a great way to demonstrate your support and appreciation for their successes. For clients that are regular volunteers to certain charities, hold an event that joins them together for a day of volunteerism and encourage them to bring family and friends within their network. Or, create additional buzz by hosting a major annual event or a planned calendar of periodic events, rotating around the non-profit affiliations and causes of your best clients.
Alternatively, many of your clients may see their families as their greatest accomplishment. Highlighting events that support new parents or parents of high-school students, like a college prep day with a college application specialist, can help solidify your role as a fiduciary and build early relationships with the next-generation of clients.
Know Your Budget and Scope
Creating a unique client event doesn’t mean you need to break the bank. There are plenty of activities that can add value to clients at a relatively low cost. For example, if you’re looking at more educational events like a college prep day, you can likely secure an expert for free since you’re providing exposure for their business. Furthermore, keeping your events smaller and more intimate may actually provide greater value, so that your clients and their invitees can get to know each other better without being intimidated by a larger group.
Leave the Hard Sell at Home
Above all, whether you are looking to build client trust or grow your business, host events centered around your client. Focus on their passions and concerns, not a product or service you are looking to sell. If you're still tempted to cling to the traditional seminar approach, stop and reflect. Would you want to end a long work day or kick-off a beautiful weekend held captive in a room, listening to someone sell you a product? While you want your clients to leave with relevant information, you don’t want them to be ‘sold to’ at the event.
Sponsoring a traditional retirement seminar is easy, but creating unique and personal events can be just as simple and likely more effective to grow your business. Show your clients you care about their passions and personalized needs and deepen your relationships without the hard sell of the past. When you’re ready to put an idea in practice, a timeline and checklist can help you stay on track to create the best possible outcome.
Laura Gregg is Director of Practice Management and Advisor Research at FlexShares ETFs and Stephanie Treccia is Head of Client Events and Stakeholder Initiatives, FlexShares ETFs