Convert Prospects into Clients at Events with These 7 Best Practices

Posted by Annmarie Babineau

July 9, 2014 at 1:30 PM

Planning a Client EventMany advisors aren't convinced that events are worth the effort. After all, they require a significant amount of time and money—and the return on investment is minimal if you don't convert prospects into clients at events.

There's no denying that planning an event means work. With strategic planning, however, this work can be instrumental in building your business. Plus, events can be fun, memorable experiences.

How can you plan an event that's well positioned to achieve your goal of converting prospects? Unfortunately, there's no one specific action you can take to guarantee new clients. You must adopt a holistic approach by implementing a host of best practices, including those below, for each and every event.

Choose the Right Type of Event

There's no one type of event that works for all advisors. For some, social events are best for gaining new clients; others find that educational events are more successful. Ultimately, it comes down to an array of factors, including timing, market conditions, client interests, and your personal strengths.

When planning a client event and choosing the concept, it's a good idea to research many different ideas that will help you achieve your goal of receiving introductions and referrals—and converting prospects into clients. No matter the event type or theme you choose, be sure that it's compelling and convenient to attend. You may even want to consider trying several different formats to see what works best for you.

Determine the Ideal Frequency

Don't be discouraged if clients don't bring guests to the first event they attend. They may not know what to expect or feel comfortable inviting someone else. This will change once they attend—and enjoy—a few of your events.

There's no hard-and-fast rule as to how many events you should host every year. In fact, it can vary widely depending on you and your business's unique goals and clients' preferences. Here at Commonwealth, the Marketing team and I believe two to five events per year is a scalable strategy for success.

Build a Strategic Guest List

If you want prospects to attend your event, be sure to invite guests who can bring leads and prospects. These guests may include:

  • Top referral sources
  • Highly connected clients
  • Strategic alliances
  • Other respected local professionals, such as a CPA or estate attorney

Next, consider how many guests you want to attend. Large appreciation events—where you invite many guests—are often impressive and memorable for clients. They are not, however, typically successful at converting prospects. These events require the advisor to spend lots of time mingling and orchestrating the event, leaving little time to make meaningful connections with prospects.

Smaller events with about 10 to 15 guests tend to be more ideal for introductions and in-depth discussions—as well as converting prospects.

Invite Thoughtfully

Once you have a good idea as to the type of event you want to host and whom you'd like to attend, it's time to send out invitations. This is an important step, since it sets the tone for the event and encourages your clients to bring prospects.

Be sure that your written invitation includes a note that guests are welcome—but don't count on this tactic alone. Matt Oechsli, of the Oechsli Institute, suggests calling to invite clients and then sending a formal, written invitation afterward.

For social events, Oechsli recommends repeatedly stressing that the event is all about having fun—and not about business—so clients won't wonder if they're bringing their guests to a sales pitch. Also, he recommends casually mentioning that all clients are bringing guests.

Make It Easy to Share

In Word of Mouth Marketing, Andy Sernovitz stresses that marketers need to make it easy for customers to distribute their message. When planning your event, consider the following strategies to promote easy sharing:

  • Give guests multiple invitations that they can easily pass along to friends and family
  • Offer multiple event "tickets" with key details
  • E-mail an invitation or the event details, in addition to a written invitation and phone call, since this makes it easy for your invitees to forward the message to friends

Connect at the Event

At the event, your primary focus should be on making a memorable, personal connection with the prospect and demonstrating your genuine interest. Getting to know your guests is essential to convert prospects into clients at events. Discuss their family, career, hobbies, and other interests—and be sure to share a few stories about yourself.

If your event focuses on planning or another financial-related topic, it's appropriate to discuss your services. Think carefully about what you will say to prospects at the event, including how you will describe your business, the benefits that you offer, and what sets you apart from other advisors. Also, be sure to carefully prepare a few strategic questions to help you understand prospects' financial goals.

Follow Up

Once your event is over, be sure to follow up with clients to thank them for attending and bringing a guest. Thank prospects and invite them to pick up the conversation at your office. If a prospect doesn't meet with you right away, be sure to touch base consistently throughout the year.

How about you? Do you host events? Have you had success converting prospects into clients?

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