Is planning events worth the effort? After all, they require a lot of time and money—and the return on investment is minimal if you don't convert prospects into clients.
On the other hand, events can be fun, memorable experiences. Plus, they have the potential to be instrumental in building your business.
Planning a client event? Download our free guide to discover creative ways to engage clients and attract new business.
Unfortunately, there's no one specific action you can take to guarantee that your next event will land you new clients. But there are best practices you can implement to ensure that your event is engaging, personal, and focused on your target audience.
Explore Different Types of Events
There's no one type of event that works for everyone. For some advisors, social events are best for gaining new clients. Others find that educational events are more successful. Ultimately, it depends on a variety of factors, including timing, market conditions, client interests, and your personal strengths.
Here, best practice is to research many different ideas that could help you achieve your goal of receiving introductions and referrals—and converting prospects into clients. No matter the event type or theme, be sure that it's compelling and convenient to attend. You may even want to try several different formats to see what works best for you.
Plan to Hold Multiple Events Throughout the Year
Your clients may not bring guests to the first event they attend. Don't be discouraged! They simply 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.
So, how many events should you hold each year? There's no hard-and-fast rule, and it can vary widely depending on your goals and client preferences. From the perspective of the Commonwealth Marketing team, a scalable strategy for success is to hold two to five events per year.
Develop a Strategic Guest List
If you want prospects to attend your event, invite guests who will bring them! These guests may include:
- Top referral sources
- Highly connected clients
- Strategic alliances
- Other respected local professionals (e.g., CPA or estate attorney)
Next, consider how many people you want to attend. Large appreciation events can be both impressive and memorable. They are not, however, typically successful at converting prospects. Why? These events require you to spend lots of time mingling and orchestrating the event, leaving little time to make meaningful connections with prospects.
Given this, best practice is to hold smaller events with about 10 to 15 guests. I think you will find this ideal for introductions and in-depth discussions.
Set the Tone with the Invitation
Once you've determined the type of event you want to host and whom you'd like to invite, it's time to send out invitations. Remember, the invite will set the tone for the event and (hopefully) encourage your clients to bring prospects.
Matt Oechsli, of the Oechsli Institute, suggests calling to invite clients and then sending a formal, written invitation afterward. Also, be sure your written invitation includes a note that guests are welcome!
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. He also recommends casually mentioning that all clients are bringing guests.
Promote Easy Sharing
In Word of Mouth Marketing, Andy Sernovitz stresses that marketers need to make it easy for customers to distribute their message. Here are a few simple strategies to promote this easy sharing:
- Give multiple invitations to guests so that they can easily pass along to friends and family
- Offer multiple event "tickets" with key details
- In addition to a written invitation and phone call, e-mail an invite or the event details, which makes it easy for invitees to forward the message to friends
Focus on Making Connections
Your primary focus at any event should be on making memorable, personal connections with prospects. Getting to know your guests is essential to converting these prospects into clients. Discuss their families, careers, 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. Be prepared and think carefully about what you will say, including how you will describe your business, the benefits that you offer, and what sets you apart from other advisors. Also, be sure to have a few strategic questions to help you understand prospects' financial goals.
Say Thank You!
Once your event is over, be sure to follow up with clients to thank them for attending and bringing a guest. You should also 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.
What other best practices do you implement when hosting an event? Which types of events have been most successful for your business? Please share your thoughts with us below!
Editor's Note: This post was originally published in July 2014, but we've updated it to bring you more relevant and timely information.