Client events tend to be incredibly popular among the financial planning crowd. I’d even go so far as to say they’re considered an old-school marketing staple. Unfortunately, as is the case with all marketing “musts” - ideas tend to become overdone and outdated. Then we fall into a decision trap: do we go through the motions of a client event because everyone else does it - or do we avoid it altogether?
I’m here to suggest the unthinkable - a third option. What if we still kept up the marketing gold that is the client event, but rethought our approach to put a fresh new take on it? I think it’s doable, and if implemented correctly could have a positive impact on your practice.
Get Serious About Your “Why”
At XY Planning Network, we’re really into having a “why.” We believe it’s what sets you apart as a financial planner. But having a “why” for your practice is one thing, and having a “why” for your client event is another. There are some key questions to ask yourself as you plan your event.
- Why are you hosting this event? Understanding what the purpose behind hosting a client event is the first step to ensuring that it’s a success!
- What do you want attendees to get out of it? There are so many different kinds of client events. Are you wanting them to feel valued and appreciated? Do you want them to gain a deeper understanding of who you are and what you do? Is it in lieu of a holiday gift?
- What do you want to get out of it? This is a big question to ask yourself. What’s the benefit to you? If it’s just letting clients know they’re valued - I can appreciate that. But do you want to retool your client event into a prospect-meeting party? Do you want to gain referrals out of the deal? Figure this out before you start planning.
These questions will help give your client event purpose. Having a purpose will help you make key decisions about what you’re doing, where it’s taking place, and what size group you want to invite. More importantly, it will ensure that your attendees and you both get something out of the event! That’s a perfect situation!
Benefits of Client Events
We can’t chat about throwing the ideal client event without discussing why they still hold value in the marketing space. When you think of a client event, you may think of a big holiday party. That’s pretty normal. Most large financial firms (or any service business, for that matter) throw a holiday party as a “thank you” to their clients and prospects.
But you don’t have to fit into that cookie-cutter mold - and you’ll still get something valuable in exchange for your time and effort. First and foremost, you’ll be getting your name out there. Whether you’re hosting a huge party or a small get-together, having your name (and your practice’s name) connected to an exciting event is a good thing! You want to build that name recognition, and a fun event is a perfect way to do it.
Similarly, having a client event can help to solidify your brand. Of course, this largely depends on the kind of event you choose to host. If you’re a practice that focuses on local roots and family-friendly services, a big picnic or BBQ might be in your best interest. On the other side of things, if you cater to a select few individuals in the Gen X community, you could host a small group dinner at a local wine tasting room. The beauty of a client event is that you get to choose what your event communicates to attendees - there really are no rules.
Finally, client events that are done right have a built in call-to-action for attendees. This goes back to you - what do you want to get out of this event? If you want to gain new prospects, you can host a dinner where every client has to bring a guest who isn’t a client of yours. If you want to have your clients engage with a new social media community you’ve built, maybe the purpose of the event is having them meet each other and connect non-virtually to promote the virtual “club” you’ve created.
Don’t be afraid to get creative here! Client events are intended to build a community, and you’re the architect. Decide what kind of community you want to build, and go from there.
The Big Client Event
I think it’s easiest to classify client events into two categories - big and small. Both are good, and both can achieve fantastic results. A big client event is often times viewed as the more “traditional” client event. It can be a huge party, a community event, or a get-to-know-you meet and greet.
I typically suggest that, even if an event is big, financial planners decide what they want to walk away from the event with. If they want referrals, they need to inspire that in some way. If they want prospects to get to know them, they need to set it up so that’s facilitated.
A few “big” client events that I’ve seen recently - and loved! - are:
- A family party. Feel free to invite your clients, anyone in the community, your prospects - you name it! Have them bring their families and throw a party! You could rent a large space, like a local school gym or conference center, and have dinner catered, carnival games available, and a dance floor. Go crazy, and make sure everything is kid-friendly! People love fun, free events - especially around the holidays.
- Picnics and BBQs. This is an excellent event to plan for warmer months - and it may require some legwork on your part, so plan early! Using an outdoor community space, hiring a live band or DJ, and catering BBQ (or throwing a pot luck of sorts) is always a hit. It can be laid-back, and it’s easy for you to meet-and-greet to your heart’s content!
- Sponsor an event. Not interested in coordinating a huge event for clients and prospects? Hitch your wagon to someone else’s and call it a day! Pick a cause you care about - like a local 5k, or a community fundraiser, and ask how you can host or support the event. Better yet, partner up with other local businesses who address your same niche, and create an event together! It will reduce your costs and still have an impact.
The Small Client Event
A small client event can be just as mighty as a big one. In fact, sometimes they work even better and get you more facetime with clients and prospects. As is the case with big events, you need to get clear on why you’re throwing this event - and plan accordingly.
Small events are fantastic for making clients feel extra-special, or as though they’ve achieved “platinum status” simply through working with you. They’re also a good way to market yourself to a small group of people very directly. And the best part? You have so much more creative freedom with small client events! The options are endless!
Recently I had a colleague throw a small event for clients and prospects. Each client needed to bring one person (a prospect). They got together at a local brewery where they each partnered up and had a home brew kitchen cook-off. You read that right - they got to brew their own beer! Dinner was provided, and there was a fun, competitive atmosphere. A few weeks later, they got together to try everyone’s homemade brews and declared a winner. Double the face-time with prospective clients! How fun is that?
Are You a Virtual Firm?
I know that many of our XY Planning Network readers work virtually, so I thought it was fitting to end on this note. If you’re virtual: have no fear! You can still throw a killer client event as a virtual firm.
In this day and age, your options for a virtual “party” are endless. You can host a virtual happy hour or brown-bag lunch Q&A session using Zoom or Skype. You could even get extra creative and create a virtual trivia night using a tool like JackBox Games where everyone joins in using their phones. Don’t be afraid to think out of the box and leverage technology to your advantage!
Regardless of how you want to design your client event, knowing how you want your attendees to feel, and what your purpose is will help guide your decisions. So shake off the notion that you’re stuck throwing a ho-hum holiday party and get ready to shake things up! Whatever you decide to do - feel free to share your ideas with your fellow advisors! We’re all in this together!
About Arlene Moss, Executive Coach
Arlene gets a kick out of helping financial advisors get over being overwhelmed and take on their frustrations so their businesses soar. Arlene works to ensure XYPN members are able to help their clients prosper while creating a sustainable business model. Through XYPN Academy and one-on-one coaching, members get the support they need to grow their businesses and overcome the challenges that come their way.