Client Relationship & Service
10 MIN ARTICLE
Picture the scene: Waitstaff place platters of food for a family-style gathering in a restaurant’s private dining room. Advisors and their clients make toasts and share updates about their work, lives and families. Events like these can make clients feel like friends — and help financial professionals forge deeper bonds with their clients.
Your events schedule might largely be focused on year-end planning or midyear outlook seminars, but it’s also important to add a repertoire of events that enable you to attract and engage with a broader group of attendees. A robust and varied slate of events can help you stand out from the advisor crowd and burnish your image as a partner who understands client needs.
Even as offices begin to reopen, virtual work is here to stay, so it’s important to think about how each medium could be leveraged to best connect with your audience and meet event goals. While a purely financial presentation might easily be conducted via webinar, client appreciation and recruitment-type gatherings might be better in person.
What is your goal?
Great events are made well before the actual day and demand a thoughtful approach. A good place for advisors to start when creating an event is to consider the challenges of their particular niches. If you have a lot of corporate executives, for instance, you may consider an event on why it could be important to diversify concentrated stock options from one firm.
Then, set out a goal. Do you want the event to serve as a client thank you (family reunion-style summer picnic or holiday party at the end of the year), a venue for networking, or a way to help you strategically target certain groups? For example, a family-friendly, in-person volunteer event could help you get to know clients’ spouses or partners.
Stuck for ideas? Want to move beyond the standard fare of market updates over country-club rubber chicken? Here’s what some enterprising advisors are doing to spice up client events and battle Zoom fatigue.
Getting creative in Cleveland
Advisors at Luma Wealth in Cleveland pride themselves on the creativity of their client events, according to Heather Ettinger, the lead advisor at Luma. Luma events focus on ways to empower women and bring the generations together in events that attract both clients and prospects. For example:
- Explore the Sorority of Entrepreneurs: Luma Wealth brings together about 30 women business owners (only one of them is a current client) to help create a support network not usually available to busy entrepreneurs. The group takes turns visiting each business; some owners are just starting out, while others have a long track record and can share their expertise. (If you’re inspired to try something similar, clients with newly opened businesses may present an opportunity. Consider having an opening day-type event or promoting the business through your regular communications as a way to support them.)
- Support a local nonprofit: Luma adopted the Greater Cleveland Food Bank as its 2021 charity. Earlier this year, clients and their families were invited to join Luma in volunteering at the food bank. Later this year, the firm is organizing a cooking class with culinary-minded clients and staff hosting small groups in their homes. All proceeds go to the food bank.
- Tap your inner songwriter: With the help of musicians at the Music Settlement, a local music school, Luma staff wrote lyrics for four songs on themes related to our pandemic year: perseverance and working together. The songs were then debuted during an online client appreciation concert last December, and the advisory firm contributed $20 for each registration to the event to a local children’s charity.
Focusing on wellness in Vegas
Brianne Soscia, at the Wealth Consulting Group in Las Vegas, brands herself as a “financial yogi” on her website and social media accounts, and often makes wellness a feature of events that also offer financial tips. Her events have included:
- Find financial Zen: At the Wealth Consulting Group, Soscia has hosted virtual yoga classes from the office in the evening. The goal was to create community among clients and prospects in a session that offered tips on both executing Downward-Facing Dog and Warrior II, as well as creating an estate plan. Financial tips for the new year, like updating beneficiaries and contributing to retirement accounts, were also offered.
- Eat well: Client events are not typically known for the quality of their food, but that doesn’t have to be the case, according to Soscia. She organized a half-day retreat that included a yoga class, spa lunch and financial vision board workshop. For the lunch, Soscia brought in a friend, a plant-based chef, who made pineapple buckwheat salad and lentil soup.
- Finance 101 for parents: Educational events can be hit or miss, so it helps to appeal to a broad topic like parenthood. Soscia hosted a virtual event aimed at parents of local school-age children. She counseled parents on topics, such as giving a regular allowance versus paying for chores, and suggested video games and board games to play with their kids to help teach them about money. They also discussed 529 college savings plans.
Fulfilling hoop dreams in Kansas
Ray Evans of Pegasus Capital Management in Kansas City hosts a monthly lunch-hour meeting that brings clients and prospects together. Given the frequency of these events, he and his team are always looking for creative ways to keep attendees coming back. To take advantage of the March Madness fever around the annual tournament, he brought together a roundtable of the area’s prominent sports journalists to hash out all things college basketball. “That event drew a big crowd, because people in Kansas City love college basketball,” Evans said. “We try to make some of it work, some of it fun.”
Read on for a few other ideas that might get your creative juices flowing:
- Support female leadership: Advisors are always looking for a way to connect with more than one generation in a client’s family. The “Embracing your inner matriarch” seminar is focused on the idea that wealth management is not just passing down money, but passing down your legacy. The discussion includes examples of famous matriarchs (Queen Victoria, Barbara Bush) and guides attendees in breakout sessions to understand what characteristics define their matriarchy — that is, their leadership roles in defining and fulfilling family legacy.
- Get outside: Invite clients and their family friends for a day in a local community garden — many of which support food programs in local schools or other nonprofits. Depending on the time of year, the group could spend the day helping with spring planting, weeding, and pruning over the summer, or joining the fall harvest. Make sure each attendee leaves with a recipe featuring the garden’s produce. As a follow-up, ask attendees to share pictures of their culinary creations.
- Face forward: Advisors often partner with centers of influence (COIs), like tax attorneys and accountants, but what about plastic surgeons? Cosmetic procedures are increasingly popular in our image-obsessed society, so clients might be curious about the ABCs of chemical peels or microdermabrasion, if not rhinoplasty. The surgeon could invite patients looking for expert help in giving their portfolios a facelift, too.
- Protect your digital life: Contact local law enforcement agencies to see if they can lead a clinic on avoiding identity theft and other digital hygiene measures. Ask attendees to bring old documents containing personal information to shred after the session. This could be a good event in January, when the focus is on getting a fresh start.
- Throw some clay: Pottery studios can be a fun and relatively inexpensive way to whet creative juices and bring home a unique souvenir. Attendees can choose to shape, kiln and paint objects like vases or platters. At the end of the event, have attendees show off their creations and share with each other why they picked that particular item, their design “philosophy” and who it’s for.
- Play with toys for grownups: Enlist a local luxury car or yacht dealer and co-host a party where attendees can test drive, say, an Italian sports car or stroll the deck of a super yacht.
3 stages to successful events
Successful events are about more than just the day itself. The preparation and post-event outreach are just as important, says consultant Dan Sondhelm. Here are a few things to think about before, during and after an event.
1. Pre-planning: For attendees, virtual events are as simple as clicking “join” on a Webex or Zoom call. Hosts should be aware that planning those require almost as much effort as an in-person event. Here are a few specific tips to help you plan both the event and how to stay connected afterwards:
- Email #1, the Invitation (three to four weeks out): A warm, genuine invitation that sells the event and uses photos and quotes. For example, an email inviting clients to an event co-hosted with a luxury car dealer could include a list and photos of the featured vehicles.
- Email #2, the Reminder (one to two weeks out): Share details on the value you believe your clients will get out of the event. Promote the event ahead of time, for example, by having them indicate a meal preference.
- Make sure any location you choose is easy for your guests to get to and has enough parking.
- If you are hosting inside the office, you may want to hire an event planner to assist with setup and serve as point person for vendors such as caterers.
2. The day of the event: Event scripts will vary as much as the events themselves, but it’s important to anchor them in a way that delivers real value for attendees. Here are a few basic tips and issues to consider that apply in most cases and should help keep your event on track:
- Don’t make virtual presentations too dense. Prepared remarks should be no longer than 30 minutes. Leave plenty of time for questions and comments, and keep those engaging, too.
- Make the presentation interactive (when possible) with breakout sessions or poll questions, and summarize small-group discussions or talk about the results with the entire group.
- Finally, a little rehearsal beforehand can go a long way to helping you work out unexpected kinks.
3. Post-planning: Once everyone leaves — or signs off from a virtual event — there’s follow-up to do.
- Email #4, the Thank You (day of the event): Solicit attendees’ feedback through an online survey that asks them how they would rate the event, what they found particularly useful, and what they were missing. (One popular tool is Survey Monkey.)
- Email #5, the Follow-Up (week after the event): Send an email with a replay link of the event, if your event lends itself to recording, and any other relevant content on your website, if you have that. (The replay can be edited to eliminate any bloopers or tech glitches in the live event.)
Still wondering if hosting events is worth it? Think of it this way: If you’re serious about growth, you can’t just manage money and wait for referrals. Events are a great way to get your expertise in front of the right people — and connections that can lead to new clients.