A few years back, I did one of my favorite posts: Referrals: The Lazy Advisor's Growth Plan. I got lots of positive feedback, but a few advisors took offense to the word “lazy.” To me, it wasn’t all that controversial or insightful. I simply suggested that while many advisors do grow via referrals, most don’t have a plan or process to get them. In fact, I suggested that most advisors don’t have a marketing plan at all, so they rely on a few referrals a year from satisfied clients. They say their firm grows via referrals or label it “by referral only,” but that’s mainly because they don’t try any other way. That’s not purposeful marketing.

Now, as fall is in the air, I have started to see an uptick in conversations about client appreciation and other events (often on Zoom). Most of these events strike me the same way. Is there a plan around these clients events or are advisors just checking a box – another lazy form of marketing.

Self-described curmudgeon about client events

I was never a fan of client appreciation events. I put myself in the clients’ shoes and ask myself if I would attend this type of event. Would I find it interesting, exciting, or valuable enough to give up my free time? With rare exceptions, the answer is no. 

When I speak to advisors about these events, they tell me about the expense, lack of prospects, and too little time spent with some of their better clients. It becomes too impersonal and even more so since COVID-19. Are events really worth it to anyone? 

But this post is not about forgoing client events. When done well, they can be a great way to grow an advisor's business. Prospects can see the advisor in his or her element — servicing, educating, responding to those micro-moments that happen during the lifetime of a financial planning client. Yes, events are valuable, but only when done right, with a plan.

Planning a client event that supports your growth strategy

Many advisors keep the event in mind when planning, not the outcome. Or they do an event only because they think they are supposed to. Either way, it’s ripe for failure. 

Instead, think about planning an event by starting with your desired outcome. For example, what if you wanted to host an event that would net you five new planning clients over the next few months? 

Ask yourself:

  1. Is everyone in the firm who will participate clear on the goal of the event? 
  2. What is your close rate? If your goal is five new clients and your close rate is 75%, you need seven prospects to attend your event. Make sure you’re making the right assumptions. 
  3. What is your value proposition and who is your target audience? Is the proposed event consistent with the firm brand? 
  4. Would you go to your event? If your CPA, attorney, or other professional invited you to something similar, would you attend? Put yourself in your client's shoes. Is it worth an evening or a weekend day?
  5. How much pre-work are you willing to commit? More importantly, how much post-work will you do? The event itself is minor compared to the planning and follow-up.

The typical client event is often unfruitful, yet advisors do them anyway, thinking that they will check a box called “marketing.” A well thought out, branded, client event can be a lot of work, but can also add real value to your clients, and your prospects as well. When done right, it can be well worth the effort. 

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