Keys to successful client appreciation events, Pt. 2
By Shawn Moran
In part one, I pitched you on why hosting a client appreciation event belongs in your end of the year marketing push to get in front of prospects. I also offered up some event ideas. Here, I’ll provide some “tips from the top” — best practices that other top producers have shared with me, along with what I’ve learned from being a top producer myself.
While the holiday season certainly makes sense for hosting a client appreciation event, consider providing a regular opportunity for your clients to attend your events and bring their friends. Top producers I know tell me that hosting events either monthly or quarterly throughout the year seems to work best, while a one-and-done style approach wasn’t viewed as a cost-effective way to create prospects.
Weekdays work better than weekends
Our top-producing agents that have found success with client appreciation events shared with me that like seminars, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays tend to work well for most events. The exception to this was for golf tournaments, where Friday showed the biggest bang for the marketing buck.
Mind your times
For events boasting special guest speakers, top producers and their clients prefer noon-hour or evenings. To pinpoint a time that really works for you, take a close look at your clientele. Do you primarily serve retirees or is your book slanted towards boomers who are still working and have kids at home? The answer to this question ought to play a big factor in your time selection.
Location, location, location
It may seem surprising, but one of our top-producing agents found that inexpensive buffet restaurants or nice local bars can be great options for your events. Some have private rooms that can be rented in advance, while others are more first-come, first-served, where you secure the space just by showing up a little early.
The bottom line is this: Don’t box yourself into thinking that you have to go ultra-expensive to pull off a successful event. You just have to align with a location that matches the expectations of your clients. When considering locations, think to yourself: Is this a place where my clients would go on their own?
Be effective in how you invite clients
It seems obvious that if you want new prospects as a result of your client appreciation event, you have to ask clients to bring a guest. As I mentioned in my last post, this is where I see a lot of agents fall short. You need to be a master of the invite.
For example, one top producer I know pulls in about 10 new prospects out of 40 total attendees for every client appreciation event he holds. His secret to this fantastic return on investment? In part, it’s the consistent message he sends. From his invitation to his reservation service to what he says when he is out and about in public, he makes it clear that this is an event for them and a special guest. Take advantage of your five-minute commercial
Your clients and their guests are at your event because you, as a financial professional, invited them. They attend with the natural expectation of hearing about your unique value. Don’t monopolize the event, but do take two to three minutes at the start of the event, and two to three minutes at the end of the event to pull the audience back to you and your practice.
Map out your speaking points in advance and include a call to action. Do not turn prospects off by doing a hard sell at this point in time. After all, if done correctly, they should be sitting next to someone who can do some of the selling for you — your current client.
Do your homework
Choose your guest speakers wisely. It’s not only the content, but the quality of how it’s delivered that will reflect on you and your practice. Do the upfront work and ask the speaker to share an outline of the presentation that he or she intends to deliver to your group. Make sure that the speaker understands that the content needs to be educational, with no sales pitch. Amazingly, some agents forget to emphasize this part and end up turning off both their clients and prospects.
Be smart about outsourcing
It’s true that client appreciation events can be a lot of work. So, you want to consider outsourcing some of the things that don’t need your direct touch and keep the things that do.
For example, one successful producer I know whose primary marketing strategy is monthly client appreciation events hired a marketing assistant as an independent contractor. He provides the overarching direction on the type of event, what the invitation looks like, any screening required for the speaker or location, among others, and the assistant runs with the project to completion. His cost? He pays a flat fee per project.
It can be tricky to source someone like this, but try looking in your own circles of influence, such as your church, your neighborhood or a networking group. You may also want to consider using invitation templates, mailing and reservation services to outsource the invitation process in a cost-effective manner.
Are client appreciation events the ultimate silver bullet? No. Most agents need a combination of marketing strategies and programs that work. But neglecting to regularly go back to your client base through appreciation events is a huge missed opportunity. First of all, when you say thank you to the clients who have given you their business, you are doing the right thing, and that’s never a bad idea. Secondly, existing clients are your best source of positive word-of-mouth marketing and referrals.
So, call up your clients, invite them out, tell them to bring a friend and have a great time saying thank you! You’ll be amazed at the results.