Five common mistakes advisors make with their client appreciation and educational events and how to avoid them
By Katherine Vessenes
Over the last five years, small and large social events have become even more popular as a means to market to new and existing clients. Unfortunately, many advisors are spending serious money on these events and not getting as good a return on their investment as they should.
With the average cost per prospect at these events running between $100 and $500 per couple, it is essential that you have as many people as possible show up, have a great time, tell their friends and then show up at your office for an initial meeting.
Here are the top five mistakes we see advisors making with their client events, and how you can avoid them:
1. Mistake number one: The advisor didn’t “sell” or market the event.
Unfortunately, this is not a case of what I call “Field of Dreams” marketing. You cannot just build it and have them come. You must tell your clients what you are doing, why they will enjoy the event, what’s in it for them, and encourage them to attend and bring guests. In short, you have to market the event.
I have seen this story many times: Take one of our clients, whom I will call George, an advisor out of Newport Beach, California. He only works with about 40 wealthy clients per year. His major marketing event included inviting his wealthy women clients to a charity fashion show in Hollywood. This was a great event, as they only had high profile designers like Chanel and Prada, and many movie stars attended. It was just the kind of event most women would give their favorite Louboutins to attend.
George bought an entire table, which probably cost him about $10,000, and invited 20 women, thinking he would get a dozen to show up at this wow event. Actual turnout: two!
To fill out the rest of the table, he invited all the secretaries at his church to attend. They were very grateful, but none of them had his minimum of $2,000,000 to invest. This meant he spent $5,000 per existing client and his total new clients was zero! This was a very expensive marketing mistake.
When I asked him how he invited them, he said he sent them one letter on his corporate stationery. No wonder they didn’t respond — they probably pitched the letter before opening it. Most of his attendees probably would have come if they had known about it.
- Take the time to create a mini-marketing plan for your event.
- Think in terms of taking a year to market this kind of event. It might include as many as 18 different messages or touches to get the right kind of turnout. Smaller or less expensive events might take six months and a dozen or more touches to promote them to your clients and prospects.
- 12 mentions in the monthly newsletters, including photos from the last event.
- A verbal mention during your annual review: “Now be sure to save the Tuesday before Thanksgiving — we are hosting a celebrity fashion show and I want to make sure you and a friend can come.”
- A voicemail two months in advance, asking the client to hold the date.
- A written party invitation — think of one that is as nice as a wedding invitation, sent about four weeks in advance.
- Another call from staff to get a head count about three weeks before the event.
- An email about a week in advance to send them directions to the event.
- A phone call the night before to remind them of the event.
Last summer, we did a gap analysis and business plan for an advisor, Steve, who built his entire multi-million dollar practice out of hosting dinner seminars for prospects. He was easily spending $500 per couple, so there was a lot on the line for these to work as well as possible.
Steve brought his para-planner, Jim, and his administrative assistant, KC, to help him manage the event. Jim shows up at this nice restaurant, bellies up to the bar, brings out a novel and then spends the rest of the evening drinking in the back of the room, the same room where the guests were having dinner.
I was so outraged when I heard this story that I told Steve I would have fired Jim on the spot. In retrospect, the problem was more with Steve, the advisor, than with Jim.
Steve should have trained his staff about what to do at these events. Here is what staff and spouses need to know about working an event:
1. First, this is not a party. We are working in a nice location, but we are still working.
2. Second, the staff’s job is to press the flesh and touch base with as many people as possible. You want clients and prospects to feel loved up and give the impression that this is an exclusive party — not a business meeting.
3. Third, staff does not drink at these events. This is not a party (rule number one). If the staff starts drinking, it not only costs you money, but they get sloppy in their conversations and say things that are not good for you or for business.
4. Fourth, this is a great time for you to cheerlead your staff and for them to cheerlead you. Any time they can say, “You will love working with Katherine, she is one of the top advisors in the country,” it helps make the close a little easier.
The reason you want name tags for larger events is simple: even the best of advisors may have a memory glitch when it comes to a lot of clients all at once. They are also good for your clients, as they interface with each other. It helps staff and clients remember other client’s names.
4. Mistake number 4: Advisors don’t set aside the time to follow up with their new prospects after the event.
One of our clients, a large financial planning firm of 12 advisors, had a major golfing event for clients and prospects. With a hundred clients and guests, golfing lessons with a pro and lunch, it probably ran them over $15,000. The day after the event, all the advisors were back to work as normal. None of them followed up with their new prospects! They just blew through $15,000, had fully warmed up prospects and they let them fall through the cracks. What a waste.
Here is what they should have done: They should have set aside an entire day for each advisor, the day after this event. The day would have been spent by each advisor following up with the prospects at the event. In other words, they should be dialing for dollars while the prospects are hot, and feeling obligated that you spent a lot of money on them for a fun day of golfing.
Here is the script that I would use:
“Hi Bob, this is Katherine Vessenes. I am following up after meeting you at golf yesterday. Did you have a good time? (Let them talk). What did you think about the teaching pro? (Let them talk some more). I am glad Alan Martin brought you. We have worked with him a long time and he thought I would enjoy getting to know you. Do you have some time next week? I would like to get together for coffee and get to hear about your business. Will Tuesday or Thursday work better for you?”
Many advisors are holding educational events and giving their clients and prospects some great information. Unfortunately, the most important part of this meeting is to close for having the attendees meet you in your office. If you don’t do this well, you will spend a lot of time and money and not get a good return on your investment.
Long ago, I found the evaluation form as the best way to get people to respond to meeting with me after the event.
Here is the script I use:
“I am passing out an evaluation form. Your comments here are very helpful to me, and help me do a better job at my next presentation. At the bottom you will see there is a place to check for more information, to set up a meeting, or say “no thanks.” Some of you are thinking this was a great free dinner, but I am not interested in your service. That’s fine — we won’t bother you.
However, most of you could use a second opinion on your finances. So we will set a time to meet and get to know you better and answer your questions. This is a good time to find out if we are a good fit for you and you are a good fit for us. There is no charge or obligation for this meeting.”