Create memorable events for the mature market

By Jason Lampa MBA

College Savings Bank


How many of you use event marketing as the core activity in your marketing strategy? This is a question I asked during a presentation I was giving to a group of advisors who were looking for ways to attract the 55+ market. Out of the 100 attendees, three raised their hands. I had each of them stand up and describe their experiences. All three were convinced that event marketing did not produce the results they expected.

"How much time did you spend planning the event?" I asked each of three advisors who had hosted events in the past. The first two advisors weren't sure; however, the third stated somewhere around two weeks in advance in planning and implementing the event. This advisor had three wholesalers come in to speak about asset allocation and retirement income strategies to a crowd that included current clients and the one visitor they were instructed to bring.

The advisor and his staff, without an understanding on how a successful event is created, were bound to be disappointed with the results achieved from this event. For those advisors targeting the 55+ market, event marketing should be the core function of their marketing strategy. The foundation for exceptional events begins with taking the time to research your target audience.

Utilizing ethnography

Ethnography is a branch of anthropology wherein researchers evaluate people in their natural environment, rather than a formal research setting. This affords the opportunity to evaluate how people live their lives and what meaning a product or service has in their life.

In the March 2009 issue of the Harvard Business Review, Intel anthropologist Ken Anderson provides us with an understanding of why ethnographic research is so important to businesses and how the results affect the company's long-term strategy. At one point, Intel provided products only for businesses; however, in the mid-90s executives got together and were curious to find out if residential consumers could become a distinct distribution channel.

Ethnographic research showed Anderson and his fellow anthropologists that marketing to users at home presented an enormous opportunity. So much so that Intel created a business unit that strictly focuses its effort on processors and platforms for home use.

According to Anderson, ethnography has proved so valuable at Intel that the company now employs two dozen anthropologists and other trained ethnographers, probably the biggest such corporate staff in the world. He also believes that ethnography is so beneficial that it will spread widely and help firms in every industry truly understand customers and adapt to fast-changing markets.

The good news for wealth management firms and individual financial advisors is that there have been many ethnographic studies already performed on the 55+ market. After all, they do control over 70 percent of the world's wealth. This research clearly shows us that people in this demographic:
  • Enjoy sharing stories and experiencing new things

  • Are fiercely independent and want to provide input into each aspect of their life

  • Do not consider themselves to be a collective group, but unique individuals

  • Rely on peer-peer networks and utilize social media tools to find information on service providers they are thinking of using
Based on this information, we can construct an event marketing campaign that will not only attract new prospects, but also keep people talking for months after the event.

Part 1: A creative idea for a memorable event

A popular hobby for the 55+ market is cooking. Evidence of this can be seen in the exploding popularity of the Food Network on cable TV. At foodnetwork.com you can see that they position themselves as a unique lifestyle network that strives to cover way more than cooking.

"The network is committed to exploring new and different ways to approach food -- through pop culture, competition, adventure and travel -- while expanding its repertoire of technique-based information."

Their mission statement is speaking directly to the mature market, utilizing words such as "unique," "adventure" and "travel." A wealth management firm looking to attract more prospects may want to consider hiring a couple of chefs from the closest metropolitan city to teach a group of 10-15 prospects how to cook a certain style of food. After four weeks of training, hold a cooking competition for those prospects who participated in the training. Invite their friends and family as well as your current clients.

Part 2: Utilize social media tools to coordinate event

Anyone who has ever been responsible for planning even a small event understands how difficult they are to organize and execute. The people who need to be involved in order to make this a successful event need to be in constant communication. Columnist Ben Parr of Mashable.com provides some great tips on how this is done:
  • Skype. Use Skype for conference calls and chats about event planning. Parr suggests utilizing Gchat and Tokbox to engage in audio and video brainstorming sessions.

  • Pbworks. Parr recommends this wiki as the ideal tool for planning events. In his experience, Pbworks is an easy way to add notes, edit information and organize content. It is a favorite among organizers because of its business features, document-sharing features and RSS notifications.

  • Google Calender and Google Docs. Parr likes these tools to assign tasks and meetings. For more detailed file collaboration and calendar system, Parr recommends Basecamp, a business project management solution.
Part 3: Sending invitations

Once you know who you want to invite, I suggest you set up a blog about the "Cook-Off" on Wordpresss, Squidoo or Typepad. Have someone on your administrative staff create the blog, and then post updates on a daily basis.

To invite prospects for the four-week training session, as well as friends/family and your current clients for the cooking competition, I recommend EventBrite.

Eventbrite is a provider of online event management and ticketing services. I have used Eventbrite for a couple of events and was very pleased with how easy it was to use. According to their Web site, their services will help users to do three basic tasks well:
    1. Publish. Everything you need to create and easily personalize a custom Web page for your event

    2. Promote. The tools you need to spread the word about your event and maximize attendance

    3. Sell. The immediate power to sell tickets and collect money online
*Tip: Take the proceeds for the tickets sold to family and friends of the prospects, as well as your clients that attend the cooking competition, and donate them to a local charity chosen by the winner of cooking competition.

Part 4: Promotion of event

To go along with the tools on Eventbrite, when I am responsible for promoting an event, I have found Twitter and Facebook to be effective platforms. I also recommend utilizing SlideShare, which will provide information about the cooking training and the competition in a professional PowerPoint presentation format.

With regards to the cooking competition, there may be people who want to see it but can't attend for one reason or another. Consider setting up a live stream. Parr recommends Ustream and Mogulus for streaming the highlights of the event. Or, if you choose to record the entire event, you can upload the video to YouTube.

Part 5: Make it memorable with post-event communication

To make sure this event leaves a lasting impression, keep it in the minds' eye of those that participated. On the Web site and blog that was initially established for the event, make sure there is a form that will capture contact information including e-mail and Twitter usernames. In addition, have your administrative staff send out personalized, hand-written thank you cards to each of the prospects and your clients who attended the competition.

Conclusion

As a financial advisor, you are probably looking at this and thinking that you would never have the time to pull it off. Event marketing is not easy, but once you get the first one out of the way, it will get easier.

Additional resources that you may want to consider when using social media:
  • Evite
  • Facebook
  • Zvents
  • Meebo
  • Anyvite
And here's one last tip: For firms that want to make event marketing a significant part of their client acquisition process, I recommend hiring a certified meeting professional.

*For further information, or to contact this author, please leave a comment and your e-mail address in the forum below.