What if there were a simple, low-cost way to entice your best clients to introduce you and endorse you to their friends? I’ve got some good news: There is.
We all know that a good way for anyone to meet a professional service provider such as a financial advisor is through a referral. But in my experience, the tactic that works much better is an introduction. A referral is “Here is a name for you to contact.” An introduction, on the other hand, is “Let’s get together over lunch,” or “Let me call my friend right now and introduce you on the telephone.”
What’s even better than an introduction is a recommendation, in which your client not only introduces you but also says complimentary things about you. Imagine you are the friend who hears, “If I had not been working with Jane over the past couple of years, I don’t think I would have been in such good shape with today’s difficult market.” Or this: “John has done a lot for me and I highly recommend him. I believe he can help you as well.” You would be intrigued, to say the least.
All right, then what’s even better than one recommendation? Multiple recommendations, of course. And the easiest way to facilitate multiple recommendations is through special events for clients and their friends. If you can master the art of special events, you may never have to do any other marketing.
How do you start planning a special event? First, you have to decide what kind of event to host. Here are some options to consider:
- A holiday open house
- A client-appreciation dinner, including some entertainment
- A small dinner party for one or two couples and a few friends, perhaps held at your house
- A gardening seminar
- A Valentine’s Day dance
- A special cruise to either Alaska or the Caribbean, where your clients pay their own way, but you are the sponsor
- A celebrity event. You can have a private reception and invite an actor, politician, entertainer, or other celebrity
- A holiday light tour. If there are certain areas of town that display impressive lights, arrange a bus tour for clients and their friends
- A golf tournament
- A wine tasting
- A sunset cruise
- A sporting event
- A special screening of a play or movie
- A birthday or retirement celebration for one of your clients
Once you have developed a list of events, create a survey and ask a few of your clients to rank their interest in each event on a scale of one to five. You may find that your retired clients opt for more social events, while your working clients prefer events that are unusual or business-related. At the bottom of the survey, be sure to include a category called “other,” so your clients can suggest their own ideas.
Soliciting this type of feedback from your clients is critical. I once worked with an advisor who was planning a tailgate party. When I asked him how he decided on that type of event, he said that he and some of the advisors in his office enjoyed tailgate parties. He had not surveyed any clients to see if they enjoyed such parties, however, so we had no idea if his clients would participate. This is not the way to maximize the time and money you dedicate to an event. When you solicit feedback, you can plan events that you know will interest your clients. And since their friends likely share similar interests, you are laying the foundation for an excellent networking opportunity.
Once you have solicited the input of your best clients, it’s time to analyze the results. Based on the feedback you receive, you can set up four to six special events per year. I suggest you schedule the whole year at one time, since that is the most time-efficient approach. You can hold events seasonally, if you’d like. For instance, in the spring, you could have a gardening event. In the summer, you could plan a golf outing. In the fall, you could hold an open house for the holidays, or a Thanksgiving event. In February, you could host a Valentine’s party.
Another benefit to scheduling the whole year at once is that you can market the events more effectively. When you meet new people, you can invite them to your upcoming parties. This is a low-risk, easy way for prospective clients to get to know you and to hear more about you from your satisfied clients.
Rules for Success
There are a few “rules of success” when it comes to putting on a special event. First, focus on your top clients, and specifically ask them to bring friends or colleagues.
The location you select will depend on the nature of your event. In general, it is better to hold an event at a country club or some sort of fun, interesting facility, rather than a hotel. Based on my experience, I would recommend you reserve a room for about 85% of the confirmed attendees, since there will be a few no-shows. Remember, this event will reflect on your reputation, so be sure to arrange for enough staff to adequately attend to all the guests.