A great referral event could be a client outing on your boat.

I think it’s no longer enough to settle for referred leads. We want introductions or connections to our new prospects.

With referred leads, you may emerge from an appointment with ten names and phone numbers, and not set a single appointment. But if you emerge with three or four quality connections, you may set all four and sell all four.

Here you will find examples of how your colleagues are using referral events to produce great quality introductions that result in new clients. I’m not talking about client appreciation events. I’m talking about referral events.  There is a big difference. You host a client appreciation event to show your appreciation to your clients and you don’t ask them to bring friends, since doing that can diminish the appreciation value.

A referral event, on the other hand, is a very overt way of getting your clients to introduce you to others who might be interested in the work you do. While there is a client-appreciation component to this event, everything is above board. Your client knows you are hosting a fun event (ideas below) for the purpose of meeting potential prospects.

For the greatest chance at success, use a client-centered approach to asking for referrals. This means aksing for referrals explicitly as a way to bring your important work to others, and it is a good way to position your referral events. When you invite your clients to bring guests to your events, do so from the perspective that you want to bring your important work to others. 

Here is an example called “The chef’s table”, a conversation that will help you understand what referral events are and how to introduce them to your marketing plan:

YOU: Bob, I’m calling today because I wanted to let you know about a fun event I’m planning for my clients and their guests. We’ve reserved a special room at Chez Fancy and we’re calling it a “chef’s table.” The chef of Chez Fancy has agreed to come out of the kitchen and talk to us about the meals he and his staff will be preparing for us and then talk with us several other times during the meal. Those who wish to take a brief tour of the kitchen will be welcome to do so. It should be a pretty special event, don’t you think?

BOB: My wife would love this … and so would I for that matter. How do I sign up?

YOU: Well, here’s the deal. What I’m trying to accomplish with this event is two-fold. First, I want to treat some of my select clients to a very special evening. And second, I want to get introduced to people who are not yet clients, but should probably know about the work I do. It’s going to be a low-key event. No sales pitch. It’s just a way to meet some new people – and them to meet me – in a social setting. Does that make sense?

BOB: So you want me to bring a guest – a couple I assume – who might enjoy the event and also want to meet you?

YOU: That’s it. Is this something you and your wife would like to do? If so, who do you think you should invite?

It’s as simple as that. While you can print up nice invitations to this event, you’ll have more success if you also speak to your clients over the phone. If you’re inviting your “A” clients, don’t delegate this phone call to an assistant!

Click here for a list of referral event ideas that really work.

Referral event ideas

The example I just used is the kind of event that clients like to attend and feel comfortable inviting a guest to. Many advisors accomplish the goal of acquiring more high-level clients through golf, tennis, or baseball outings.

For example, I know one advisor who hosts 2-3 golf lessons every summer. He hires a golf pro to teach a lesson and hang out with his guests, who are valued clients and prospects. He usually serves food and drinks.

Another example is Don Vandy, who hosts a one-day ski junket at his local ski resort in New England. Clients pay for the trip by inviting guests.

Jon Zimmer arranges for a 2-day theater trip via motor coach. Don arranges the bus, theater tickets, hotel, and dinner. His client and their guest pay their own way. He gets several affluent clients this way every year.

Brian Duffie hosts a dinner twice a year. Sometimes he hires a comedian or a magician. Clients do not have to bring guests, but they are encouraged to do so. He also holds a “referral raffle” at his dinners.

Laura Chandler hosts the Event of the Year at her home every year. She gets a big tent, hires a band, a comedian and her clients bring guests. Many of these guests turn into clients.

I know a producer who uses his boat all summer long as a way to entertain clients and their guests. The idea is that his clients bring a guest and then get to spend the day on his boat.

What kind of event can you host that is attractive enough to have clients want to attend and bring guests? Start small if you have to. Keep it simple, but classy. Now you’re getting personal, face-to-face, introductions to great prospects.

See also: The 100 best sales & marketing ideas of 2014