Los Angeles: In the last issue of Practice Management, we included Intimate Client Appreciation Events as one of the important means of proactively maintaining contact with your valued clients. An increasing number of the advisors we coach are heeding this advice, and I hope you will as well. My goal with this issue is to help you make those events work, and I want to begin on a cautionary note.

As with any client contact effort, the purpose needs to be clear. Intimate Client Events have a dual purpose -- to show genuine appreciation to your best clients, and to engage in high-impact Rainmaking activity. In effect, you are double-dipping. However, this is a delicate process that must be handled properly. Following are two real-life examples of advisors who missed the delicate nature of these events.

  1. This was to be a surprise birthday bash for a client. When Eric called his client's wife, she became very excited about what was being planned -- until Eric asked her to give him the names and phone numbers of the people she wanted to have invited.
  2. A cooking class with a famous chef was the focus of Paul's event. Four highly valued clients who loved gourmet cooking were invited, and urged to invite friends that they thought would also enjoy being there. On the evening of the event, however, Paul was disappointed when only two of his clients had invited a friend -- one each.

There's a common thread running through Eric's and Paul's experiences. Even though Intimate Client Events have a dual purpose for you, it is vitally important that you focus on making this a fun event for all. It must be absolutely clear that there will be no sales pitch -- no business. Here's how to correct the above examples.

  • In the first incident, Eric made the mistake of asking for names and phone numbers so he could issue the invitation. The client's wife immediately thought "sales pitch." Eric should have encouraged her to invite those she wanted and asked her to simply provide him with the number of guests to expect.
  • In the second incident, the two clients who did not bring a guest told Paul afterward that if they had known he wasn't going to make a sales pitch, they would've loved to bring a friend. Paul should have made it clear that the purpose of the evening was strictly to show his appreciation for being a loyal client, that having their friends there was only to add to the enjoyment of the evening, and that the guests would not be solicited in any way.

The Expressing Appreciation Objective

The key to attracting and retaining affluent clients is the type and depth of the relationship you build with each individual. The traditional seminar, even if dinner is included, may not achieve that. But Intimate Client Events will, because they create a specialized type of strategic interaction. Your clients see you in a different setting, enjoying the experience with them. They know that the event was planned with them in mind.

I am often asked what type of events are appropriate. That, of course, is your first decision -- usually made with specific clients in mind. Here are some possibilities.

  • Life Milestone Events -- Birthdays, anniversaries, and graduations offer excellent opportunities to honor clients and their family members.
  • Cultural Events -- Art exhibits, concerts, theater outings, and events that honor the culture of your community.
  • Entertainment -- Tap into the interests of key clients, whether it's wine tasting, cooking, antiques, or playing bridge.
  • Sporting Events -- This can either be as observers or participants. Golf, tennis, and boating are favorites. Tickets to college and pro games are also appreciated by those who are fans of a local team.
  • Educational Events -- Inviting clients to hear a well-know speaker is one option. Another is to bring in a speaker on a topic that you know will be of interest to a select group of your clients and their guests.
  • Charitable Events -- Select with care, knowing that your clients will be solicited by the organization sponsoring the event. Helping your clients meet potential prospects for their business could be one reason for inviting them, but in that case, you must be certain that the right people will be there.

The Expanding Your Network Objective

Always encourage your clients to bring guests, ideally couples or individuals who are much like them. If you are certain a given client will not be offended, ask him or her to invite people they believe would benefit from your services. The deeper the relationship, and greater their loyalty to you, the easier it will be to make this request. However, assure them that no business will be discussed in any way during the event.

Remember that the guests your clients invite are potential prospects, not prospective clients. Your sole purpose is to socialize with them and show them how you express appreciation to valued clients -- even if you know a client invited someone he or she felt would benefit from your services. It's through events like these that you can begin to establish the credibility necessary to attract the right people to you. If they are impressed with the evening, and with you, they will be more approachable in the days and weeks to come.

If your events can serve to strengthen the loyalty of your best clients, you will benefit greatly from the introductions they provide to people they believe have a real potential of becoming your clients. Those introductions will often come later. At times, however, a client will invite someone they believe would benefit from your services, and will mention that when they introduce their guest to you. A simple, "I'll call you next Monday for an appointment, if that's alright with you" response would then be appropriate. That maintains the purity of the event.

Your Intimate Client Event Strategy

Plan two or three broader interest events on specific dates extending over a three to six month period. Then do the following.

  • Set the dates, arrange the programs for each event, and book the facilities.
  • Start making calls to invite select clients and their guests for the first event. If the clients you call for the first event cannot attend, you will have two later events to offer.
  • Limit the number of clients you invite to each event so you can have a personal conversation with each client, and each guest, sometime during that event.

Next, explore your key client information to identify potential Life Milestone Events that will occur over the next six months. Select any you want to honor, and begin planning those events as well.

The quality of the location, food, activities, and other arrangements will not be noticed by your clients and their guests -- unless something is sub-quality. Everything must have the Hallmark stamp: "Because we appreciate you, we care enough to give you the very best." Your clients and guests will see that you genuinely care, and they will be delighted that no sales pitch was given. Your credibility will climb, and you will become a magnet, drawing both your clients and their guests ever closer to you.

And, don't forget to have fun with them.

Intimate Client Appreciation Events will help you earn client loyalty. The key is to use that loyalty as a springboard to ongoing business development. To help you with that, I am offering a copy of Link Building Client Loyalty to Ongoing Business Development. For a free PDF copy, go to: www.oechsli.com/PM48


If you have any topic or special requests, please contact Rich Santos, publisher of Registered Rep and Trusts & Estates magazines, at rsantos@primediabusiness.com.