Boston: “My clients don’t seem to want to bring any of their friends to my client events,” Randy complained at our recent rainmaker retreat. He then proceeded to tell us about the series of small events he’s held that were great for entertaining existing clients, but not for meeting new prospects.

I forwarded this question to our director of research, Stephen Boswell. He not only has the facts regarding today’s affluent investor and social events, but he’s also written an entire learning module on the topic. The following is from Stephen’s response to Randy.

4 Tips for Making Your Events Magnetic

By Stephen Boswell

Randy’s failure to get clients to bring guests involved a series of errors: holding the wrong types of events (too business-focused); having the wrong type of invitation (written rather than verbal); asking clients to bring a guest but not being specific on who he’d like them to bring; and I’m sure a few others.

The idea of intimate client events has gained serious traction over the years. I remember several years ago when we discussed this topic at our rainmaker events; people would stop and say, “Whoa, that’s a great idea. We should put together an event like that.” Last year, by contrast, when we asked participants for a show of hands on whether they’d held an intimate client event, nearly everyone raised their hands. Since then, my focus has shifted from explaining the importance of intimate client events to developing techniques to assist advisors in holding events for maximum impact.

I mentioned a few of the missteps Randy made in putting together his events, all easy to correct. The larger problem for Randy, like many advisors, is that his new intimate client event campaign is perceived as another marketing tactic, not as a way to show appreciation. He’s too obvious.

As I explained to Randy, if every interaction with a client has an obvious “agenda” (asking for a referral or wanting them to bring in other assets), the relationship becomes all about you. The following statistic from our 2011 affluent research speaks volumes: 62 percent of affluent investors said it’s “very important” to have an advisor who focuses on managing their finances, not just marketing his or her practice.

Please don’t misunderstand us. If you manage the relationship properly, your clients will help you grow your business. They will become your advocate, introducing you to their friends, family and colleagues. And they’re happy to do it. Our research shows that the affluent are much more likely to provide introductions if their relationship with their advisor is part business and part social (72 percent would introduce), than if the relationship is purely business (52 percent would introduce.)

Here’s the secret: Master rainmakers don’t have much trouble getting top clients and their guests to attend small social events. Their clients want to come, and they are happy to bring a friend; it’s a fun event. But Randy, like most advisors, hadn’t done his homework (uncovering names of people in his clients’ centers of influence for them to invite), and he ended up trying to prod his clients into bringing guests. Once again, it's much too obvious. He had not spent time deepening his relationships with his clients on a personal level, which, when done with his rainmaker antenna activated, would enable him to uncover names of people in their centers of influence.

Randy, like many advisors, needed to take a step back in order to build client receptiveness toward his events. This isn’t a one-and-done effort, but rather an ongoing process. It involves getting personal, showing a genuine interest in their well-being, and following through. Again, elite advisors have built loyalty to the point where client invitations are welcomed with a “Great, I’ll look forward to it” type of response. Events that are more fun get better results, which is why rainmakers make them the centerpiece of their marketing efforts. The following are the specific tips I outlined for Randy; they’re directly from our rainmakers, and my hope is they’ll be helpful for you.

1. Define your Platinum clients. If you haven’t done so already, take a few minutes to sit down with your team (even if it’s just a shared assistant), and profile your top 25 clients. Who are they? How often do you currently contact them? What are some of their hobbies and passions? Creating a list of these clients gives you the focus necessary to go narrow and deep with the clients most capable of helping you grow.

2. Determine the appropriate non-marketing, non-financial contact you’re going to begin with your Platinum clients. Remember, not every contact can have a business spin. In building receptiveness for client events, be sure to mix in a few touches that are focused solely on the personal side, with no business or marketing hook whatsoever. The following are a handful of easy and natural ways to stay in contact with clients:

  • Treating them to lunch
  • Calling them on their birthday
  • Inviting them to social events
  • Contacting them during a major life event (grandkids going off to kindergarten, spouse’s retirement, etc.)
  • Going out to dinner with them and their spouse
  • Sending them a small gift occasionally
  • Helping them find the right experts outside of the financial world (i.e. stone mason)
  • Have some social events that are client-only

3. Go into each interaction with “strategic intent.” Client interactions are great for building loyalty, but they’re also fuel for sourcing names—carefully uncovering names of people within your clients’ centers of influence. Your goal is to uncover whom they play golf with, whom they vacation with, etc. These are potential guests to your events.

4. Put 50 percent more energy than you think necessary into the planning of your next event.

Most teams fall short in the planning, not in the follow-up on intimate client events. Elite advisors put very careful planning into the theme of the event, the clients and specific guests to be invited, the points of interaction within the event, and the potential follow-up touches. This all takes place in a structured pre-event meeting with their team. It might seem extreme to plan follow-up touches before the event, but it makes all the difference. If you know a guest of a client is an avid golfer, go into the event knowing that golf would be a perfect follow-up opportunity.

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Once again, we want to thank all of you who have e-mailed comments and questions to us. We will continue to do our best to answer each one. If you have any topic suggestions or special requests, please contact Rich Santos, publisher of Registered Rep. and Trusts & Estates magazines, at rich.santos@penton.com.