So you're thinking of hosting your own client appreciation events? So how do you get people to come, how do you get them to stay, and—most importantly—how do you achieve the REAL objective of making your clients aware of just how much you appreciate them?
Well, the most obvious is to show your clients that your objective is different from all the other events that crowd their calendar. So rather than generating the reaction “Oh, another cocktail party where I’ll be faced with sales pitches disguised as awkward conversation and over-eating,” go for something else.
Think about the real purpose behind your client appreciation event by considering the following in your planning:
Pre-plan for post impact: As founder and CEO of ClientWise, Ray Sclafani asks coaching clients who are planning events for their own clients: “How do you want your clients to feel when they are leaving the event? What do you want them to do or say about it the following day?” Planning with this outlook in mind will ensure that you are working toward an intended goal. Be specific. Vague goals such as “I want my clients to have a good time” don’t impact your outcome as much as “I want my clients to leave with a deeper understanding of why I love working with people like them and how I’ve created a business that caters to their needs.”
Focus on your values: The above, of course, requires that you have a clear understanding of this yourself. Think back to what initially got you started in your business. What inspired you before you were making money doing it? Financial advisors are wired to react to whatever increases their assets, but what I’ve realized over the years is that most financial advisors wind up in their roles for very different reasons… because they want to help others! Think about how you can bring this element out in the planning and execution of your event by focusing on the values that got you started.
Think unselfishly: Related to the first point, what do your clients need most from you? Don’t plan with the biggest opportunity to sell your services in mind, plan for the biggest opportunity to give your clients what they need. Maybe you’ve done such a great job over the past year that the last thing your clients need is financial planning or financial investment advice. That’s great! So then what can you give them from there? Where are your clients getting stuck? Who do you know who can provide a potential solution to this through their expertise, or even simply some relief through their sheer entertainment value?
Think collaboratively: Which professional partner is your greatest asset in terms of the benefit they bring to your clients. Is it a wholesaler who’s provided the products you use to help your clients on a daily basis? Or maybe a trust and estates attorney who can provide some valuable legal advice to compliment what you offer your clients from a planning or investment perspective? Would collaborating with them and giving them the opportunity to speak at your event be of benefit to your clients? Remember this isn’t about thanking the professional advocate who gave YOU the most referrals, it’s about thanking and acknowledging publicly someone who has brought, or could bring, value to your clients.
Have goals but don’t let them overtake the real purpose: Bottom line, you’re creating something for your clients. If you have some additional side goals to help expand your potential client base for the New Year or generate some publicity for your firm through the event, that’s fine; but be smart about it and don’t let that overwhelm the event. Your clients (and their guests) should feel as though the event is about them, not about promoting or increasing your business.
Maintain a “plus one to five” mentality: Tell your guests to bring a plus one, or several plus ones! This provides incredible potential to grow by referral. Word of mouth is very powerful, but your clients’ friends, family, and heirs of their wealth will get a much clearer impression of your work and the ways in which you help clients if they’re able to be in the room with you. It’s an opportunity for them to see you in your best light, both through their own eyes and through those of your current clients.
Consider what your team members doing at the event: This might seem irrelevant, but this is an opportunity to have many of your best clients in a room at once. If you’re truly looking to provide value for them, how can your team members help facilitate that? It could be as simple as being involved and curious in conversation with clients by asking questions and learning about them. Maybe your team members are facilitating introductions between clients’ whom you’ve always felt would get along well or provide value to one and other. Think of this as an opportunity to introduce your team members to your clients and indicate how each of them bring skills to the table that are crucial to the success of the team and your business overall. Present a unified front, but let each of their personalities come out. You can even ask team members up front how they are most comfortable in social situations and try to play into that when you’re deciding the roles for each.
Keep your remarks short and sweet: You obviously want to say something to your clients, but don’t monopolize the experience. A client appreciation event is about your clients. The focus should be on them, not you. Make sure to thank them for their loyalty over the years. For their trust in your ability to help them and their families achieve their goals through financial planning and investments. Thank them for taking the time out of their holidays to spend time with you, and for bringing their friends, family, and loves ones along for the experience.
Make the venue either intimate or relevant: Match the venue to your relationship with your clients. If you are the type of advisor who has a very close relationship with clients and enjoys exploring other interests you have in common outside of wealth management (which many of the best are) then perhaps you even want to host it at your home. You’ve been honored to get to know your clients on a very personal level over the years, maybe extend a similar invitation in return. If your offices are particularly nice, or otherwise definitive of your company culture, you may want to host it on-site at your place of business.
Follow up: The majority of missed opportunities for these kind of events happen after the event is already complete. Make sure to include post-event follow up into your planning. If you anticipate how you want your clients to feel after the event at the start of this process, it will be easier to determine how you want to communicate with them after. Maybe it’s a “highlight reel” of things that happened at the event. Maybe one of your team members was taking photos of your clients and their guests and you want to share that with them through a great video montage or album. Perhaps you craft a thank you for attending card, in which you write short personal messages to each client and thank them for introducing you to whomever they brought. Whatever you decide, make it personal.