Recently, I participated in the Keen Wealth Advisors (KWA) Annual Holiday Breakfast event in Kansas City. Founder Bill Keen and his team delivered an outstanding event with nearly 400 attendees.
Bill understands the importance of creating a community with your clients and how this personalized approach to client relations generates tremendous goodwill and referrals. His Holiday Breakfast is the culmination of several community-building efforts throughout the year: weekly emails and blogs, twice-monthly podcasts, webinars, a Summer Open House, and educational workshops in the Kansas City area.
Here are 7 keys to delivering events that clients and prospects are excited to attend:
You’re not just throwing a party to throw a party. A high-quality event is going to be a significant marketing expense, and it’s going to require a significant time commitment from your top team members. You need to set specific goals to justify that resource commitment.
So, what is this event for?
The KWA Holiday Breakfast is Bill’s annual thank you to his clients. Its combination of good food, festive atmosphere, and informative market presentation is designed to reinforce the connection between his clients and his firm.
The KWA Summer Open House is more relaxed, less formal, and more open to folks in the community who aren’t already clients. It’s not explicitly a prospecting event … which is maybe one of the reasons it’s an effective prospecting event.
Events that are aimed specifically at attracting prospects or generating buzz should have clear targets for success. Once you’ve done a few, you’ll have data you can mine to figure out how many new contacts you need to gain and what a realistic conversion rate is for an event to be successful.
Some ideas that I’ve seen work for advisors include:
Themed Entertainment Events
Food and Drink Events
The key to zeroing in on an event is knowing your client base. Once you're clear on your ideal audience, you can develop an event that is appealing to them.
Also, don’t let the logistics scare you away. Hiring an event planner might add to your budget, but it will also keep you from getting stressed about details so you can focus on presenting your best self to your community.
Attending your event should be easy. That starts with clear, direct communication via email, social media, and mailers that explains Who or What the event revolves around, When and Where it’s taking place, and Why your audience should feel compelled to attend. Guests shouldn’t have to do anything more complicated than RSVP to someone at your office and show up.
Next is transportation. For off-site events, try to pick locations that are easy to get to and that have plentiful parking options. Charter a bus for ballgames or museum tours. If you’re hosting an event at your offices and you don’t have a large parking lot, hire a valet service or rent out the garage across the street.
Finally, think about what happens when your guests walk in the door. Someone from your team should be standing at the entrance ready to greet everyone and direct them to the meeting area. Make it super easy from the very beginning for your guests to feel comfortable and welcome.
Whether your event is formal or casual, the food you serve is going to weigh heavily on whether or not your guests recommend your events to their family and friends. Keen Wealth excels at both kinds of events. The Summer Open House features local Kansas City barbecue and ice cream in a relaxed block-party style. The Keen Wealth Holiday Breakfast is more formal, with an excellent meal and presentation to match.
No, the intern who uploads your video blogs to YouTube should not be in charge of your A/V presentation.
A slideshow that disappears or a microphone that won’t stop humming is going to put off your guests just as much as a cold cut of steak.
After some A/V issues the previous year, KWA hired a new team and there were no technical glitches. It helped that KWA carefully choreographed each aspect of the event—including multiple conversations about my role.
Another important part of your A/V presentation is what kind of music you play. Don’t just think about the event, think about your audience. Most of KWA’s clients are retired. Rather than loud music as people were eating, we listened to holiday jazz music that was softly playing in the background. Nobody had to compete with the music as they were chatting with their table friends. By contrast, at past events I hosted for financial advisors, we played high-energy music to set a specific tone. The point--know your audience.
The KWA Holiday Breakfast lasted about three hours, and not one second was wasted.
Early arrivers had plenty of time to eat and mingle. Then, 10 minutes before the program started, an announcer came on and a countdown clock appeared on the two big screens, in addition to a rolling screen of pictures from earlier KWA events.
One of Bill’s team leaders kicked off the program with heartfelt comments, then Bill came up, introduced his team, and delivered a few words that were all focused on the attendees.
From there, I came onstage with Bill and we had a 30-minute conversation about several different topics including Bill’s new book, a recent TV appearance, and some concluding thoughts about how Bill thinks about retirement (no, he's not retiring anytime soon).
Chief Investment Officer Matt Wilson followed us with a great update on the markets.
Finally, 20 minutes of holiday songs from a local high school a capella singing group ended the program.
There were other small but nice touches such as Christmas trees, green and red holiday lighting, and a free book signing after the event where Bill signed dozens of books for clients and prospects.
Because the KWA Holiday Breakfast is an event for clients and close friends of his firm, Bill ended with an emotional close. He took the stage with his wife and made a few closing comments that left attendees feeling great.
An event that’s geared more towards prospects will require a different approach. Some advisors close these events with a direct call to action: take a card, sign up for an appointment, write down your name and email address to be entered into a raffle, etc. However, there are ways to sell your services without being quite so “sales-y.”
Matt Gulbransen is the President of Pine Grove Financial Group, which is an RIA operating in the St. Paul, Minnesota area. Matt and his team have generated tremendous growth in their market via a rigorous event and seminar schedule. On a recent podcast, Matt described the soft sell he uses to close events that are specifically designed to generate new business:
“At this point, people have, for the most part, decided if they're going to come see us or not. I don't think, if I create this amazing offer with all these great benefits, that I'm going to sway a ton of people in the room. When I'm talking about a topic, I would say something like, ‘If you were to come in for an appointment and have a consultation to work with us, this is how we would approach Roth conversions and distributing money in retirement.’ I’m continuously planting the seed of, ‘Hey, when you come into our office,’ or, ‘If you're someone that works with us …’ I'm trying to paint the picture of what the client experience is. I literally describe every single part of it.”
One of the key marketing ideas that has emerged in my recent podcast conversations is: position yourself where the competition isn’t. The behemoths have big advantages over you when it comes to things like national advertising budgets and low-fee asset management. But I doubt there are 400 high-net-worth individuals in Kansas City who are spending part of their holidays with Vanguard or Betterment.
My experience at the Keen Wealth Advisors Holiday Breakfast only reinforced my belief that there is a bright future for human advisors who emphasize the "personal" in financial advice. Connect with your clients. Connect them to others. Build a community. That's a good recipe for creating clients for life.
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