A series of fortunate events
Whether you’re in the business of selling stocks or the business of selling socks, you’ve probably heard it said that the business that you’re really in is the business of relationships.
“We’re not in the ‘fill-in-the-blank’ business, we’re in the relationship business” is a favorite business cliché because it’s often true. You can sell a fantastic product or be technically excellent at offering a service, but lasting success may depend upon establishing and maintaining relationships with your customers.
For financial professionals hoping to keep their clients through the ups and downs that will inevitably occur over the long term, it is especially important to get to know them as people, and even let them get to know you. After all, they are entrusting you not only with their money, but with their hopes for a secure and prosperous future.
"...experience-centric firms have clients with financial portfolios of nearly twice the average size of those at traditional financial firms."
One great way to build those relationships is through hosting client events. And while such events may require a significant investment of money and time, there is a considerable amount of research showing that it can pay off. Financial professionals with traditional-type practices have an involuntary attrition rate of more than one-third of their clients, according to a report by the independent market research firm Cerulli. But firms that are “experience-centric”—that supplement investment expertise and good service with meaningful experiences and holistic planning—cut that attrition rate to less than a quarter.
In addition, experience-centric firms have clients with financial portfolios of nearly twice the average size of those at traditional financial firms.
“We’ve gotten to the point where providing expertise and service is just table stakes,” says Global Atlantic Practice Management Program Director Bill Sweeney. “People are expecting more.”
According to a recent study conducted by Edelman Data and Research for the global events firm Freeman, 77% of consumers said their trust in a company increased after attending a live event hosted by that company. A majority of event attendees reported a “halo effect,” or positive perceptions of the event host that lasted at least six months after an event. That, according to the report, translates into greater customer loyalty.
“As financial professionals, what we provide is very abstract,” says Sweeney. “Events—or more accurately, experiences—help solidify that. They help develop a ‘stickier’ relationship.”
Step one: Hire an event planner?
Unless you or someone in your office has extensive experience planning events, consider hiring a professional event planner.
While it’s not cheap—a fee of 15% to 20% of your overall budget is typically an industry standard—it may be worth the investment. Not only can it save you time and reduce your party-planning stress, it may go a long way toward making sure your event goes off without a hitch. Given that you are holding the event to build your clients’ sense of trust and confidence in you, that’s important.
“People remember events when they go well,” says Evan Noll of the nationwide event planning platform BoomPop. “But they really, really remember them when they go wrong.”
It’s important to hire someone with plenty of experience, they may be well-versed in party-planning issues you may not have thought of, such as the need for event liability insurance. They may also be familiar with the most dependable vendors in your area, and they may have leverage to get better pricing from them. They can give you advice on timing your event to minimize scheduling conflicts—and maybe even save you money by helping you pick an off-peak night or weekend in your area.
Choose the right event
Whether you’re working with a planner or going it alone, it’s important to spend some time thinking about your clients’ specific needs when picking a theme or activity.
Sweeney says it can be helpful to consider the stage of life your client is in. A client who may be nearing retirement might be more interested in practical, financially focused events. For example, they might appreciate learning new skills to help them save money at a DIY home improvement class, taught after hours at a local hardware store by a store expert.
For clients who have just retired, something more celebratory—but still practical—might be in order. Consider a cooking class at a kitchen supplies store or restaurant, taught by a cookbook author or chef.
“As a holistic financial professional, you want your clients to see you as a resource connector,” says Sweeney. “You don’t have to be an expert in everything, but you’ve got that Rolodex going to potentially help your clients find what they need.”
Alternatively, Noll suggests thinking about what kind of feeling or “vibe” you’re looking to create. BoomPop’s online event planning platform offers customizable events that are categorized under one of six different vibes, from focused (a wellness retreat) to adventurous (a hot air balloon ride) to celebratory (a vineyard tour).
“Ultimately, the event needs to be closely tied to what you’re trying to accomplish,” says Noll. “If you’re trying to build a relationship, think about activities that your clients would enjoy but that may also help them see you as a partner.”
Location, location, location
Virtual events were common during the height of the pandemic in 2020 and 2021, and Noll says they may still be appropriate in some cases. For example, you might want your guests to hear from a famous author or a top expert who lives in a far-off city. Or maybe you have clients that you’d like to entertain, but they don’t live close by or can’t travel.
Ontario-based planner Alecia May of Eventistry by Alecia says she is still seeing a demand for virtual events as well, and they can be a worthwhile option, especially when your budget is very limited. However, she says, there’s ultimately no substitute for in-person interaction.
“The eye contact. The spontaneous conversations,” says May. “That’s where the magic happens.”
One in-person venue May does not recommend: your office. If you’re trying to save money on the venue, consider holding an event, such as a networking brunch, in the private room of a restaurant near you, she says.
“The dropped ceiling and fluorescent lights you see in most offices may not create the atmosphere you want,” May says.
Sweeney agrees. “There is research out there that indicates that people liken going to a financial professional’s office to going to the dentist,” he says. “A lot of clients may never set foot in your office, and they are happy about it.”
Wherever you have your event, it’s essential that your guests get the message that you are thrilled they are there, says May. For example, make sure everyone is greeted warmly as soon as they arrive and that they are never standing awkwardly by themselves in a corner for even a moment.
“Your event doesn’t have to be overly complicated with lots of bells and whistles,” May says. “Just make sure your guests come away feeling good. Like they just got a big hug.”
Taught by: Antiques expert, auctioneer
Location: Antiques dealership, private room in restaurant
- Appraising the worth of collectibles, heirlooms, etc.
- Authentication techniques
Race track/test drive
Taught by: Driving expert, dealership representative
Location: Car track
- Advanced driving techniques
- Test drive new vehicles
Taught by: Jewelry expert
Location: Local jeweler
- How to clean jewelry
- Selfies with expensive/rare jewelry
- Jewelry appraisal
- Distinguishing real from fake
Taught by: Brew master, sommelier
Location: Brewery, spirit shop, wine bar
- Detecting flavor notes, distinguishing varieties
Fitness by decade
Taught by: Licensed fitness trainer
Location: Local gym, park, hiking trail
- Workouts tips for your age and beyond
- Nutrition tips
- Targeting and achieving your goals
Paint and sip
Taught by: Art teacher
Location: Art studio, private room in museum
- Painting techniques
- Art appreciation