Hosting Events to Help Strengthen and Grow Your Business

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1 Hosting Events to Help Strengthen and Grow Your Business IMPORTANT CONSIDERATIONS TO HELP YOU DISTINGUISH YOUR FIRM AND SHOWCASE YOUR KNOWLEDGE THROUGH EVENTS

2 The Diagnostic in the Marketing Toolkit suggests that events can be a mechanism many advisors may want to consider implementing to help strengthen relationships with existing clients, communicate the unique value of their firm to prospects, and deepen partnerships with centers of influence (COIs). After all, well-organized events have the potential to help create a positive and lasting impression with attendees. Events can provide opportunities to connect with clients to celebrate notable occasions, showcase your knowledge on a topic of interest, and meet new contacts in a welcoming and nonintimidating environment. Although events may offer many benefits, some advisors may struggle with how to get started. We re regularly asked three main questions: 1. What type of event should I host? 2. How can I help ensure that my guests will attend? 3. How can I help make my event a success? This paper addresses these questions and provides considerations for advisors who may be planning events as a tactic to help strengthen and grow their business. THREE MAIN QUESTIONS 1 What type of event should I host? If you re thinking of hosting an event, you should begin by outlining what you hope to accomplish, because a clear set of objectives will help direct many of your choices. For example, are you looking to thank clients for their business, strengthen or broaden existing relationships, or meet new prospects? Your answer will likely determine the number of people to invite, the appropriate venue, and the required budget. Also, while you may be able to meet multiple goals with one event, identifying your primary purpose can help focus your efforts. Naturally, your firm needs to understand and comply with any applicable regulatory requirements regarding gifts and business entertainment, and should also ensure that any activities comply with the firm s internal policies regarding gifts and business entertainment. YOUR OBJECTIVES WILL HELP GUIDE YOUR DECISIONS Clarifying the rationale and desired outcome for the event will help you determine: The budget The guest list The venue The most appropriate day and time The type and amount of food and/or drinks to serve The need for subject matter experts 1 We ve heard that more advisors are separating business and pleasure, and are using events to meet and mingle versus discussing their firm and specific services. This is especially the case with client appreciation and general prospecting sessions, where key staff members are being introduced. We ve also heard that educational

3 sessions tend to be somewhat more formal, although many topics may go beyond a discussion of investments, enabling you to show a different and more personal side of your team. Below, we discuss client appreciation and educational events, both of which provide excellent venues for clients to invite other guests to help with your prospecting initiatives. Client Appreciation Events While you may already take people to lunch or dinner throughout the year to show that you value their business, you may want to consider a few new approaches as well. For example, we ve heard that one advisor arranged a small surprise birthday party at a restaurant for a very good client who is a great source of referrals. Not only was it a unique way for the advisor to show how much he cared about the client, it also provided the opportunity to meet an extended network of family members and friends to help cultivate new relationships. Milestones like birthdays, promotions, and retirements can be turned into memorable interactions like this to help set your firm apart from others. Many appreciation events involve larger groups and include: Hosting an open house at your office to introduce clients and their guests to members of your team. Theater productions or art gallery showings for a select group of clients. Wine tastings at a local venue with a knowledgeable sommelier. Mystery dinner theaters where you can reserve a section of the restaurant and let the evening unfold. The list of possibilities is long. As you evaluate your options, you may want to consider the following: 2 Make it fun and interesting for your guests. By collecting information about your clients hobbies and likes/dislikes, you are likely to find it easier to invite people to events that they ll be interested in. Make it fun and interesting for you. If you choose something you really want to do yourself, your enthusiasm and passion will shine through. Some advisors also like to host client appreciation events that reflect the personality of their firm. For example, we ve heard about one family-oriented firm that builds relationships across generations by hosting an upscale picnic every year with clowns and face painters for the kids and lawn bowling and bocce ball for the grandparents. They feel it captures who they are (a multigenerational service provider) and why their clients chose them in the first place. It also enables family and friends that attend to understand the firm s core values. Educational Events These types of activities can be of all sizes. For example, we ve heard that one advisory firm held a financial forum where renowned economists and executives from the investment community offered their views on the state of the economy from a political and investment perspective. While this required extensive planning, and was expensive to sponsor, the firm viewed it to be a huge success because it met their objectives of elevating their name recognition and prestige in the community while enabling them to reach out to several hundred clients, prospects, and COIs at one time.

4 On a much smaller scale, we ve heard that another firm hosts regular Lunch and Learns at their office that address a variety of topics that have been requested in their annual client satisfaction survey. This firm also views these to be a success because they meet their objectives of offering a small, intimate environment where clients and their friends can get to know their advisors and specialists. We ve heard that many educational events our clients sponsor are done in collaboration with a COI, enabling both parties to invite their clients and showcase their respective skills. If a topic is particularly meaty, say estate planning under the new tax code, you may consider inviting one of your attorney associates who specializes in that field to be a guest speaker or to share equally in the organization and execution of the event. Clearly delineating expectations and respective roles and responsibilities in advance is very important to ensure each party properly fulfills their obligations. An educational event doesn t have to be restricted to finance. In fact, some of our clients tell us that they talk about something completely unrelated. The advisory firm we mentioned that specializes in family issues is looking to introduce two new events, one on elder care and one on effectively managing stress in the sandwich generation. Another firm that focuses on comprehensive wealth management hosts sessions on how to define your life priorities and enrich everyday experiences. We have also seen firms sponsor such things as cooking and art appreciation classes run by local experts. Their advisors attend and introduce the session so it is clear who the sponsor is, but business discussions are kept to a minimum. 2 How can I help ensure that my guests will attend? First of all, if you know what your clients enjoy doing, you will choose an event they won t want to miss. In addition, you should ask yourself, Is this something I would want to spend time doing? If the answer is no, you need to adjust things to make it more appealing. You may also want to consider: 3 Scheduling it for a date when there aren t a lot of other competing events taking place, whether it s a holiday or other activities in your area. You will need to research this and test out the timing with clients and prospects. Talking it up when speaking with clients and prospects and, if appropriate, encouraging them to bring a friend. If it s a more formal event, giving your guests enough time to get it on their calendars, and sending a save the date notice about two months in advance. Having a high-end electronic or paper invitation designed to be sent out about a month in advance, requesting a response by a particular date. When most people say yes to a formal invitation, they tend to feel an obligation to attend. Conducting follow-up phone calls to people who haven t yet responded. The first wave of calls should be conducted about two weeks after the invitations have been sent. A few days before the event, phoning to confirm attendance and ask whether the guest has any questions regarding directions or other issues.

5 3 How can I help make my event a success? Here are a few things you may want to keep in mind as you plan and execute your event: Be sure to gain the support of all levels within your organization that will be involved with planning, attending, and following up. This should start with senior management showing they are excited about the idea and committed to its success. This enthusiasm will spread and can help make it a fun and positive experience for all. The more events you host, the better you ll get. Start small until you really understand the details, and expand the scope and scale over time. A familiar topic and venue will make it easier at the beginning and should help minimize unexpected surprises. Thoughtful and precise planning is essential even for events that are casual. The administrative aspects should be handled by someone with an attention to detail who can oversee all the logistics so everything runs smoothly. (See Exhibit I, Event Planning Checklist.) Go the full nine yards. For example, imagine inviting clients to a baseball game and learning they weren t able to find a convenient parking space we all know how frustrating that can be. Consider arranging for reserved parking or for a car service to pick them up. The additional expense is often well worth it to turn a so-so experience into a memorable occasion. Assign specific responsibilities to staff attending the event their job is to make sure your guests are well taken care of. That means mingling and helping to keep the interaction lively and enjoyable. 4 To continue to hone your event skills, you may want to conduct a debriefing session afterward to compare notes with your staff and get their perspectives on what transpired. This will help you to determine whether you met your objectives and, if not, why not. What could you have done better? What comments did you receive from attendees? In addition, feedback can be captured in your CRM system (if you use one) or even in a simple Excel spreadsheet, especially specific conversations with guests that require some sort of follow-up. Finally, be sure to send thank you notes. We ve heard that professionally printed cards with handwritten comments that mention something you learned about the guest during the event can go a long way to help you build your relationships.

6 SUMMARY Hosting events does take time and effort, and can often involve a lot of planning and creativity. Executed properly, however, these events may be a powerful way to help you distinguish your firm and grow the business. Remember, no one has a lock on the best ideas for an event theme. Engage your staff and other contacts to put forth ideas, and continue to solicit input from your clients about areas of interest. In addition, if you feel you need extra support, consider using a professional event planner who can focus on the details while you focus on attendees. EXHIBIT I: Event Planning Checklist Listed below are a number of steps you may want/need to consider to help plan your event. Naturally, not all these items will apply to every event. In all cases, you will need to check that the event is in compliance with any applicable regulatory and internal firm requirements regarding gifts and business entertainment. TIMING TASK RESPONSIBILITY TARGET DATE COMPLETION DATE 3 TO 4 MONTHS 2 TO 3 MONTHS Decide on the type of event and the reason for hosting it. Set a budget. Determine the agenda. Prepare a preliminary invitation list (clients only, all of them or just some, guests, etc.). Select and book the venue. Book and confirm guest speakers, if relevant. Confirm the number of guests to be invited. Create and order invitations. Organize caterers, wine suppliers, florists, etc., as applicable. Organize audiovisual arrangements, if required. Order gifts or other tokens of appreciation, if appropriate. 5

7 TIMING TASK RESPONSIBILITY TARGET DATE COMPLETION DATE 1 TO 2 MONTHS 2 WEEKS TO 1 MONTH 1 WEEK POST- EVENT (WITHIN A WEEK AFTER THE EVENT) Set assignments for all staff members. Mail invitations. Review and sign all contracts if you re booking a venue other than your office. Follow up on caterers, wine suppliers, audiovisual orders, etc. Double-check all previous arrangements. Begin follow-up calls on invitations. Track respondents in your CMS system. Finalize the list of attendees. Review all previous arrangements. Review staff assignments. Finalize any last-minute arrangements. If appropriate, make sure you have any materials you plan to hand out. Call to confirm attendance. Debrief with the staff (did you accomplish what you set out to do?). Settle all bills. Review expenses against the budget. Send thank you notes, gifts, or any promised followup material. 6

8 For investment professional use only. Not for distribution to the public as sales material in any form. The information contained herein is as of the date of its publication, is subject to change, and is general in nature. Such information is provided for informational purposes only and should not be considered legal, tax, or compliance advice. Fidelity does not provide legal, tax, or compliance advice. Fidelity cannot guarantee that such information is accurate, complete, or timely. Federal and state laws and regulations are complex and are subject to change. Laws of a specific state or laws that may be applicable to a particular situation may affect the applicability, accuracy, or completeness of this information. This information is not individualized; is not intended to serve as the primary or sole basis for your decisions, as there may be other factors you should consider; and may not be inclusive of everything that a firm should consider in this type of planning decision. Some of the concepts may not be applicable to all firms. Always consult an attorney, tax professional, or compliance advisor regarding your specific legal, tax, or regulatory situation. There is no form of legal partnership, agency, affiliation, or similar relationship between an investment professional and Fidelity Investments, nor is such a relationship created or implied by the information herein. The Fidelity Investments and pyramid design logo is a registered service mark of FMR LLC. Fidelity Institutional Wealth Services is a division of Fidelity Brokerage Services LLC. Clearing, custody, or other brokerage services may be provided by National Financial Services LLC or Fidelity Brokerage Services LLC, members NYSE, SIPC, 200 Seaport Boulevard, Z2B1, Boston, MA FMR LLC. All rights reserved

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