Too often advisors who have ventured forth and hosted an event, hoping well-heeled clients would come and bring ideal prospects, report bitter disappointment.

Want a solution for avoiding those downer outcomes? First hint: The events should be fun but the advisors should not regard their roles as “dabblers,” says Jannelle Ward, strategic consultant for TD Ameritrade Institutional who spoke at the Dallas Women Advisors Forum on Wednesday. Rather, advisors should define their strategies and quantifiable goals and make those measurable. The advisor should identify who will be invited, how many prospects each invitee can bring, how many of those prospects will likely turn into clients, and what revenues those new clients could create for the firm.

Knowing those answers helps an advisor move onto step two: figuring out a budget for the event based on a projected return on investment. If costs appear prohibitive, Ward suggests considering alternative funding, perhaps from wholesalers of financial products who want to build relationships too. Also, she recommends considering the resources that clients themselves may have to offer. She spoke of an advisor whose client with an unusual car collection offered his place as the location for a party. The advisor added food trucks, live music, and craft beer for a good time.

For most advisors, though, choosing where to host the event will qualify as step three and it will present lots of options. Ward says advisors should consider all sorts of categories. As examples, she mentions educational events about college planning or adult children’s literacy; or the old standby, wine tastings. Those can be expensive though so, Ward says, to reduce costs, consider a blind tasting party offering bottles $15 and under. She also embraces the idea of setting up an event that supports a charity. “This is not a ploy but a great opportunity to connect with people,” Ward says.
The possibilities are endless. She’s heard about advisors having success with fashion shows, flu clinics, and local author readings.

Ward defines step four as devising the invitation list. She emphasizes that only clients who can deliver ideal prospects should be invited. To identify who meets that selective standard, Ward says, advisors may have to use LinkedIn and other databases as well as their own knowledge about how their clients rank as centers of influence.

For step five -- executing the party -- don't skimp, she says. The lead advisor, not an assistant, should be the one designated to call the invitees. And advisors should not be vague about suggesting who clients might bring with them to the party; instead, she says, have a few specific, targeted prospects in mind.

The final step -- after you’ve had the party and the fun -- is the follow-up by monitoring and tracking to determine if the event helped meet the client development goals.

“Intimate and non-threatening events,” is what Ward proposes. “It’s a fun way to get new business,” she says.

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This story has been edited after publication to correct an error.