In this Business Builder series of articles, we're examining 5 key marketing strategies that are working for financial advisors today. This week, we’ll continue our series with Key Strategy #3: Event Marketing. If you missed any prior installments, please see the library of Marketing Maven articles below.

GIVE PEOPLE SOMETHING TO TALK ABOUT

Events can be a great way to help enhance relationships with current clients, position yourself in front of qualified prospects, and build important mutually beneficial relationships with Centers of Influence (COIs).  But yesterday’s event marketing strategies may not work today. Times have changed and people are tired of the same old thing.  Today’s investors want to be a part of the experience, and attention spans are not what they once were.  They want information from an authoritative source, presented in a fun and dynamic way.

If you create something unique and compelling, people will not only take notice and participate themselves … they’ll tell others about you and your unique, compelling approach.

THINK OF EVENTS AS PROACTIVE PR

If your event is interesting enough, you might be able to create some buzz with the local media. Consider this proactive PR. If your event is covered by the media, it can clarify exactly which segment of the public you serve and make those people aware of you. Leveraging your position in the media can be an important motivator for a client-focused event.

CONSIDER A TOWN HALL FORMAT

For many financial professionals, the Town Hall Meeting is fast replacing the traditional dinner seminar event. Instead of one or two presenters in a formal seminar setting, consider bringing in a panel of experts (COIs) for a discussion on a pre-determined topic, such as investing in uncertain times or financial literacy for kids and young people. The Town Hall Meeting format gives participants the satisfaction of interacting, rather than just listening. Another advantage is that Town Hall Meetings are less expensive than traditional dinner seminars because venue, food and beverage costs are typically quite low.

During the worst of the Wall Street Scandals and economic downturn in 2009, Stan T. Webb, CFS,  a Wichita-based financial advisor and principal of Stan T. Webb Companies, Inc.,, began talking with other community business leaders about the state of the economy, the problems that financial illiteracy can cause and suggested that they all band together to do something about it. April is financial literacy month, so the group, led by this financial professional, determined to host a Town Hall Event for Community Leaders and other interested adults in the community.

TIE YOUR PROGRAM TO A COOL LOCATION

A good venue can make or break the event. Webb researched venues and determined that one of the small auditorium theater rooms at Wichita State University would be affordable and set the right tone: a serious subject in a serious setting, an educational facility devoted to higher learning. He enrolled various leaders in the community in his vision, assigning each of them roles and speaking parts at the event.

-- Someone from the Federal Reserve volunteered to speak about the financial literacy programs that were available through the Fed.

-- A detective on the police force offered to talk about how to prevent identity theft.

-- The city mayor offered to declare that day Financial Literacy Day in Wichita. She sent a City Council member to read the official proclamation at the event.

-- A retired astronaut who lives in Wichita offered to speak about his experience in space. He tied his 20-minute talk to “the choices we make in life”—a good tie-in to being personally responsible with money, work and education.

-- A book author from Kansas City drove down to speak about personal finance and how parents and educators could access teaching aids for kids at various ages.

-- Webb served as master of ceremonies, welcoming the media, introducing each speaker and/or panel, and facilitating the Town Hall Q&A segment.

 GET THE WORD OUT WITH PR

 Webb worked with a PR firm to send out media alerts to local radio, television and newspapers. He hired a photographer and videographer to capture important “digital assets” that could be leveraged and promoted after the evening event. He started a virtual community-gathering place using a low-cost service called Ning.com so that the Town Hall conversation could continue online. He posted the photos, videos, news clips and other official documents (agendas, news releases, calendar of future events) on the site.

 Now planning for his third annual financial literacy town hall event in 2012, Webb has become a local celebrity, of sorts. Normally the shy, quiet type, this financial professional found that he was having fun and serving a purpose. He made many new business friends and was interviewed by the local newspaper, radio and television station. He not only loved being an “instigator for good,” but also enhanced his reputation by putting himself in a leading role. The business benefits continue to accrue.

Education workshops, if targeted and compelling, can also produce positive PR and business building opportunities. Consider the advisor case study below.

REACH THE HNW THROUGH SPECIAL WORKSHOPS

This happens to be a very busy week for John Jenkins, EA, CFP, president and CEO of Asset Preservation Strategies. In addition to hosting an “Income for Life” seminar with his partner Greg Banner, John will be holding a workshop for the American Heart Association donors one night. They are expecting close to 100 people who will all have the opportunity to come in and meet with Jenkins, one-on-one, to discuss any planning issues from charitable to estate, investment or tax.  

Stop for a moment and just let that sink in. 100 people. Donors. Planned giving. Jenkins in the advisory role, endorsed by the American Heart Association.

But the scenario gets better still: The charities actually pay Jenkins to educate their donors.  At the beginning of the year he purchased a license to offer The Donor Motivation program. He counsels charities in building and maintaining a highly successful planned giving program. The program literally offers a planned giving program in a box.  All the charity has to do is follow the recipe for mailings and quarterly workshops.

COLLABORATE WITH ALLIED PROFESSIONALS

Jenkins and the Planned Giving Director are pairing the marketing of the event with a high-end retirement community in San Diego; the Community Director is happy because the right demographic—HNW retirees with significant income and assets—will be attending the event at her facility and she expects many of them to request a tour, have dinner in the dining room and agree to join their mailing and email lists. The Planned Giving Director is thrilled at the initial response to the workshop and is likely to ask John to repeat it in the future. 

I’m anxious to hear back from Jenkins. I expect when he looks back one year from now there will be several new and significant client relationships as a result of this donor education initiative.

WHAT’S AHEAD?

Next week, I’ll share some additional advisor stories that relate to Key Strategy #3: Event Marketing.