As I was writing this article, I got a phone call from an advisor in the Raleigh/Durham area. I asked him the same question I've been asking every advisor I meet: "What do you do to market your business? What's been working for you the past year or so?"
Dustin Hall, a CFP and partner in independent financial advisory firm Hall & Burns, told me that hosting interesting events is the main way he keeps out in front of clients and prospects.
"There's nothing better than getting out of the office to, say, play a game of tennis with a client who has a passion for that, or to spend time meeting their friends and family at a culinary institute or baseball game. Our clients know we are looking out for their best interests on the financial front but what sets us apart is knowing how much we really care about them as people, not just a client account."
Hall, who is affiliated with LPL Financial, said they had a great response to a "ladies only" event they held at a local art facility. "We called it 'Wine and Design'. Everyone was given a canvas on an easel and, after a short painting lesson, invited to paint their own masterpiece. They each took home their painting and some great memories."
You can be sure that when they hang that painting in their home or vacation cottage that visitors will ask about it and the client or guest they brought will remember the event and that Hall & Burns was the host.
"What a coincidence," I smiled. "I am just now putting the finishing touches on an article for Financial-Planning.com. Your examples come at just the perfect time."
THREE PRIMARY FUNNELS
There are really only three primary marketing methods that work for independent financial planners:
-- Event Marketing
-- Client and COI Referrals
-- Public Relations
Filling each of the three funnels is a sure way to ensure you have enough qualified client inquiries come down the spout and, ultimately, become right-fit clients.
This week, we'll talk about Event Marketing. In future weeks, we'll talk about referrals and public relations.
THE FIRST FUNNEL TO FILL: EVENTS
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). In fact, I think it's the most important funnel for you to fill. Filling your Events Funnel will inevitably lead to a spillover into your Referral Funnel and Public Relations Funnel. But, while it is true that nothing will ever replace the warmth of a handshake or the ability to build rapport in person, yesterday's event marketing strategies may not work today.
There are three primary types of marketing events that work for financial planners:
-- Affinity event
-- Client appreciation event
-- Public forum
At the end of this article, you will be invited to envision three different events and to pencil in the initial framework for a successful event. Take notes as you read from here on down - something I say may spark an idea for you and you'll want to capture your insights as they occur to you.
THINK BEYOND THE NORM
Times have changed and people are tired of the same old thing. They want information from an authoritative source, presented in a fun and dynamic way - on their terms (e.g., live in person, live in a virtual setting or recorded and available 24/7 online).
Today's consumers are not the "Pollyanna" type. They're more skeptical and better informed than ever before. They don't want to be told what to do. They want a chance to interact and shape the discussion, to check you out ahead of time and to challenge the status quo.
The Internet has changed the playing field. Most people can get answers to financial questions with a few clicks of their mouse. They can get insights and advice from colleagues, peers and other professionals through interactive social media sites such as LinkedIn, Eon, Twitter, Facebook and more. With the advent of Web 2.0, people have instant access to professionally produced, dynamic multimedia presentations on websites, blogs, Scribd, SlideShare, Vipe, Vimeo and YouTube.
TOUCHING THE EMOTIONS
The days of inviting people to watch a simple lecture on the basics of finance are long gone. Today's investors want to be a part of the experience, and attention spans are not what they once were.
In fact, my speaking coach continues to drum beat this message for even traditional presentations that are content-rich: "People want information. But they also want to be entertained. Just like a band creates 'sets' of music that bring the audience up and down, happy and sad, reflective and engaged, so too do you want to craft your presentations. Make them a mix of fun and serious, direct delivery, interactivity, bouncy and staid, and you will 'have them with you' - and liking you - throughout the entire presentation.
We live in an age of rapid-burst transmission and instant information. However, people still value the personal touch; 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.
THE PEOPLE'S MAYOR
Bill Spalding, founder of Bill Spalding Wealth Management in the Atlanta area, has long hosted a special brunch for his clients and their special guests. The brunch takes place on the back patio / deck at a local restaurant. Bill hands out visors with his company logo on them, sunscreen from the local spa, water bottles with his company branding, and canvas tote bags containing coupons from the restaurant and the spa, a ticket to the garden tour, and a map to the various gardens and art exhibits.
Imagine the visual impression as 30-40 people stream out of the restaurant all wearing the Spalding visors and carrying the Spalding bag.
"The trick is to make the branded items really cool, not just promote your brand," Spalding says. "That way people will say to the person wearing or carrying the item, 'hey - where did you get that?' Of course, I love it when they point to me or in my general direction and say 'Bill Spalding makes these every year. He's a big local business booster. He also happens to be my financial advisor. There he is. Go talk to him."
Spalding, who is affiliated with Securities America, has become known as "the People's Mayor" in Sandy Springs, Georgia. He believes in boosting up other people's businesses more than he does his own. He also supports the local arts community gatherings, and holds get-away weekends and dinners at the Jesuit Retreat nearby. On other occasions, he took a group of clients and their friends to the High Museum to see works on loan from the Louvre, hosted a cooking class at the culinary center and held a lunch time event at the botanical gardens.
ANSWERING THE ESSENTIAL QUESTIONS
So, how do you make your events original and distinctive, but still keep them manageable, scalable and repeatable? It's always good to start with some basic questions:
Why, Who, What, Where, When and How.
In my next installment, we'll drill down into these essential questions and you'll be invited to envision three perfect events to keep your name top of mind with right-fit prospects and current clients.
I'll be at the following conferences this fall and look forward to bumping into you there:
Aug 5-8, 2012: Garrett Planning Network Retreat in Denver
Aug 10, 2012: Business Exit Institute Training Course in Denver
Sept 13-15, 2012: Business and Wealth Management Forum (BWMF) in Denver (save $100 with the code you will find here: http://www.marieswift.com/)
Sept 22, 2012: Texas Tech University, Social Media Class
Sept 29 - Oct 2, 2012: FPA Experience in San Antonio
Oct 9-11, 2012: Loring Ward Advanced Symposium in Chicago
Oct 10-11, 2012: Securities America's Assistant University in Omaha
Oct 15-17, 2012: Tiburon CEO Summit