11 Awesome Client Appreciation Event Ideas for Financial Advisors
NOTE: If you’re a new financial advisor, make sure you check out Your First Year As A Financial Advisor, where I reveal several things every new financial advisor ought to know.
Client appreciation events are a way for financial advisors to express gratitude, build engagement, and make clients so happy that they tell their friends about you. A successful client appreciation event can create raving fans, which leads to more referrals. Sound good? Let’s dive in…
Why Is Client Appreciation So Important?
Client appreciation events are important because they set financial advisors up to get streams of referrals from a stronger and more loyal client base.
They help boost your credibility, increase awareness of you and your brand, and give your clients a chance to see you in a different (perhaps more human and more relatable) light.
A client who feels appreciated is more likely to stick with you. You might feel like you’re holding onto clients with a periodic phone call, but it will eventually come back to haunt you. If there’s a down market, you want the client who continues to consolidate accounts and invest more assets.
You won’t get that same type of loyalty from someone who doesn’t know you or trust you. An impersonal phone call or birthday card won’t cut it.
ALSO READ: 5 Client Loyalty Strategies To Help You Retain More Clients
Speaking of birthday cards, I got my auto insurance online, and I’ve never met the agent… even though I was shocked to find out she lives nearby. I get a birthday card from her every year, along with a nice little coupon to a local yogurt shop (which I never use, by the way). While her birthday card definitely keeps me aware of her, a client appreciation event would make me much less likely to drop her when I eventually find a better deal.
On the other hand, one of my good friends is a tax professional and he throws client appreciation events for his clients. He recently invited me to one and I was blown away at how engaged everyone was and how happy all the clients were to be there. If more financial advisors took advantage of this incredible marketing and relationship-building tool, they would have thriving businesses.
Let's get into it...
Here are some best practices to ensure your event is a success:
Get the timing right.
Ask your clients and get a feel for when they are free. For example, financial advisors like to throw holiday events because December tends to be a slow month for them. However, it’s usually the busiest time of year for clients. Make sure you carefully consider the date and time of your event in order to maximize attendance. This will help your dollars stretch a little more.
Know your clients’ demographics and interests.
Later in this post, I’m going to give you several ideas, but no single event will be suitable for everyone. Take a look at your current client base and see if there are any patterns. Do they have shared interests? Do they even like golf? Can you segment them into different groups? For example, a happy hour event won’t work well with families, and a formal client base might not appreciate a tailgate BBQ.
Don’t try to pitch or sell.
It’s just not the time or place. A client appreciation event is about showing gratitude and building loyalty. The only thing you’re “selling” is how great it is to be your client. However, that does not mean you should let valuable opportunities slip away. If someone explicitly asks you about something business-related, try to get a time for an appointment to discuss it later.
You don’t want to bring up financial planning or insurance during an event because you don’t want anyone to feel uncomfortable or sold. You could have the greatest event in the world, but even a shred of a pitch will have clients feel like it was a slimy sales event. Have faith that the topic will come up eventually because it always does. Again, let the client initiate the conversation.
Always allow family and friends.
You want your clients to feel comfortable. I’ve found that one of the reasons why people don’t attend client appreciation events is because they don’t want to hang around a bunch of people they don’t know. Make it abundantly clear to everyone that they can bring guests. It makes it more comfortable, turns it into a group outing, and maximizes your chances of getting referrals.
Don’t spend a lot of time with one person.
Move around, shake hands, and mingle. You want to make everyone feel welcome and worthy of your attention. You do that by giving them your attention in the first place. They were nice enough to come, so you should be nice enough to acknowledge them and talk with them.
Have tons of business cards handy.
Not having business cards on me at all times was one of the biggest mistakes I made. Don’t make the same mistake I did. You never know who will ask for one, and you want to have them at the ready. This is especially true if your clients bring lots of friends and family. Also, have a pen or two in your pocket to write down any pertinent information.
Give a reminder or invite at each client meeting.
Assuming that you have your events planned out, you can invite each client to the appropriate client appreciation event. It encourages them to take advantage of what you offer outside the office.
Think about adding an “events” page to your website.
This is an awesome tip because it lets everyone know that you have events and it gives your website visitors a peek of what it’s like to become your client. Very few financial advisors have an “events” page, and it’s another small thing that can give you an edge.
But here’s the extra-valuable tip: keep your old events on the “events” page. Don’t delete them. Instead, push them to the bottom and say “previous events”. This reinforces the image that you’re here to stay and are committed to providing excellent customer service.
Client Appreciation Event Ideas
Without further ado, here are some client appreciation event ideas that you can put into practice...
NOTE: Client appreciation events are awesome ways to get more referrals, so make sure you're telling your clients to bring friends.
1. Tastings (wine, beer, champagne, etc.)
If your clients are wine-lovers (isn’t the word sommelier? I’m not a wine guy…) then have a wine tasting. For full and complete disclosure, I have never hosted a wine tasting party so I can’t go into too much detail, but I do know a firm that consistently has them, so they must be working.
This particular firm adheres to a strict budget for the wine (since it can get expensive) and suggests that guests bring a bottle with them, in order to get costs down. They usually have themes for their parties and focus on either “reds” or “whites” or “wines of Australia”. They also spend a few hundred bucks on bread, cheese, fruit, and shrimp. The budget works out to be around $30-60 per person.
I've also heard of financial advisors using local microbreweries for seminars and workshops. All you have to do is contact a microbrewery near you and see if they have an event space on-site. It should also be cheaper than a full-fledged dinner because all you have to serve is beer and pub food.
Most microbreweries are happy to have you bring ten or twenty people who might not otherwise come to their establishment. They should be willing to work with you to make the event a success.
2. Ice cream social
This is good for the summer. When I was in college, the university used to throw ice cream socials for wealthy donors all the time, and boy did they show up! These things were packed, so I figured they would work just as well for financial advisor clients, and they do. They’re more budget-friendly and are just as fun.
Make sure that you have a wide variety of ice cream. The old staples like chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry are good, but I’m talking about healthier options too, like those with less sugar.
You can have games and raffles at your ice cream social, too. There are a bunch of ways to make it a cool event, and easy on the wallet.
3. Cooking classes
These are always nice. Around Valentine’s Day, you can throw something like, “Cooking Class for Men: How to Make a Romantic Valentine’s Day Dinner”. Private cooking classes range from around $70-100 per person but can be well worth it for your top clients. A lot of private cooking classes require a minimum number of people (usually around ten), so it’s a more intimate setting.
The Valentine’s Day cooking class was just an idea, but you can choose between other themes like handmade pasta, knife skills, seafood, Italian, Spanish tapas, and French cuisine. Take your time to shop around to see which chef can offer you the biggest bang for your buck. Here are some things you want to ask:
One financial advisor reached out to me and told me how he did a sushi rolling class. I thought this was a great idea because it’s something unique. I personally have never been to one of these classes and I would love to try it. :-)
Plus, a sushi rolling class has a long mental shelf life. Whenever your clients go out for sushi, they will likely remember how they took your class. They’ll talk about it with whoever is at the table and explain how they made different types of rolls. From there, the conversation could lead to a referral for you.
4. Golf clinic or event
Golf has always been a favorite pastime among financial advisors. It’s engaging and entertaining. All you have to do is get a few of your best clients and their friends together and go golfing. Or you could get a golf pro to provide some lessons. I will tell you this – never throw a round for your clients. If you’re not truly playing to win, they will know. If you’re a decent golfer, you’ll get their respect because they’ll see that you know what you’re doing.
Plan ahead to make sure that your golf outing is organized and paid for in advance. Once you’re playing, don’t talk about business unless your clients or prospects bring it up first. The same thing goes for drinking or smoking cigars – don’t do it until they do it first. The golf course can be your best friend because it’s a laid-back atmosphere that makes clients and prospects more comfortable with you.
5. Sporting events
Sporting events can get a little pricey, so make a judgment call here. If one of your clients is a die-hard fan of your local team, it’s a no-brainer. Otherwise, I wouldn’t do it. Not for a so-so fan at least. It’s got to really mean something and be special to the client.
Most sports teams will give you a discount if you buy in bulk or “sell” (buy them yourself) enough tickets. If your local sports team is in the championship game, a cheaper option is to have a viewing party at a local restaurant. The Super Bowl is practically a freebie every year, so take advantage of it.
6. Night at the movies
This is a great idea for families. You essentially rent out a movie theater (should cost you $400-800) and start inviting people. The great thing about this client appreciation event is that you can form a solid business relationship with the movie theater and attract your clients with different types of movies. One night you might do a comedy, another night you might do an action movie. If you want to bring in families, do an animated movie. Bonus points if you can get a premier!
7. Pottery class
I don’t see this one used too often, but it tends to work well with an older crowd. It’s a fun activity that gets people involved and gives them something tangible. It helps them remember you and the event. Pottery is often described as therapeutic and relaxing; it helps you escape the worries of life and shift your focus toward your creation. A lot of focus is needed when making pottery, so outside distractions are reduced and no longer stress you out. Who doesn’t want more of that?
8. Document shredding event
This is a good client appreciation event for after the holidays. It’s a great symbol of a fresh start. You can also frame it as identity theft protection. After all, shredding old documents (especially those with personally identifying information) is a great way to help your clients protect themselves from fraud.
9. Coffee and pastries/breakfast
This is another inexpensive client appreciation event that lends itself to a positive, relaxed atmosphere. Tell your clients to bring a friend and some of their biggest money questions to a local coffee shop (or your office).
The key is to keep this event informal and relaxed, so your clients and prospects will open up and start talking. It’s all about building the relationship. Everybody has to eat, so why not maximize your time and share meals with business prospects?
10. Holiday theme events
These are incredible business generators if you do them right. Throughout the year, there are several holidays that also serve as opportunities to throw a client appreciation event. For example, your clients are tired of going to the mall every December and waiting six hours in line just to get a picture with Santa. Why not invite Santa to your office? Families can bring their children there for photos – be sure to have milk and cookies available!
The same thing goes for Easter, Thanksgiving, and even Earth Day. One of the best client appreciation events I’ve ever seen is a Valentine’s Day dance thrown for older clients, complete with oldies music playing all night long.
11. Murder mystery party
A murder mystery may or may not work for you, but it’s my personal favorite. If you’ve never thrown a murder mystery party before, don’t try to do all the stuff yourself – buy a murder mystery kit. Most kits will contain the script, rules of the game, costume ideas, and recipe ideas. It will practically ensure that the story is believable, scary, and interesting. Plus, it will have a theme ready-made for you, which could be anything from medieval times to apocalyptic wasteland.
You’ll want to serve your food as a buffet or potluck, so guests can focus on the action. A good way to do it is to plan as many courses as you have scenes in your murder mystery. The first scene could be soup/salad, the second scene could be the main course, and the final scene could end with dessert.
Don’t purchase a game that doesn’t have an introductory file that you can read before purchasing. You don’t want to buy a game, only to realize it’s horrible. If you can’t get a partial glimpse of the actual game, move on to the next one.
If you don’t get the turnout you wanted, don’t sweat it. If you marketed your client appreciation event, it means that you were able to market your financial advisory business without having to talk about finances at all. That’s a win in my book.
Another financial advisor reached out to me and explained how she throws birthday parties. For example, if one of her clients turns 50 next month, she will call him up and ask if he’s interested in her throwing a little party for him.
If he says yes, she will ask for some of his favorite restaurants and rent a private room there. These birthday parties typically have between five and twenty people each, which makes for a perfect tight-knit event.
Client appreciation events should be small and intimate or large with dozens of people. Anything in between is just awkward. If you want to go big and invite fifty people or more, you’re going to need help. Shop around for event planners and get ideas from at least three of them.
The best way to increase attendance is a phone call. An invitation in the mail, or a mass social media invite, is easy to brush off. You can frame every phone call as, “I know I sent the invites in the mail, but I wanted to make sure I invited you personally."
One of my Inner Circle members specializes in working with small business owners. Whenever one of her clients opens a new business, she will work with that client to send people to the new business. For example, one of her clients recently opened a spa, so she promoted the opening day event to her friends, family, and other clients. It demonstrated to her clients that she really cares about the success of their businesses and it strengthened their bond like nothing else.
The biggest mistake that I see financial advisors making with client appreciation events is inviting ONLY their clients. If the only people you invite to these events are your clients, you’re missing a golden opportunity. I don’t mean inviting their friends and family, either. I mean inviting your best prospects. The ones you really want as clients. Show them what’s in store if they do business with you.
ALSO READ: 15 Prospecting Tips for Financial Advisors
Finally, make sure that plan out well in advance. I mean at least two months. You want to have the time to promote your event, and you want to plan far enough in advance that your clients and prospects have blank calendars. If you try to pull something off in a week or two, people will already have things planned.
P.S. If you're a financial advisor who wants to get more clients from LinkedIn, make sure you check out How to Get Clients With LinkedIn: How Financial Advisors Can Set Appointments and Convert Prospects With LinkedIn