Whether it's a dinner at a five-star restaurant, a cocktail reception and market outlook presentation or a family skate day, client appreciation events should be an enjoyable outing for guests.
"Clients walk away feeling that we've given something back to them," says Andrew Pyle, a wealth advisor with Pyle Wealth Management, under ScotiaMcLeod Inc., who, along with his team, has hosted appreciation events for years. "It's a way to spur clients to sit down and relax."
That positive and relaxed feeling should last from the time clients arrive to when they leave. To ensure a venue is ready for guests, make sure that, if necessary, there are signs directing clients to the appropriate room, says Sara Gilbert, founder of Strategist in Montreal. Once clients arrive, team members should be there to greet them and hand out nametags.
After welcoming guests, have your team members circulate and get people talking to make sure no one feels like a wallflower. "Your role is to [make connections]," says Gilbert, "and to make people feel welcome." If there is a cocktail reception before a dinner or presentation, she says, introduce guests to people with similar interests.
However, simply getting a conversation started is not enough. To make clients feel comfortable, the advisor and team members should reach out to them throughout the evening. When hosting a dinner, Pyle visits each table and spends a few minutes talking with guests. As well, Pyle's team members, along with experts who work with the team and even members of upper management, will sit at various tables to make sure every client feels included.
Part of running a successful event is being prepared for every scenario. Make sure you have contingency plans in place for the event, says Joanne Ferguson, president, coach and consultant of Advisor Pathways in Toronto. For example, if the event is to be held outdoors, consider scheduling a rain date or renting a tent for the day.
Following up after a client appreciation event is a part of the process that's almost as important as the day itself. Advisory teams can start to gather feedback on the event right away with a survey. Sylvia Garibaldi, a business building coach with SG and Associates in Toronto, suggests leaving surveys on every table and referring guests to them throughout the event. That way, people can fill out the forms as they listen to a presentation or as they think of things.
The survey, however, is just the starting point of a follow-up strategy. Within one to two days of the event, advisors should send out a "thank you" email to people who attended, says Garibaldi. As well, a "sorry we missed you" message should be sent to no-shows. Guests who indicated on the survey that they wanted to speak with the advisor should be contacted by phone right away.
The advisor can also call guests who didn't specifically request to be contacted, says Garibaldi. Ask guests what they enjoyed about the event and what information they found valuable or interesting.
"Picking up the phone and calling and sending out emails," she says, "is one of the most important parts of the event."
This is the third article in a three-part series on client appreciation events.