Showing a little appreciation for clients can go a long way in helping to build an advisor’s business.

Client appreciation events are a chance for people to connect with you and your team in a relaxed and informal setting, says Joanne Ferguson, president, coach and consultant with Advisor Pathways Inc. in Toronto. And although they may not generate new business immediately, these events can lead to an increase in revenue if they’re done the right way.

“I’ve really seen great benefit from those teams that provide client appreciation [events] on an ongoing basis,” says Ferguson. “They’ve definitely gotten new dollars and they’ve definitely got new prospects from it.”

For the past five years, Andrew Pyle, a wealth advisor with Pyle Wealth Management, under the ScotiaMcLeod Inc. banner in Peterborough, Ont., has hosted client appreciation events with his team. As a result, he’s had the opportunity to meet clients’ like-minded friends — some of who have turned into new clients.

“We’ve found this to be an even more effective way of generating leads and referrals,” says Pyle, “than doing ad hoc seminars.”

The events started out as market outlook seminars for prospects. However, Pyle and his team quickly realized that it was existing clients — not prospects — who were most interested in attending these events.

“Clients wanted to hear our views on the markets and the economy,” he says. “If it was going to be largely clients coming to this and they want the information then [we felt] it really should be something that’s done in appreciation of the patronage of the client.”

From those original marketing seminars, the events have developed into either sit-down dinner or cocktail functions with a presentation on the market and economy given by Pyle himself.

Although Pyle is the speaker at these events, they’re not all about him. In fact, client appreciation events can be a great way to strengthen client relationships with the entire team. Often, clients only speak to team members over the phone or see them once a year at an annual review, says Pyle. The appreciation event is a chance to connect with clients and to spend some time face-to-face outside of the office.

“It’s another way for the team to communicate with clients, to touch the clients,” he says.

For advisors who are wary as to whether the relationship-building benefits are enough to justify the time and expense of an event, it’s quite simple to calculate the return on investment (ROI). Sylvia Garibaldi, a business building coach with SG and Associates in Toronto says that to calculate the ROI, advisors can simply look at how many clients or assets were brought into the business as a result of the experience compared to the overall cost of the event. It may not take much to see a positive return.

“It just takes one or two really strong clients,” she says, “to pay well over the cost of the event.”

This is the first article in a three-part series on client appreciation events. Tomorrow: party planning, perfected.