In this era of harder-to-reach prospects, especially the affluent and the wealthy, social prospecting has become the business-building model of choice for many successful agents. Social prospecting is the use of social environments to identify, meet, and grow relationships with qualified prospects.
While many of your new prospects are ready to discuss their financial situation and goals with you during their first appointment, many others are not. Quite a few would prefer to meet with you in a more social setting first to determine if they like you, trust you, etc. Using referral events and other social prospecting tactics, you can reach many more high-level prospects than you may be reaching now.
Examples of social prospecting
Social prospecting encompasses a wide range of activities. Here are a few you might consider:
- Client Appreciation Events
- Referral Events (Event Marketing)
- Community Service Activities
- Charity Events (Philanthropic Endeavors)
- Club Memberships
- Hobby or Special Interest Groups
This article will focus on only two—Client-Appreciation and Referral Events.
A client appreciation event is a social gathering aimed at thanking your clients. While the activity can be the same, the purpose of a referral event is for one or more clients to take one or more prospects to meet you.
The trouble I often see with these events is that advisors try to turn a client appreciation event into a referral event. While hybrids have their place, you will see better results if you limit your events to one purpose.
Some examples of client appreciation events:
- Holiday Parties
- Sporting Events
- Wine & Cheese Tastings
- Chocolate Tastings
- Intimate Fancy Dinners
- Golf Outings or Swing Clinics
- Boat Outings
- Ski Trips
- Theater Events
- Cooking Classes
You host a referral event to let your clients introduce you to prospects in a social environment. Be very clear with your clients about the purpose of this event. As a rule, you want to keep your referral events smaller than your client appreciation events and always remember that the purpose of a referral event is to create a solid connection between you and your new prospects. If you have too many prospects to meet, you may not connect well with any of them.
Case studies of referral events
Here are some case studies of referral events:
Don Green is a financial advisor near Detroit. Every year, he arranges for a two-day theater trip via motor coach, alternating between Chicago and Toronto. Don arranges the bus, theater tickets, hotel, and dinner. His very affluent client and their very affluent guests pay their own way.
He spends several hours on the bus with these folks, has dinner and breakfast with them, and a wonderful evening at the theater. He told me: “People get off the bus, shake my hand and thank me for a wonderful time. Then they say, ‘we have some questions about our finances. Do you think you can find some time for us?’ Don gets several wealthy clients this way each year--well worth his time and effort.
The Chef’s Table
Another referral event is The Chef’s Table, which clients like to attend and feel comfortable in inviting a guest to attend, as well. A chef is usually involved in this event. Sometimes, he prepares a special entrée or dessert just for the group and can also recommend wine pairings for the meal.
If you want to make this an evening no one will forget, arrange for your guests to be picked up from their homes in a limo. For a personal touch and a nice excuse to get back with your clients and their guests, hire a professional photographer if you can afford it to take photographs of the attendees.
I know an advisor who uses his boat all summer long to entertain clients and their guests. “Bring a guest and you get to spend the day on my boat,” he tells them.
There are two things I like about “boat prospecting.” It’s with a small group, so you get to spend a lot of time with everyone. And you get to know them in a way that has nothing to do with your business. You go through an adventure together--especially if you do some fishing or engage in another water sport. Adventures like these almost always contribute to people trusting one another more.
Getting guests to referral events
Bill Curry is based in Cleveland and knows just about all there is to know about putting on successful events. He told me that for referral events, the advisor is the sponsor and the client is the host. The client can use something like the following script to call the guest:
“George, my financial advisor wants to take me to dinner and have you come along as a guest,” or “George, I’m hosting a dinner party at Chez Expensive to introduce you to our personal financial advisor who might prove to be a great resource for you. It’s going to be a lot of fun. Are you up for it?”
The wow factor
Client appreciation and referral events need not be expensive. The key is handling all the details to the extent that your guests really notice them. Make your invitations stand out--not like the run-of-the-mill wedding invitations that some advisors use. Have someone available to greet your guests as they arrive, and make sure the directions are clear or, better yet, send a car to pick them up. Call your guests before the event to check on special food restrictions or preferences, and most important, follow up. Call your client first, if you like, but call the prospect within 48 hours of the event.
Bill Cates is the author of “Get More Referrals and ‘Don’t Keep Me a Secret!” Contact him at Info@ReferralCoach.com.