Bev Flaxington, The Collaborative
Advisors looking for ways to add value to their clients will often hold educational events. Most advisors see this as a chance for increasing satisfaction and retention, but also as a way to generate referrals. Educational events are a great way for the advisor to bring additional value to their clients.
Another option that isn’t as popular but can be extremely valuable to clients is to offer a peer networking event. In cases where your client base may include business owners, entrepreneurs, widowed or divorced women, or others with similar interests, an event set up purely for networking can give clients access to experts, information and connections. Let’s look at some best practices around doing this:
(1) Identify the themes in your client base. Do you have people who might like to meet one another, or could learn from one another? Are there clients looking for introductions in order to grow their business, or who need information in their work or philanthropic lives that another client might be able to help with? Look through your client base to see where one client could add value to another client. See what your clients struggle with in their own lives – work, hobby, charitable, etc. and whether there are opportunities to get like-minded, complementary people in the same room.
(2) Set expectations that this is a peer networking event. Give some structure to the evening. You could have an introduction to the event, talk about the networking objectives, and perhaps introduce clients at the outset. One possibility would be to go around and have each client introduce him- or herself and talk about their area of interest for the event. What would they like to gain? Another option would be to have areas of focus set up in different spots within the room so people can choose where to go to talk to others. Or you could set it up using the “Speed Dating” format where people rotate and talk to one another for a few minutes to exchange cards and interests. You could even have a speaker who is expert in networking to share some tips and ideas about how best to network for greatest advantage, and then ask people to practice the new skills they have learned with one another.
(3) Set a “theme” for the evening. This could be anything from “The Back Office of the Small Business Owner” to “Philanthropic Interests in Africa”. Find out what your clients are interested in, what issues they are struggling with, what information they have to share and then create the event around these things. You could find an outside expert or a client, or other trusted advisor such as an accountant or attorney to speak on a topic and then ask clients to talk about different opportunities or aspects related to their lives and situations. For example, if you have a number of entrepreneurs in your client base, you could have an evening on “Going from Start-Up to Structure” and have clients who work with these firms talk about what they offer for help.
(4) Keep the dialogue away from investing. These events are an opportunity for your clients to learn more about what your other clients may be doing, or may have to offer. It’s a way to bring like-minded people together to learn from one another and to possibly leverage one another. The focus isn’t on the investment process or the markets, it’s on meeting the needs of your clients for information and connection.
See if your client base lends itself to peer networking opportunities. In this age of social media connections, the truth is that many people still struggle to find the “right”contacts they need to help them grow their businesses, change their lives and learn about opportunities. Your clients may prove useful to one another as you facilitate these introductions.