Professional services firms often serve their clients for multiple years, so client retention is something that deserves intentional focus.  Fostering relationships with clients at a time when you’re not “on the clock” is one good way to do this.  Here are a few ideas for client appreciate events for professional services firms:

Open House:  Hosting an event is a nice way to show appreciation for clients.  Cast a broad net when sending invites as surely not everyone will attend. Consider inviting spouses if appropriate.  Giving a small gift with your logo is a common and nice added-touch.

  • Caution:  Holding the event in your office can help to reduce costs as you won’t need to rent a space.  However, be mindful of the layout of your office and whether it is truly conducive to having many people visit at once.  Long, narrow hallways or frequent doorways become bottlenecks that make moving around frustrating.

Thought Leadership Event:  Your clients hired you because they believe you are good at what you do.  It’s nice to reinforce that belief with annual thought leadership events.  Find a keynote speaker or host a panel to discuss a topic broadly of relevance and interest to your clients.  Your firm’s leadership can introduce the speaker or moderate the panel.   This is a popular event type for including the offer that a client can “invite a friend” as a way for you to potentially meet a prospect.  Additionally, this can be a way to showcase the lesser-known or new services offered by the firm which might enable you to do some cross-selling afterward.

  • Caution:  This is an educational event, not a time for your team to be selling what you do from the podium under the guise of helping people.  You may be tempted to invite the entire firm to attend, but watch out for the ratio of guests to team members.  Also, give younger team members something to do at the event so they don’t clump together due to discomfort with their surroundings.

Golf Tournament:  Golf tournaments are popular… among people who golf anyway.  You may want to add a golf clinic or a tennis component to be more inclusive.  Likewise, if you make dinner-only an option, you may attract additional guests – just be sure the dinner itself is worth making the trip in for.

  • Caution:  Golfer know it can be a long day to arrive for lunch and warm-up followed by 18 holes and a sit-down dinner.  Consider changing the dinner to heavy passed appetizers or host a 9 hole event.  Most golfers will thank you.  (And you can always treat the die-hards to a full round on a Friday in the summer.)

Smaller gatherings:  Inviting hundreds of people to an event means you’ll have less time to spend talking with any one person.  Instead, consider hosting multiple, smaller events with a carefully assembled group of people who would mutually benefit from connecting.  Perhaps you organize your contact lists by industry type or geography.  The event format can range from a casual happy hour to a guided wine tasting to a knowledgeable guest speaker.  You’ll get bonus points for thinking ahead about specifically who should meet, why, and making that direct introduction.

  • Caution:  You’ll always get last-minute drop-outs so be sure to plan for enough people that your event doesn’t look anemic.  Also, watch for the ratio of guests to firm employees.  I recommend 3:1 or 4:1.

Strategic introductions:  Clients may actually feel most appreciated if you make a single, strategic introduction and host a lunch or dinner to personally make the introduction.

  • Caution:  Be sure this is a mutually beneficial introduction and not a sales call.

Non-billed strategy session:  Focus on one client for an hour by gathering your team internally, and if possible, get the client’s banker or other service providers on the phone.  Perform a SWOT analysis by discussing the client’s holistic needs including their business, family dynamics, and even industry trends.  Following this, call the client and let them know you have a few ideas for them based on this strategy session that you’d like to discuss over lunch – again, at no cost.  They’ll be surprised and impressed;  and as an added benefit you’ll likely get some consulting work as a result.

  • Caution:  This is a client appreciation moment, not a sales call.  Give the client the information and let him/her ask if you can help with the problem.

There are surely more ideas than these, but I hope this list will get you thinking about what event type would match your firm’s culture. Events can be expensive and the ROI for large events can be difficult to determine so decide in advance what you goals are.  Perhaps there is some kind of post-event marketing you can do that will encourage cross-selling or additional referrals.

Simons Marketing can help you think about what event type might be appropriate for you and help you host a successful event.  Contact us to discuss!

 

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Alison has more than ten years of professional services marketing and business development experience. She is a Double Eagle, holding both a BS in Management with concentrations in Marketing & Information Systems, and an MBA from Boston College. Alison is a member of the 2009 Boston Business Journal’s 40 Under 40 class of honorees. Visit Alison on Google+.

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