On any given day, a professional services firm, e.g. accounting, law, engineering, consulting firm, etc. laments about the lack of new business opportunities. “How can we market ourselves better?” “We need more prospects in the pipeline!” barks the managing partner.
One intrepid associate speaks up. “We should host an event!” The others quickly nod in agreement.
Too often, professional services providers believe that an “event” is the answer to all of their business development woes. The thought process, is purely tactical, not strategic. The belief is that any gathering of clients and other friends of the firm will automatically provide easy opportunities for new business. But, often-times the results are less than satisfactory.
Because the decision to host an event is usually a knee-jerk reaction to the realization that the firm has not developed a thoughtful marketing strategy.
When in doubt, invite clients, friends of clients, friends of friends and anyone else to some sort of cocktail hour. Good food, drink and mingling abound. The planning is straight-forward. The firm quickly pulls together a guest-list, has a staff member orders invitations, drinks and food, and then the guests arrive. A number of invitees attend, small talk is made and, maybe, a few business cards are exchanged.
So, the event is a success, right?
If your goal is to entice a group of people to eat and drink on your dime then go on their merry way with a departing “Thanks for attending!”, then yes. If the firm believes that one night of social mingling will garner new business leads without any thought of how to highlight unique offerings, then the outcome is likely less spectacular. Hosting an event is more than the number of bodies in room. It requires a thoughtful strategy that includes clearly defined goals. A strategy that focuses on the primary areas of 1) brand awareness, 2) identifying prospects and 3) engaging and retaining existing customers.
Let’s look at another scenario that provides better results.
The managing partner begins the meeting by stating, “Today’s top agenda item is to discuss and refine our business development goals for the year, centered on a review of our current revenue and year-end projections. Based on our discussion, we will then determine the appropriate marketing strategy to continue to build awareness of our firm, strengthen our existing relationships and identify potential clients.”
The partners determine that while business has been generally steady for the first six months of the year, there seems to be little momentum in the pipeline. On a positive note, the firm has recently created a Client Portal that will greatly simplify firm/client interaction and will allow the parties to exchange information on a secure server. However, they have not had the opportunity to share this information to their clientele. One of the partners suggests that the firm host an Open House to provide a brief demonstration of the Portal to their clients. The other partners agree, and several offer additional suggestions on how to further increase awareness about the firm’s unique capabilities.
- One idea is to highlight 2-3 key client success stories by asking the client to briefly speak about their relationship with firm and why they chose to partner with us.
- Another idea is to encourage invitees to bring a colleague or another business professional to the event, opening up the opportunity for the firm to interact with new prospects and referral sources.
The managing partner wraps up the meeting by stating that ALL partners and other key associates are expected to attend the event, and make an effort to mingle with the guests. Furthermore, a debriefing meeting will be scheduled a few days after the event to discuss new opportunities and action items.
The result: Clearly defined goals and expectations gave the team a sense of ownership in the process. Information sharing about the firm’s unique offerings reminds clients about what sets the firm apart from the competition and how these offerings benefit the client.
In summary, hosting events, done the right way, can provide opportunities for new business and a venue to promote unique services. Those firms who conduct thoughtful planning on the front-end will reap the rewards. Remember, parties are nice, but strategic planning will always provide the pathway to positive, long-term results.Tags: events, marketing, strategy