We’re approaching the “most wonderful time of the year,” with holidays stretching from Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day. If you believe the songs and Hallmark movies, people are laughing, enjoying dinners with friends, and relaxing by the fire for almost two straight months. I’d love to meet the people who can approach the holidays with unchecked enthusiasm and completed to-do lists. Unfortunately, it doesn’t sound like me — or most people I know.
For financial advisors, the fourth quarter is often the year’s biggest revenue driver, and for advisors with retirement plan business, chances are it’s even more critical. This is when big decisions get made.
But the holiday season offers more. It also contains terrific opportunities to get in front of clients and prospects in ways that go beyond financial advice, which is why it’s important to start planning now so you can participate. Every party you attend or host and every gift delivered can move your brand forward, strengthening and building relationships. So, before we kick off the holiday season and things get crazy, let’s consider strategies and tactics.
FIRST IMPRESSIONS COUNT
If the hosts ask you to RSVP, do so promptly so they know who to expect. Waiting until the last minute or not replying is rude, and that’s the last thing you want to be. When you RSVP, take time on the phone or email to make a personal connection (e.g., “Will your daughter be there?” or “I can’t wait to hear how the newlyweds are doing!”) so you distinguish yourself from the start. If they are invited, bring your spouse with you. Be sure that you are well dressed and professional. Remember, when in doubt, dressing up is safer than dressing down.
VISIBILITY IS CRITICAL
When you’re thinking about attending client events, have a strategy. Plan to take a few great photos that you can send to clients later when following up with a thank you. If you bring a bottle of wine as a gift, write a note on the label so the recipient will think of you whenever they open it. Will your clients’ children be attending? If so, ask to be introduced to the next generation, especially if they are visiting from out of town. And, of course, get to know friends and relatives, but always remember that no business should be discussed. Your goal is to have people recognize you as a friend of the family.
If your host suggests creative attire, try to participate — even if ugly sweaters aren’t your thing. The photos will more than make up for any reluctance you might feel, and it can be a lot of fun meeting people when you’re all silly together. Plus, it shows you don’t take yourself too seriously. The worst thing you can do (other than drinking all the eggnog) is show up in a business suit when everyone else has followed the dress code or theme.
You can also use this idea for your own events. Two advisors I know donned ugly sweaters and hoisted reindeer cups of eggnog to host a webinar on budgeting and spending around the holidays. They had great attendance and generated multiple posts to social media. It turns out clients loved their lighthearted approach and willingly participated.
CREATE AN EXPERIENCE
If you plan to host a party or get-together, brainstorm ways to elevate the gathering into an experience. Research on how to boost happiness reveals that experiences are what stand out for people, not gifts or possessions. According to Big Think, “People are social creatures. Experiences increase happiness by facilitating connection with others.”
So, help people build connections and get to know one another at your event, even if it’s a simple wine and cheese party. A few bottles of wine in a blind tasting often draw people together to sip and compare, and asking them to jot down comments or vote for a favorite also invites discussion. To spur conversation, you might arrange people in teams to answer trivia questions, make guesses about the grape or vintner, or offer unusual foods or cheeses.
One advisor heightens wine tasting by adding a dimension to the sensory experience, placing coffee or vanilla beans next to a wine. He suggests that guests taste the wine, sniff the beans, and sample the wine again to see how much it has changed. Another bottle might include a buttery shortbread to taste beforehand, along with instructions on how to note the differences in taste before and after. These small touches elevate the experience without adding cost and require only a little planning. Your local wine store can suggest easy ways to get started, too.
If you start planning now, you can have a strategy in place to make your party or guest appearances memorable. Spending time in person helps advisors get to know clients better, and shared experiences can also bring the relationship closer. And that’s certainly something to celebrate!