By Lone Beacon VP of Sales & Marketing Mike Schaffman & Act-On Software CMO David Greenberg

In-person events are an effective marketing and sales tool to connect with existing clients and engage new prospects. However, the coronavirus pandemic has forced advisors and their marketing teams to identify new platforms to generate revenue. Some advisors pivoted by hosting digital webinar-based events but faced difficulty duplicating the revenue opportunities from in-person events.

Event marketing is one of the biggest missed opportunities for financial advisors, regardless of the attendance rate or appointments booked. Why? Because advisors and marketers view it as a singular event, not an interconnected marketing ecosystem spanning weeks before and after the actual event. Digital marketing, particularly via marketing automation technology, is one of the best ways you can connect with clients and prospects before and after an event and build a stronger relationship and foundation of trust.

Here’s how advisors can maximize their event marketing ecosystem to drive more appointments from their in-person and digital events:

Plan your holistic marketing strategy

Before you can begin to market your event, it’s vital to properly plan the key details. You wouldn’t walk into a client meeting without proper prep, so don’t do the same with your events.

Determine the type of the event and the topic. Before picking a topic, analyze your engagement insights to see where your audience is already showing interest. Don’t generate your ideas in a silo; review and compare from multiple sources, such as the most visited webpages on your site, the most opened and clicked-through emails, what radio or television commercials are pulling the best, etc.

Determine your audience for this specific topic. This may seem obvious, but it’s essential to take a targeted approach in your events so it directly applies to the invited recipients. Examine the traits of your key clients. Where do they live? What is their occupation? This will help you establish your ideal customer profile, or client avatar. You can also identify your ideal customer profile with the “80/20 rule”: Find patterns among the clients that produce the most revenue for your firm and determine where 80% of that revenue comes from. It’s usually about 20% of your “best” clients that create a lookalike profile of the attendees you want to target.

Once you have your event topic, type, and audience planned, begin to think about early promotion. What is your budget, and how do you plan to promote the event? We recommend a promotion process that leverages digital marketing, particularly database email marketing and digital ad buying, because it is both affordable and effective. Plus, digital ad buying builds first-party data which can be used in conjunction with technology (like marketing automation) to send extremely specific and personalized communications to prospects and clients.

Begin marketing the month before the event

Next, start your marketing and promotion several weeks before the event so that potential attendees have increased schedule availability, and the marketing team has time to effectively execute the campaign. This will also allow your team to properly qualify and confirm attendance prior to the event.

To begin, publish a registration page where attendees can sign up for your event. This is a great time to gather as much useful information as you can about your prospects. The registration page is essential because your marketing efforts will drive prospects to this page, and it serves to collect insightful data about attendees that you can use leading up to and after the event.

Promote the event on social media and on your website and kick off your marketing campaign. You could even consider broadcast radio promotion.

Email and SMS (text message) marketing are some of the best ways to meet prospects. When leveraged in conjunction with marketing automation platforms, you can use email and SMS to not only send messages to prospects, but also track and rank them based on how they are interacting with your messages. Marketing automation technology allows you to collect behavioral data in real-time and use it to craft curated messages that are personalized specifically to your leads. SMS is a powerful tool to keep registrants in the loop, and drive excitement for your event.

For example, if you send a save-the-date message to a prospect’s phone, and they sign up for your event on the landing page, you wouldn’t send another message trying to earn their attendance — the only message that prospect would need is a few reminders to attend.

On the other hand, if an email recipient receives your save-the-date, clicks on the link to register, but doesn’t complete the form, you can send them a reminder message encouraging them to sign up. This is the power of marketing automation technology, and a key reason why financial advisors are using it to generate leads.

On the day of the event, send email and SMS reminders, and of course, deliver on the value that you promised for that event. Ideally, you will drive a healthy amount of new business from your event. However, it doesn’t stop there. The other side of event marketing comes down to what you do after the event ends.

Nurture leads 90+ days post-event

The day after the event, leverage your marketing automation platform to begin post-event automated email and SMS sequences. This could come in the form of a “thank you for attending” text, a “here’s what you missed email” to people who didn’t show, or a call-to-action text encouraging attendees to enlist your services. If someone asked a question during the event, send a personalized email with more info or an offer to talk. Work closely with the sales team to identify who was the most engaged in your event; the best time to sell is immediately after your event while you are still top-of-mind with your prospects. This is also a great time to get feedback quickly after the event.

For the weeks following, continue to send ongoing nurture campaigns based on your audience’s behavior. Email marketing automation is a powerful way to continuously engage customers after the event. Financial advisors can use behavior data gathered from these campaigns to gauge where customers are in the buying journey and score them based on their behavior. This score is then used to cater the perfect outreach to best resonate with prospects who will then enlist your services.

Takeaway

An event should not be a one-and-done lead-generation opportunity. Rather, a well-planned event, in conjunction with careful planning and an effective marketing campaign, will drastically improve new business opportunities for weeks and months post-event.

This article originally appeared on AdvisorPerspectives.com