[IMGCAP(1)]I remember the day when I was at a local Starbucks with William Shakespeare and he leaned over his Caramel Frappuccino and said to me, “Nick, all the world’s a stage.”

That line certainly resonates well for event marketing and how it can play a significant role today in the development of your firm.

Event marketing is truly the most encompassing and diversified marketing approach to gain exposure for your firm and to help develop new revenues.

Simply put, event marketing is the dominoes of leveragability, as it brings multiple ways to position your firm and your colleagues to others. By conducting events, you are following Billy’s line about the world being a stage. You, your colleagues, and the firm directly or indirectly are on the stage in front of clients, prospects and centers of influence. And the rewards can be outstanding.

The purpose of the event is to give your invited clients, prospects and COIs the opportunity to be educated or entertained by your firm using external speakers, exhibits or, in some cases, internal speakers. The event will strengthen existing relationships while opening the door to new relationships. It is meant to create a perception or feeling that this is a pretty good firm to know and to work with.

An event creates the differential that your firm does things that other firms may not do. You are creating a club-like atmosphere for those attending and, if done well, the club members will always tell others, also known as future prospects. In the eyes of your guests, some may see the event as a party. But to the firm, it should always be viewed as a business development opportunity.

However, the ultimate key to a successful event will be your follow-up. Without following up with those attending, you might as well not do an event.

Getting started: What type of an event/presentation will it be? The categories and subjects are endless:

• Educational: Latest in identity theft scams and how to protect yourself, new social media avenues, tips in raising children, the USA aging society, or analyzing a historical event.

• Social: An author discussing their latest book, a wine or champagne tasting, an artist displaying their latest work, or a collector of artifacts displaying and discussing their collection.

• Business: Economic updates, resources to help run businesses, new tax law updates or business climate in your market.

Where will the event take place: Having people come to your office is always a plus if you have the room. If not, book a local hotel, private club, golf course or private room in a restaurant. Libraries or other public spaces may be an option as well. Make sure you have privacy and that you are not competing with other gatherings adjacent to your room. I hate hearing “Celebration” by Kool & the Gang from the room next door during a presentation on the U.S. economy.  

Who will be invited: Clients, prospects, COIs, local officials and other friends of the firm as well as their spouse or significant other. In addition to a spouse or significant other, always encourage people to bring along a guest. These guests become new prospects for the firm. Some event planners will say for every 10 invites you send out, you will receive two positive replies. Always hard to judge. Invite more than you think.

Invitations: A good-looking/creative invitation will help sell the event. Usually you want the invites in the hands of people four weeks prior to the event and should explain times, location, subject, etc. They can RSVP via the phone, email or by return postage-paid card and should be returned to and handled by one person in your firm to avoid miscues. Even if people don’t attend, they are appreciative of the fact you thought of them. There is no perfect day to host an event as you will always have some conflicts in scheduling.

One day prior to event: Review with staff all guests who will be attending. Share information that is conversation starters. Highlight those that need to be introduced to a senior member of the firm or guests that should meet a COI, client or prospect. Nothing like having a client act as a salesperson for the firm when you’re introduced to a prospect.  

Format of event: No matter if it’s a breakfast, lunch or an evening reception, allow 30 minutes for your guests to register and mingle with other prior to the start of the presentation. This is a great time to soft sell. Provide name badges for guests and staff. It’s funny how easy it is to forget a good client’s name. Have the senior partner act as an MC and welcome all and introduce speaker. If you give a commercial for the firm, make it very brief. The same person should close the event and thank all for attending. Make your guests feel warm and welcome. Firm members should not mingle with each other. They need to be greeting people and making introductions. Be a connecter. Never ever have your guests pay for drinks, food, etc. This is on your dime, so hold off on the drink tickets. If you want background music, take a harpist over a group of wind musicians. Nice touch if you give guests a small thank you gift for attending with your logo on it. No, a Master Tax Guide is not cool. Give them a leather bookmark, flash drive or something related to the presentation. 

The day after: Gather the team and go over all the contacts, important introductions, significant conversations and promises made to your guests. All guests should receive a note or email thanking them for attending. Key people who didn’t show up receive a sorry you couldn’t be with us note. Leverage the event by sending out a press release about the event and pictures.

Let your creativity go in orchestrating a memorable event for your guests as that world stage and Caramel Frappuccino await you and your firm.

Nicholas D. Keseric Jr. is the director of practice growth with Mulcahy, Pauritsch, Salvador & Co, a Chicago-area middle-market CPA firm, and a partner with MPS Capital Advisors-Mergers & Acquisitions.

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