Exceptional Marketing Events: Thinking Outside the PowerPoint
Here’s an uncomfortable truth: most marketing events are boring. Who isn’t tired of bad steaks, dark rooms and market-volatility PowerPoints? Is there some rule against mixing business and pleasure when you’re on the hunt for solid prospects?
Not in my experience. It’s true that clients today are well informed and often skeptical. But that’s no reason to think you must always play it straight to land them.
In fact, a great event is like a great speech: it makes participants feel inspired, energized, eager for more. That’s a mindset conducive to doing good business.
One of my favorite events occurred on a hot July night in Texas. It also happened to be my first attempt at marketing financial advisors by aligning with a company selling to a similar client base.
The locale was the Pinto Ranch store in Houston. Pinto Ranch is a high-end purveyor of all things in the Western theme, from fashionable straw hats to trophy belt buckles to more styles of cowboy boots than I could catalog here.
Pinto Ranch crossed over in key areas with the financial advisors I worked with: its clients were affluent, region-proud, and mostly female, with a make-your-own-luck sensibility. Like many business owners, the Pinto Ranch boss initially found the juxtaposition of his merchandise and financial advice odd, but persistence paid off.
Eighteen female advisors and 183 of their clients and friends turned out for a two-hour event, which bore the theme ‘Saddle Your Own Horse.’ The evening featured quesadillas, margaritas, a singing cowgirl and demonstrations courtesy of the Ranch, including hat shaping, boot fitting and the making of a custom leather saddle.
I wrote and presented a 20-minute talk, complete with inspiring cowgirl stories and lessons in financial empowerment. I could have let the Pinto Ranch setting and margaritas do all the work, but I wanted to expand on the ideas underpinning many of the messages in the advisors’ pitches. So I embedded lessons: Stay Focused on Your Dreams (the beginning of the financial planning process); Always Get Back On the Horse (keep a long-term focus on your investments); Be a Trail Blazer (hone your negotiation skills and advocate for your personal finances).
Did the prospects pick up the soft sell? Of course! But they also soaked up the underlying event message, which I called “Git ‘er Up” (don’t wait to set up meetings and start planning, which is relevant to prospects and advisors alike).
Afterward, the advisors were ecstatic about the feedback they received, which crystallized a few basic lessons about a great marketing event:
- It is not unprofessional to let your clients have fun. Money and investment is serious business, but everyone appreciates some levity. Plus, what’s new attracts attention.
- When someone else hosts/presents, you can network. Engage a speaker or tangential business in the event and you’re freed up to talk and prospect.
- You need to be friendly, not a friend. Yes, it’s fun, but don’t take off your business hat. Take time to listen and warm up, but don’t forget about your underlying purpose of the event—or your partner’s.
- Keep an eye out for gifts. At Pinto Ranch, I stocked up on cowhide-print cell phone holders, great follow-up tokens to send to potential clients. They weren’t expensive, and they were nice mementos of a great networking night.
People are better storytellers than PowerPoints. Try to imagine how you can appeal to the characteristics of your ideal client with a little more flair. At the end of the night, you might well have earned your own margarita.
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