Three tips for creating client-winning thought leadership events

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Trent McLaren
Head of Accounting & Global Partnerships
Practice Ignition
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Most accountants these days will have experienced what it’s like to go to a thought-leadership event.

You know the buzz and excitement you feel when you come back from a good event: the plans you make, the relationships you build and the memories you create - all thanks to the firm or vendor that put on the event.

What if you could do something similar for your clients? Perhaps not to the scale of a QuickBooks Connect, for example, but an event designed to help connect your clients with your connected or referrals partners. A chance to pass on what you learned when you attended your last conference.

Tayabali Tomlin is a great example of this with their ‘Big Event’. They’ve created an environment for their clients and their clients’ clients to come and learn from world class speakers and entrepreneurs. Because we know that if we can help our clients grow, we’ll grow our firms as a result. So imagine if you created your own events: whether it be a one-off or a roadshow. 

Last month I was asked to speak at an accounting firm’s roadshow for their clients. We did three locations over two days, morning and evening sessions, talking through the transformation of becoming a true cloud business. Work anywhere, be anywhere. Cloud Freedom.

We spoke to close to 90 people in that time. Existing clients, new clients, other suppliers and referral partners. The overall feedback was outstanding. Information, non-sales pitch environment. The event was educational and inspirational driven. The goal was to show people another way to do their business. Efficient, data-driven businesses running on automative technologies. 

Take a moment to consider what kind of impact you could have on your clients. What conversations you could open if you got them in front of an inspirational, educational speaker.

As an added bonus, such events also help you create momentum. Every conversation leading up to the event is all about the event. The buzz, the excitement. You’re telling everyone that they need to be there! The event happens, we get caught up in the moment. We take photos, we tweet, we post on social media and then we spend the next two weeks telling everyone how great the event was and look forward to running another one in the near future. 

This is where the magic happens. This a chance for you to step out from the crowd and be a leading firm in your area. Now in order to do this, there are three things I’d recommend you review and implement to run a fantastic event. 

  1. Create clear goals on what you want to achieve from the event. You need to know WHY you’re running an event in first place. Is it to attract new customers? Is it to create cross-referral relationships and selling opportunities? Perhaps it’s a branding or marketing exercise. A way to put your firm on the map in your regions. Or maybe it’s your way of keeping the engagement running hot with your existing clients in the hope they’ll bring new clients. Either way, sit down, review and understand what it is you want out of these events.
  2. Decide what type of event you want to run. For me there’s always three types of events or content you can work with. Educational, inspirational or a selling event. And if you’re really clever you might blend all three components into your event. It’s important that you’re aware what content you’re putting out. If everything is educational, then by the end of the session you may find you’ve overloaded people. There’s only so much the brain can take in, which is why it’s good to break it up. You might start and end the session with inspiration, put education in the middle, with a selling component towards the end, to help you close new business and bring on new clients. Either way, depending on the size and structure of your event, break it down into these groups and decide what you’re putting out to your base.
  3. Work on your strategic partnerships. These events are a great opportunity to fuel your referral groups and partnerships. Maybe it’s real estate, financial advisors, SMSF, audit, integration partners or software companies. All of these groups have a vested interest in your event. You all share the same target market to some degree. Speak with your partners, suppliers and find out how they can be involved in your event to make it a success. 

What do you want to achieve? What type of event do you want to run? Who in your referral groups or networks can benefit or add value to your event?

Outside of that ensure you give yourself minimum 12 weeks to recruit and invite people to your event. Which means you may need four to six weeks prior to that to book a venue, line up your speakers, work on your marketing plan and really get things firing.

The biggest mistake I see is when a firm does not place any priority on their event and it ends with low attendance numbers. If you’re going to run an event. Then run the event with full steam. You’ll get out of it what you put into it. Also, it’s a great opportunity to further develop your team. Give them some responsibility to learn, let them be accountable. 

There are many types of event that could work for you. It could be face-to-face. It could be a webinar, a virtual conference or even a Google hang-out. It’s up to you and what works in your capacity. And remember not all events need to be huge. You might get 300 people, you might get 30. At the end of the day, it’s worth remembering what you want to get out of it. I’ve seen rooms of 50 convert more sales than rooms of 200. Why? Because smaller rooms can actually create an intimate atmosphere that is harder to create with large crowds.

Figure out what you want to achieve, make a plan and execute.

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14th Jun 2017 12:12

Yes I think we all prefer smaller venues, for courses anyway.

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