I recently wrote about how financial advisors can 10x their firm in a short period of time. 

We are now making a big new bet on something old, which we believe will increase our business by 20x in the next 5 years. 

Mark my words! 

While the industry is yelling at you about content, blogs, SEO, email marketing, social media, podcasts, etc., it’s time to start doing the complete opposite. Artificial Intelligence will likely shrink most marketing departments since people will be able to execute tactics at scale. 

Over the next 5-10 years, while the rest of the world is drooling over AI, we think the secret to how advisors can 20x their firm will come from something very different: In-person events. 

How it all started

Hear me out; I have a story to tell…

It was early 2011, and I was attending a broker-dealer conference in Austin. I was at the bar talking to one of the executives at the BD, complimenting him on the extremely well-run event. Everything was top-notch from the food, lodging, and agenda.

He looked at me and said, “Reward trips and events are the number one client retention tool.”

My first reaction was, “WTF are you talking about?” Not service, tech, products, or literally anything else?

I was young and didn’t appreciate the relationship-building part of this business. The product and service are table stakes, but people appreciate the people part of life.

I took that to heart and decided to launch our first in-person event the following year – an annual advisor due diligence conference.

The owner of Potomac at the time lived near Truckee, CA so we decided to use that as our location. I gathered as much sponsorship money as possible, and we picked up the tab for the rest.

It was a huge chance because of all the unknowns.

  • Will the advisors want to take time out of their schedule to attend?
  • Is the location convenient for all attendees?
  • Will the BDs approve of the event?
  • Will the weather hold up?

Guess what? It all worked out just fine and the initial event was a smashing success.

Was it difficult working with all the different personalities involved in throwing an event?

Of course, but, as the great coach Dan Quinn said at his Commanders welcome conference, “There’s nothing I enjoy more than doing hard shit with good people”.

Over the following years we continued to hold the advisor conference in cities such as Baltimore, Washington DC, Annapolis, New Orleans, Wickenburg (Arizona), and Pittsburgh.

Here are some highlights from a great event just outside our Nation’s Capital:

Pull out the Bazooka!

Fast forward to the beginning of 2023 and we decide to take our events to an entirely new level.

We tripled the head count at our annual advisor conference without even knowing we could fill the room.

At the beginning of the year, I was staring at a contract that would increase the number of advisors from 20 to 60 to the tune of an additional 175k.

Even though I knew I could get sponsorship support from our great partners, nothing is ever guaranteed. Also, we only take sponsorship money from people who we do business with and being at the conference will benefit them. This limits our ability to cover the entire cost.

We took the chance.

Not only did we pack the room, but we had a waitlist and had to turn people away.

People are yearning for face-to-face, and the more this AI shit continues, this yearning will exponentially increase.

Case in point was the biggest risk we have ever taken at Potomac, which was 99% selfish, but we got a suite at Commanders Field (Formerly FedEx Field).

I have been a lifelong Redskins/Commanders fan, and the thought of being able to host due diligence events in this type of atmosphere was too much to turn down.

It was a very risky move, considering the logistics involved. It pains me to admit this, but the stadium is a total dumpster fire and the team, led by Snyder the devil, has been the laughingstock of the NFL for the last two decades.

With new ownership and a commitment to the fans, it was my turn to make a commitment to the team, but would this be a total waste of money?

I asked around a bunch of trusted industry contacts and was told repeatedly not to do this. It would be a burden trying to fill the suite with financial advisors because…

  • Advisors don’t want to deal with stadium traffic.
  • Advisors don’t want to travel on Sunday’s.
  • Advisors are too cheap to pay for their own flights and hotel rooms.

To quote my mentor, the great Harvey Spector, “They told me I couldn’t, that’s why I did it.”

Guess what?

Not only was it worth every penny it was one of the most eye-opening experiments in Potomac history.

Experience matters. Anyone can host a steakhouse dinner, yawn!

In hindsight, it was so obvious that this would be a hit.

The NFL is the premier sports league in the world. The suite experience and field passes are second to none.

As a firm, we get to spend 4-6 hours with our employees, top advisors, and prospects discussing all things Potomac. If you are going to host a due diligence event you might as well do it in a unique space.

Of course, it wasn’t perfect, and we ran into every roadblock imaginable. There were plenty of last-minute inconsiderate cancellations, unresponsive dipshit people, and portions of my time was spent being a travel agent/planner.

Not to mention that we lost 7/8 home games and while everyone was cheering in my suite, I was thinking of ways to pile drive each of them. But I digress…

The 2024 Takeover

We came into the year on cloud nine with the success of the various events we did last year.

Our business motto has always been to strip out nonsense and double the f/** down on things that work.

  • Our annual advisor conference, now named “Remix,” will be at the Hewing Hotel, a cornerstone in Minneapolis’ historic North Loop. (Next year the headcount will go from 60 to 120 because that’s what we do!)
  • We renewed the lease on the suite at Commanders Field which will include.
    • International Soccer (We got Messi!)
    • Commanders Games
    • Army Navy
  • We secured a suite at the US Open in NYC for the day session before Labor Day.
  • Quarterly events (happy hour, top golf, etc.) in each of our 6 Sales territories.
  • Commitments to 8 Broker Dealer/Platform/Custodian conferences which always include a handful of dinners and events.

With the commitment to events, we must make sure the resources are available to make it run smoothly.

We hired a full-time Communications Associate and Events Associate to supercharge our efforts.

We don’t half-ass things around here…

The Takeaway for Financial Advisors

Covid was horrible in many ways but IMHO the effect on the social fabric of our country will be everlasting.

Many of us have become anti-social, depressing homebodies. Staring at a f/**ing computer all day without seeing an actual human is no way to live. It’s impossible to get to know people over Teams. Breaking bread with people matters.

We need human connection to build trust.

While the advisor community is fighting on Twitter, writing blogs, and incessantly email marketing, the next 10 years of your success will be defined by doing the complete opposite.

Organize events and lots of them.

Build the connection and trust with your client face-to-face. Shake some hands and share some laughs.You know the product wholesalers that you are ignoring? Stop being a dick.

If you use their product pick up the phone and lean on them to help with events. Not only are they happy to help, but they can also offer a plethora of information about the kind of events and logistics that have worked.

Stop overthinking the event and just do something.

There are a ton of small businesses across the country that would love the patronage. Be creative and pick up the phone. It doesn’t always have to be fancy, own your personality. We are putting a lot of money behind the simple fact that humans need human interaction.

I hope to see you at one of our many events.

Manish Khatta

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