Advisor Perspectives welcomes guest contributions. The views presented here do not necessarily represent those of Advisor Perspectives.Dan Richards

Many advisors struggle with ways to deepen relationships with top clients.  My conversations with top-performing advisors have shown that many succeed at building those relationships by rejecting the approach most advisors employ, and instead adopting an unconventional and low-cost approach built around special events.

When it comes to top clients, it goes without saying that you provide a more in-depth plan and meet more frequently. And of course their calls are returned promptly and their issues attended to first.

The challenge is that many top clients see this treatment as their due – and you’re not going to impress someone by merely delivering what they expect.

That’s why many advisors try to build personal relationships with their most important clients by connecting at a social level – perhaps by inviting them to dinner, to attend a play or a sporting event or by hosting them to a round of golf.

Despite the best intentions on the part of advisors, often these attempts fall short – despite the expenditure of significant amounts of time and money.

First, your top clients are very often pressed for time –another social invitation may be as much of an imposition as a relationship builder.

Beyond this, million-dollar clients enjoy high-end dinners, plays and rounds of golf on their own.  While they might appreciate an invitation, if what you’re doing is in the norm you can spend a substantial amount of money without making a meaningful impact or getting an appreciable return.

Hosting top clients to an event that’s ho hum costs you in two ways. First are the dollars you spend.  But perhaps the bigger cost is the lost opportunity to build deeper relationships – you only have so much face time with key clients, and you can’t afford to squander that time on a routine experience.

Focusing on unique experiences

Here’s a simple test of whether a client activity is a good use of time and money:  Will your clients vividly remember this in three to six months?

If the answer is no or if you’re not sure, the time and money you spent won’t give you the relationship building payoff you’re seeking. To make an impact, create unique experiences that strike a chord with clients and that they’ll recall many months from now.

Here’s a simple three-step process to make an impact with your top clients:

First, for each of your top clients, identify their passions.  Are they foodies or wine lovers? Do they love opera, ballet, country or classical music?  Are their favourite charities related to third-world countries or to helping troubled youth in the city where you live?

Next, put clients into common groups – find two or three client couples that share a common passion.

Finally, seek out a unique charitable or fundraising event in your community that caters to that passion, to which you can invite these clients as your guests.

This doesn’t have to be a high-priced dinner – in fact often the big-ticket events tend to be too large and impersonal to have an impact. Instead seek out smaller, community-based events where your dollar will go further and where the experience will be unexpected and more personal.  Look  for events that are high impact, not necessarily high cost – in particular, look for small-scale grass roots charities or events at the university in your community.