How Argosy Group Created a Profitable and Award-Winning New Event

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How many of us send out an end-of-year survey to our subscribers/members/customers? One SIPA member that does is Simplify Compliance's Argosy Group, and a couple years ago that survey led to a major new initiative.

They asked their PartnerConnect audience—fund managers and investors that they have cultivated for many years—what asset class was missing in their portfolio and what they needed from a conference brand. "The results were overwhelming," marketing manager Karolina Tarczynska wrote in their 2018 first place-winning SIPAward entry for Best Conference Marketing. "We received over 1,100 responses, and both fund managers and investors at 85.5% said they 'would definitely attend' or 'may attend' an event targeted at family offices."

More research, one-on-one discussions with clients and a competitor analysis led to the launch of Family Office Connect, which took place on Oct. 23, 2017, in New York. They received 358 applications to attend, more than double what they had expected. After vetting the list, they allowed 159 people to attend the event. The success led to the decision to produce three such conferences in 2018—one each in New York, Chicago and Santa Monica, Calif.—and two more in 2019. In addition, they've expanded them from a day to a day-and-a-half.

Here are more factors for their success.

Get information from your audience. It all started with that end-of-year survey which they do every year, Tarczynska told me Friday. The first year they got about 800 responses, then over 1100 and this year about 840 so far. They use a prize of a free ticket to one of their events as an incentive for filling it out. "We'll be going over those responses [this] week. We ask our entire a list what new topics they want us to cover, and we'll use that to create new publications, webinars and events."

Make it exclusive. The strategy behind the Family Office Connect marketing campaign was all about exclusivity. "Family offices are notorious in this industry for playing hard to get. The campaign intended to play off of that. Instead of our typical registration process, we made every interested person fill out an application so that we could vet whether or not they would be a good fit for the conference." The approved people who did not initially make the list for the first event were placed on a wait list. Copy on the website was added that read: "This event is now sold out. If you would like to be placed on a wait list, please contact Craig Hooper" and provided them with contact information.

Use your data. They already had an extensive database of industry names but it was essential that they found out who from that database would be the most interested in a family office event. In order to create a targeted list of family offices, investors and fund managers, they turned to webinars and their editorial team. The award-winning Buyouts Insider editorial team had put together the Buyouts Insider's Guide to Family Offices. They were able to "gather information on who clicked through on marketing emails from that campaign as well as know how much each client was willing to spend to get this information."

Put on webinars. In order to give their database more information about the event, they hosted two webinars (with the help of their editorial team; score one for collaboration): "Top Strategies for Raising Money from Family Offices" and "GP Fundraising: Identifying Active Family Offices for Funds, Co-Investments." The two webinars totaled 2,026 registrants. The GP Fundraising webinar had the highest number of registrants in their history. The registrant lists were then given to the sales team who called each registrant to discuss the upcoming conference.

Experiment with new areas. By moving to other parts of the country in 2018, they were able to involve more of their audience as well as new asset classes within family office investing.

Create great content. "We are editorially backed by award-winning journalists who cover these asset classes on a daily basis and are well known as the go-to-source in this industry," Tarczynska wrote.

Promote networking. Argosy's ExecConnect meetings program "gives investors and fund managers a speed-dating type of atmosphere to privately meet for 20 minutes. If they are interested in working with each other, they make plans to meet again. If they don't, they move on to the next opportunity. Fund managers are able to meet with a dozen or more potential investors in a day's time without extensive travel costs." One-on-one face time is a big driver for family offices because a lot of money is involved. They tend to make quick decisions and are willing to take more risk than other types of investors.

Focus on email marketing. Five emails were sent out to 283,173 email addresses. "The premise [was] simply, 'everyone you want to meet with will be at this event so you should be too.'" Tarczynska wrote. "Therefore, we used subject lines such as Elite Family Offices Come Together This October; Your Time Is Valuable. Use It Wisely. and See Who's Attending Family Office Connect 2017. The latter had an open rate of 19.3%, an average 4% higher than opening rates for our other conferences. [See Who's Attending is always a winner for us at SIIA as well.] The sales team received the list of people who clicked through in the email. Those who did not already register online received a phone call to further discuss the conference and whether they would be a good fit.

Use print wisely. Both print and digital advertising were used during the campaign. A digital ad was placed in the PE HUB Wire, their editorial daily newsletter that goes out to over 80,000 users daily. Print ads also ran in their monthly Buyouts magazine. Additionally, they used their access to almost 6,000 followers on LinkedIn to push text advertising directly to their newsfeed.

Get others to recommend your products and events. "The conference provided a great venue to share thoughts with many other family offices and investors. The selective group of service providers made the time spent highly productive and efficient." Testimonials included: "The Partner Connect events are the best organized conferences I have attended this year. Partner Connect events offer asset managers a thoughtful and friendly setting to start the dialogue with potential future investors." "The Family Office Connect event in New York City in the fall was an outstanding Family Office event with great content and large turnout." 

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Ronn Levine began his career as a reporter for The Washington Post and has won numerous writing and publications awards since. Most recently, he spent 12 years at the Newspaper Association of America covering a variety of topics before joining SIPA in 2009 and SIIA in 2013 as editorial director…