Special Treatment: How to stand out from the crowd when it comes to client appreciation

By Dan Richards | February 19, 2004 | Last updated on February 19, 2004
3 min read

(February 2004) How do you communicate that you are truly grateful for your clients’ business? Don’t assume clients understand they are valued. Unless you’ve communicated your appreciation, they may feel taken for granted.

Part of the problem is that many firms go through the motions of saying they value their clients’ business when their behaviour suggests otherwise. As a result, the same old solutions don’t work. Christmas cards tend to get lost in the clutter. Birthday cards can summon up the image of the stereotypical insurance salesperson. Buying clients lunch is not seen as unusual.

For clients to truly understand you care, you have to do something out of the ordinary. After all, if you do what everyone else does, then you’ll be seen to be like everyone else.

In boom markets, some advisors invested in client appreciation events: golf tournaments, wine tasting parties, high-profile speaker sessions and death by chocolate evenings are a few examples.

In tougher times, though, it’s harder to justify the expense — and if too lavish, these events may even send the wrong signal to some clients. You’re also typically limited in how many clients you can thank in this fashion — too large an event and you may water down the impact for your highest net worth clients who are accustomed to more personal recognition.

Targeted client appreciation events can still be very effective. You don’t have to spend a lot of money to let clients know you appreciate their business — you just have to be a little creative about coming up with an approach and be disciplined about implementing it.

One advisor has his assistant start the day by putting the names and phone numbers of every client celebrating a birthday on his desk and makes 9 a.m. birthday calls — “I’m just calling to be among the first to wish you happy birthday.” The uniqueness of these calls and the personal attention they convey sends a powerful message — and he’s had a terrific response.

Note that the best response typically comes the first time you do this, when you have the element of surprise working for you. The more predictable your strategies are, the less impact they have. That said, there’s nothing wrong with clients saying “My advisor always remembers my birthday.”

Another advisor does the same thing for wedding anniversaries, except he makes that call the morning before. (“Just noticed that tomorrow’s your wedding anniversary and I’m calling to say congratulations.”) On some of these calls (especially among his male clients), there’s a pause and then profuse thanks for the reminder.

Another advisor sends one client a day a card that wishes “Happy Anniversary.” Inside, he’s written “In reviewing your file, I noticed that it’s been X years since we began working together. I just wanted to take a moment to thank you for your business.”

In a variation of this theme, I heard another advisor describing how he thanks clients — Thanksgiving cards. This advisor mails cards in early October that say: “As Thanksgiving approaches, I want to thank you for the opportunity to work together over the past year. I am truly grateful.”

It might be the wrong season to think about Thanksgiving, but it’s not the wrong time to buy thank-you cards and write out a note to five clients at the beginning of each week. That’s five more clients who will have a better sense that you truly value the chance to work with them.

How you thank clients isn’t important. What is critical is that you find your own approach to letting clients know their business is valued.

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Dan Richards is CEO of Cartier Partners Financial Group. His column “Marketing Frontlines” appears monthly in Advisor’s Edge. To read previous Advisor’s Edge articles or to subscribe, please click here.


Dan Richards