I’ve always said that clients want a relationship with you – not “the professional you,” but the real you. Done right, it helps clients bear their souls in the planning process and feel deep connections that they want reciprocated. At the same time, many advisors really appreciate the trust their clients place in them and want to find ways to thank them for their continued business. A simple card isn’t enough, but it is a great start. In today’s guest post, Dan Richards shows how a few Canadian advisors thanked clients for their business that bridged the gap between business and personal.
Every advisor wants clients to feel acknowledged and appreciated. Despite that, many clients feel that they are just one of many names and faces that their advisor deals with and are unsure just how much their advisor values their business.
That’s why I was impressed by the response that four advisors received from thank-you cards they sent to clients leading up to Thanksgiving in Canada, where I am based. As Canadian Thanksgiving is in early October, in late September these advisors sent cards. The front of the cards read “A Thanksgiving Message.”
Inside, there was a picture of the advisor with either his family or his team. While the copy for each advisor’s card varied slightly, the basic message was thanking clients for the opportunity to work with them and letting clients know that the advisor had made a donation to support the work of Amani Children’s Home at the foot of Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. The advisor also included a picture of one of the Amani children and some information about Amani’s work.
Here’s the card that one advisor sent:
Here’s how one client responded to her card:
Subject: Just got the best card
I just got the best Thanksgiving card in the mail that I have ever received!!! Love the family picture AND the note about your support of the Amani Children’s Home. A totally worthy cause and so beneficial to the recipients. I support some children in Haiti and Dominican Republic so they can get proper food and education.
Have a wonderful Thanksgiving.
The good news is that you can learn from this experience – if you don’t currently send clients Thanksgiving cards, make this the year that you start.
Why don’t clients feel appreciated?
It’s useful to think about why clients don’t feel valued. The issue is not that advisors don’t appreciate their clients; most advisors are deeply grateful for the chance to work with their clients.
And it’s not that advisors don’t thank their clients.
Instead, the problem is that those thank-yous are ignored and lost in the noise of the busy lives that everyone leads. As an example, think about the last time a supplier sent you an invoice with the message at the bottom:
“Thank you for your business.”
How much attention did you pay to that message? For clients to truly feel thanked, your message has to stand out. Some advisors do this with gifts; the key is to make those gifts personal, unexpected and not self-serving. Some advisors take key clients out to an annual birthday lunch as a thank you. One advisor recognizes the birth of clients’ children or grandchildren by sending them a laminated copy of the birth announcement in a frame, with a note of congratulations.
But you don’t have to spend a lot of money on gifts for clients to feel valued. The right personal touches can work, also. At the end of client meetings, one advisor walks clients to the elevator lobby, presses the down button and waits for the elevator to come. Then she gets into the elevator with her clients and continues her conversation. At the front door of her building, she says to clients, “Thank you again for coming in today, and I want you to know how incredibly grateful I am to have you as clients.” This works because it is personal, unexpected and not self-serving. And it’s authentic, reflecting this advisor’s personality.
The question is how you adapt that principle to Thanksgiving cards.
The formula for success in Thanksgiving communication
There are three reasons that the Thanksgiving cards that these advisors sent had a powerful impact on clients:
- If you want to say thank you, Thanksgiving is a natural time to do it. Year-end holiday cards can work as well, but the fit with a thank you is not as natural.
- Family photos create an emotional connection. Even if you want to feature your team, consider a group photo of your entire team with everyone’s family.
- The right charity can deepen the emotional bond with clients in a way that resonates and that they will remember.
For most people, anything to do with kids creates a natural connection – and the more you focus on the individual children that you are helping, the better. One of the advisors who sent the Thanksgiving cards commented that he has sent year-end holiday cards in the past from a local hospital and never got a response close to what he received from the cards for the children’s home in Africa. Part of the reason that this worked was the insert card that showed one of the children at the home smiling at the camera.
In fact, this advisor got six thank-you emails from clients. Just as we know that when one client complains there are another 10 who feel the same way but don’t verbalize it, when one client says thank you, there are 10 more clients who are thinking this but not expressing it.
You may already be supporting a charity that would resonate with clients, if you let them know that you had made a donation as a thank you for the chance to work together. If you don’t have a charity in mind, then you might consider the U.S. charity for Amani Children’s Home, the same charity that got such a positive response with the clients who received the Thanksgiving cards. (In the interest of full disclosure, I visited Amani on a trek up Mount Kilimanjaro in 2004, and for the past nine years, have co-chaired a fundraising dinner for them in Canada.)
I know of only one downside to doing this. Once you do it this once, clients will expect you to continue doing it. But as long as you’re comfortable making that commitment, perhaps alternating donations to a charity that works internationally with one that works in your community, letting clients know how grateful you are for the chance to work together is one of the best investments you can make in deepening client bonds.
Dan Richards is a Canadian financial industry veteran who works with top performing financial advisors, retail asset managers and advisory firms to adopt to new competition in a value-driven environment. If you’re interested in doing a thank you card similar to what’s described here, and would like Friends of Amani U.S. to be the beneficiary, you can contact Valerie Todd at Valerie.firstname.lastname@example.org for pricing and ordering information.
The opinions and views expressed herein are those of Dan Richards. SEI bears no responsibility for their accuracy. Dan Richards are not affiliated with SEI or its subsidiaries