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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. 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 included a picture of one of the children and some information about Amani’s work.
Here’s the card that one advisor sent:
And 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 that 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. My article “A Small Gift with a Lasting Impact” pointed out the importance of a thank you being personal, unexpected and not self-serving, and my article, “Client Gifts that Stand Out” gave examples of gifts that make an impact.
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 were 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 donated 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 Thanksgiving cards.
In the interests 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. Friends of Amani U.S. has lined up a printer from whom you can order cards with the same cover at the top of this article, that customized with your picture and message and including the card with the smiling Amani boy that you see above. It will cost $400 plus postage for 500 cards (as well as a donation to Amani) – an investment that will send a very positive message to your clients.
I know of only one downside to doing this. Once you do it, clients will expect you to continue doing it. But as long as you’re comfortable making the commitment, 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.
For more information about ordering Thanksgiving cards from Friends of Amani U.S. contact Valerie Todd: [email protected].
Dan Richards conducts programs to help advisors gain and retain clients and is an award winning faculty member in the MBA program at the University of Toronto. To see more of his written commentaries, go to www.danrichards.com.
Read more articles by Dan Richards