For financial planners, like most service professionals, our existing clients are often one of the top sources for new business. Our clients help us grow our business by making direct referrals, chatting about their experiences with friends and family, and providing references to help us convert prospects to new clients. We ask current and former clients to do much to help us grow our practices, so it is important that we also devote ample energy to thank them for their business and their support.
“Thank you” can certainly start with a quick email offering appreciation for a referral or an embossed greeting card at the holidays. However, I like to think about the phrase popularized by Howard Schultz of Starbucks who urged his managers to “look for innovative ways to surprise and delight our customer.” If you hope to rely upon the help and goodwill of your clients to further grow your practice, it is crucial that you exceed their expectations and do much more for them than you hope that they will do for you.
Surprise and Delight
Instead of viewing client appreciation as a chore to check off of the list, spend time thinking about how you can surprise and delight your own clients. Perhaps you work with a service provider—anyone from your dry cleaner to your insurance broker—who exceeds your expectations so much that you are always delighted to interact and eager to send more business their way. What would it take to make many of your clients feel the same way about you? How can you go the extra mile, not only in the services that you provide, but in the way you show your clients how much you value your relationships?
In my practice, I start with the lost art of the handwritten card, which stands out more than ever now that we spend all day communicating in short bursts on a smartphone. I send personalized, handwritten thank-you notes to every prospect I meet as well as to every client on his or her birthday. Births, weddings and other milestones warrant a small gift as well.
Client Appreciation Events
At least once per year I host client appreciation events structured as fun and engaging outings. Because my practice is focused on parents of young children, my recent events have featured a top family photographer in a lovely outdoor setting. Many parents often lament that they haven’t taken formal photos of their children or family often enough, so I garner high participation (and gratitude) for the opportunity to easily have free, high-quality photos taken. Plus, the format of this event gives me the opportunity to meet my clients’ families and enjoy a few minutes of conversation with each of them. These events cost me less than $1,000 and provide a tremendous boost in the goodwill I experience not only from the clients who attend, but from those who were unable to make it as well.
Developing additional ways to thank your client can at first feel like another high-effort item to add to your to-do list, but you’ll quickly find that investing in appreciation can not only help you build a better practice, but increase your own satisfaction in the work you do. What innovative ideas have you used to surprise and thank your clients?
Kristin Harad, CFP®
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