Sending personalized gifts to clients who remain loyal to you and help generate referrals should be a key way of showing your appreciation and cementing those relationships further.
“Not paying tribute when someone brings value to you in some way is like not feeding the goose that lays the golden eggs,” says Duncan MacPherson, co-founder and co-CEO of Pareto Systems Inc. in Kelowna, B.C. “If you want this person to do it again and to feel really connected to you, it’s a good idea to at least pay tribute and say thank you in some symbolic way.”
Taking the time to think of an appropriate gift can help strengthen client relationships by bringing them to a level beyond portfolio conversations, which is especially important when equities markets are tumultuous.
“You’re going to make good returns some years, you’re going to make bad returns other years,” says Lisa Applegath, a first vice president and investment advisor with CIBC Wood Gundy in Toronto.
Applegath, who has been an advisor for the past 30 years, has made gift-giving a main element of showing appreciation to her clients. Whether she uses books, hand-written cards or makes charitable donations on behalf of her clients, every gesture is a reflection of the in-depth relationships she has with her clients.
Having an associate who handles the transactional side of the practice allows her to focus on having those personal conversations. Applegath says most of her phone calls involve asking clients about what’s new in their lives and have little to do with their portfolios.
Knowing those personal details will allow you to choose the right gifts that will leave an impression on your clients and anyone else that sees them, which is another reason why gifts are critical to your client-appreciation strategy.
“An event is fine, but it’s got the lasting value of a Red Bull [energy drink],” says MacPherson.
Instead, a gift has the potential to become something that has a permanent place in a client’s home. When the client looks at it or a friend comments on it, the client will be reminded of you, says Joanne Ferguson, president of Advisor Pathways in Toronto.
This is a significant benefit to the relationship, especially in cases in which contact between you and your clients is limited to annual visits and a few phone calls a year. If your client appreciates the gift and displays it prominently, he or she is probably thinking of you throughout the year without speaking with you directly.
An additional benefit to giving something the client enjoys is that he or she will probably speak well of you to friends and family, says Sylvia Garibaldi, founder of SG and Associates in Toronto.
While having your name mentioned to others is definitely a bonus, avoid treating the gesture as a promotional tool. If you’re accompanying the gift with a note, for instance, keep it strictly friendly, and do not refer to any products or services, Ferguson says.
If the client is celebrating a significant life event that might require a planning meeting, such as a marriage or the birth of a baby, do not suggest making an appointment in the card. Instead, congratulate him or her on the happy event and make a note for yourself to follow up with a phone call to bring up those topics, Ferguson says.
This is a step you may not even have to take, as the client will probably get in touch with you to thank you for the gift. “At that point, you can do the ‘by the way’ and link it to the business side,” says MacPherson.
On Wednesday: Deciding on an appropriate time to give a gift.