A plain birthday card does not suffice for the clients of Rebecca Horwood, director of wealth management at Richardson GMP Ltd. in Toronto.

Horwood insists on including an unexpected treat with the custom-designed cards that she sends to her clients. “This year we’re tacking in a movie pass for two and popcorn. You open up that personalized birthday card and there’s the surprise,” she says.

Finding ways to differentiate those personal touches both for typical milestones, like birthdays and anniversaries, and for unexpected occasions can differentiate your client appreciation strategy from that of other advisors. The latter is particularly crucial when it comes to demonstrating your consideration for clients’ priorities.

For instance, consider sending a travel book or a journal to someone who is preparing for his or her dream vacation.

“That creates a wow moment because out of the blue, you thought of them,” says Sara Gilbert, founder of Strategist Business Development in Montreal.

Horwood’s gestures often have a physical gift attached, which can be as simple as a $10 coffee shop gift card or as elegant as a vintage bottle of champagne. These gifts are meant to be visible and act as a reminder to clients that she and her team think about them constantly, says Horwood.

These gestures or personal touches do not have to be expensive, but they must fit the client. If you send a gardening book to a client who has no interest in gardening, it may seem as though you do not listen to that person.

So, recording those details is an important part of succeeding in this aspect of your client appreciation strategy. Use your client relationship management system to track the information your clients share with you about their families, plans, hobbies and other interests.

Your entire team should have access to this information as well, so that they can include any notes they take from their own encounters with clients, says Rosemary Smyth, founder of Rosemary Smyth and Associates in Victoria.

And just as most advisors have a calendar system for keeping track of essential dates for their businesses and teams, she adds, they should also have one that tracks important client dates, such as birthdays, anniversaries and vacations.

If you wonder how to impress clients on their birthdays, you are not alone. Gilbert is often asked this question by advisors. The answer is simple, she says: pick up the phone.

In addition to showing the client you have taken time out of your day to acknowledge this event, a phone call is also an opportunity to connect outside of a review meeting and update yourself with what is going on in his or her life.

“Everything that happens around them is something you can do in terms of your service,” says Smyth.

For example, a client may tell you that there is a new grandchild in the family. The phone conversation is a chance for you to congratulate this client and make a note to discuss registered education savings plans with him or her at the next review meeting.

Although birthdays and major holidays represent obvious opportunities to reach out, you can stand out by finding other occasions to commemorate, according to Gilbert.

A good reason to get in touch is to acknowledge your clients’ accomplishments, such as a new job, new property or the anniversary of a client’s business. Gilbert knows one advisor who reaches out to clients when they have reached a certain level of assets under management (AUM).

“You’re celebrating the success of the person. If I was able to reach $1 million [in AUM], it’s a big personal achievement,” says Gilbert. “It’s not as much the million dollars that you’re going to note as much as the personal achievement behind it.”

This is the third article in a three-part series on client appreciation.