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A Gifted Approach to Client Appreciation and Holiday-Giving

Whether it’s Christmas, Hanukkah or another cause for celebration that triggers you to pause, over-eat, connect with loved ones, the winter holiday is a blessing. It also reminds us to stop and appreciate our clients, especially if we haven’t done so during the year. 

A few years back I was working on a project and my law firm client retained a well-known Vancouver design firm. On the eve of Thanksgiving, all of us on the project received pumpkin pies with a note of appreciation attached. Simple and sweet. It was their strategy to offer a memorable token of appreciation during at time when they weren’t competing with a mountain of other shiny or sparkly gifts and cards. It worked.

Giving your best

If your clients — especially your best clients – haven’t felt your love recently, the time is approaching to make that right. While we’re still enjoying the bounty of fall, it’s hard to get our heads around winter holidays, but we must.

While we all appreciate every last bill-paying client, some have more promise than others. Your elite group, comprised of your best clients and prospects, referral sources and champions, should know they are recognized and appreciated as such. It’s just good business. We’re human and, like it or not, we make most of our decisions on how we feel about something or someone. 

Set a healthy budget and set out to do something special for each of them. For inspiration, ask your assistants and lawyers who know them best and I’d bet within five minutes you’ll have some thoughtful ideas.

Pressed for time? Ask a staff member to spearhead this effort armed with clear instructions and a budget. There are many safe online sites to shop for special items or you could use a good gift-basket supplier. Don’t ask your staff to create the baskets; it’s not worth the time and effort. Order them from a supplier early and view samples to ensure they are assembled beautifully. Set a budget and develop criteria for which clients will receive a gift basket. If not, your firm runs the risk of spending a small fortune on these gifts, plus the related courier charges.

I’ve also seen lovely intimate events for small gatherings of clients produced to great effect. Name cards are placed at each place-setting, token, but thoughtful gifts are presented with cards signed by all the lawyers the client has worked with. All this fuss amounts to your guests feeling special and valued. It also provides the added benefit of your lawyers spending time with your elite group and reinforcing a positive working relationship.

Now the rest

For the bulk of your clients, a thoughtful card is a good standby. There is much debate about e-cards versus hard-copy cards. E-cards are becoming popular, but some marketers give them thumbs down as they can’t be signed and personalized for each client. It’s also tough for recipients to display an e-card in their office. E-cards are ‘green’ though, and that might outweigh the other limitations. And if your firm’s brand screams innovation or forward-thinking law, an e-card is a good vehicle to strut your mettle with a leading-edge and unique creative experience. They pull at your emotions unlike their hard copy cousins and for this reason, incorporating your charity of choice can be very effective.

Speaking of charities, consider choosing a small lesser-known charity and point clients to their website or include part or all of their mission statement in your holiday message.

And please, budget-permitting, your card should be as innovative as possible. Don’t do what others are doing. We’ve all seen twinkling stars and snow falling gently – I know you can do better.

If the hard version is your card of choice, be sure to choose a unique one that reflects the firm’s brand. If your firm is young and hip, don’t go for a traditional card. Get everyone the client knows to sign the card – including staff – and add a personal handwritten message whenever possible. This takes time, I know, but it’s the biggest advantage over e-cards.

Where to detour

Careful with gifts of alcohol. Just be sure it’s an appropriate gift by asking someone close to the recipient if you don’t know with certainty. Also, navigate union executives, Crown Corporations and government clients carefully where gift-giving is concerned. Many are prohibited from accepting gifts and could even cause the recipient some trouble and embarrassment.

A little extra thought and creativity will bring so much more punch to what might otherwise be considered a necessary, but mundane task. 

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