How can WOW experiences for your clients be scaled while still incorporating the personalization that makes them memorable and meaningful? Head of Knowledge Labs® Professional Development Michael Futterman explains and offers some ideas for going beyond the usual gestures as autumn and the holiday season approaches.
With more than 250,000 people calling themselves financial professionals in the U.S. today,1 it’s certainly challenging to differentiate yourself from the others out there. And while one of the best ways to set yourself apart is through the connections you create with your clients, many financial professionals struggle to apply a deliberate strategy to this practice of creating what we call WOW experiences. Creating meaningful and memorable connections can and do happen spontaneously, but the best providers aren’t making them happen accidentally – they are intentionally and deliberately approaching these experiences as a key differentiator in the marketplace.
With the holiday season now approaching, you’re likely thinking about how you can show appreciation to your clients with gestures, gifts or activities. This is the ideal time to approach this process strategically by examining what makes your clients – and you – special. However, just like frequent flier reward programs, being a regular at your local watering hole or just knowing that some people are more special to you than others, not everyone is going to get the same level of personalization and attention.
That said, there’s a place for everyone in this effort. The key is to determine how to apply your time and energy to your different tiers of clients, how to time WOW experiences for maximum impact, and how to make sure your gestures take the client’s current state of mind into account.
Data, Data, Data
Making informed decisions about where and how to spend your time creating WOW moments begins with data – both qualitative and quantitative. While each of your clients is unique, it’s also likely that they share certain qualities. Perhaps you have several clients who are wine lovers, pet owners, sports fans, divorcees or art lovers – the possibilities are endless.
At the same time, your clients also provide varying levels of value to your business. Using quantitative data such as assets under management or revenue, then overlaying qualitative information such as hobbies and interests will make choosing scalable WOW experiences more efficient. Sort your book of clients based on the quantitative attributes first, then search for those qualitative similarities to determine where to start.
Timing Is Everything
There are missed opportunities for WOWs all the time – that’s why it’s important to prepare ahead so you can deliver just the right gesture when you know it will matter most. One of the easiest and most effective techniques I use with my clients is simply identifying what is coming up on the calendar and matching that information with their clients’ interests. As I write this, it’s the start of the school year. Many parents with kids starting college are empty nesters for the first time, while others are sending their children off to elementary, middle and high schools. Knowing who these clients are and what is going through their minds throughout these experiences is the key to creating WOW moments. And while upcoming holidays like Halloween and Thanksgiving are low hanging fruit to harvest for WOW experiences, you can also research more whimsical holidays or use The Art of WOW Tool to inspire unexpected opportunities to WOW your clients. The key is being prepared, and that means planning ahead.
Read the Room
When thinking of ways to WOW your clients right now, it’s also important to first assess how they are feeling during this time. Considering we have been coping with a global pandemic for well over a year – with more uncertainty on the horizon – your clients are likely in various stages of physical and mental recovery from this crisis. Their personal experiences and pain points will determine where they fall on this spectrum. While some may be excitedly planning that first post-pandemic vacation or yearning for a chance to gather with friends and family again, others may still be feeling disoriented and frightened.
WOW Ideas to Customize for Your Clients
You’ve identified the different tranches of clients in your book and taken some time to determine if there are patterns you can leverage. Time waits for no one! Now it’s time to start brainstorming specific tactics. The following ideas are just some of the ways you can deliver WOW experiences to your clients based on all your research and planning.
For Clients with Young Children
- Send some plain school notebooks and art supplies with which to decorate them. These types of activities can help kids fight boredom and prepare for the year ahead at the same time.
- Gift your clients’ kids a personalized school bag. It will make them excited to go back to school and they'll always know which backpack is theirs.
- A pumpkin patch is a great family bonding moment. Organize a pumpkin-picking event, family hayride or visit to a corn maze at a local farm.
- Send your client a basket with a nice variety of Halloween or Thanksgiving items – candles, decorations, centerpieces, even freshly baked treats.
For Clients Planning a Long-Anticipated Getaway
- Is your client going on their first post-pandemic adventure? Send them a coffee table book or historical book about a place they’re excited to explore.
- For a client excited to get some sun: send a personalized beach towel.
- Did your client mention an upcoming “staycation?” Send a personalized board game to enjoy in the comfort of their home.
- Have a surprise welcome basket waiting for your client at their next vacation destination.
For Clients Eager to Make New Memories
- Arrange for a photography shoot for a family portrait that can be used for holiday cards.
- Host a tailgate-style party for clients from your area. Contact a college program or professional team and invite a player or assistant coach to speak. If the college is a client’s alma mater, include a new school sweatshirt or other form of updated spirit wear.
- Organize an effort to volunteer at a shelter and invite your clients to help serve Thanksgiving meals.
These ideas are just starting points; if possible, try to put your own personal spin on these gestures or customize them even further based on what you know about the recipient. For example, I know one financial professional whose passion is cooking who makes an extra 10 pounds of his famous sweet potatoes every year. He delivers them to all the clients' homes in his metropolitan area on Thanksgiving Day along with a handwritten note.
The Art of WOW is a powerful way to differentiate yourself as a financial professional. And as we continue to grapple with the pandemic and the related emotional strain, we have a particularly clear opportunity to identify what would appeal to our clients during this time. I hope you’ll find inspiration in the suggestions I’ve outlined here.
1U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2020
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Head of Knowledge Labs Professional Development
Senior Director, Knowledge Labs Professional Development