New and Creative Ideas for Holiday Gifts
Beverly Flaxington is a practice management consultant. She answers questions from advisors facing human resource issues. To submit yours, email us here.
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I’m sure you get asked this a lot at holiday times, but what are some of the more unique gifts or events advisors are doing for clients? We have always sent a lovely box of homemade (from a local vendor) cookies to our clients. Last year some complained they were away over the holidays, and by the time they returned home, the cookies were ruined. We had a very large client say he was “insulted” we would give him cookies when he pays us upwards of $40,000 a year to manage his portfolios.
What are others doing we could learn from?
Thank you for asking me one of the more fun questions I have received this week! This is a very hot topic and I am seeing advisors and firms gift many interesting things. I’ll lay out a sample of options and you can decide, with your team, if any of them fit your culture and client base.
- One of my clients is hosting a holiday philanthropy party. They are inviting clients who either donate to, or otherwise support, different charitable endeavors and are profiling these at a lovely event they will host at a hotel. Each person has five minutes to talk about their charity, and there are going to be flyers and information available – not a sales-pitch, but an informational piece. They may even have a couple of the recipients of the charities speak about their journeys.
- Another client is sending a letter outlining the five charities they are giving money to this year in place of gifts for their clients. They polled clients and got votes for the top five and are splitting a significant contribution amongst those five. Their clients will just get a nice letter outlining the gift, the charities and what they do.
- A firm I previously worked with sent a gift card for masterclass.com. The person receiving it can choose a class to take – everything from cooking to sports and gaming.
- Another firm is holding a multi-generational celebration event with workshops geared to the different generations around important financial topics. They have a few rooms in a hotel and are doing everything from basic financial skills to complex estate planning. Then there is a dinner for the families to either sit together or stay with their own generations. I’ve not seen this before, so I am eager to hear how it goes!
- I learned recently from a client about wonderbox.com, which is an experience in a box – they range in price from around $50 up to several hundred dollars. You could either do a gift card toward this, or for a high-end client buy them the top-of-the-line experience. It’s an interesting concept with many different ideas in one place.
- Another client who is working with different generations gives a gift certificate to Ancestry.com to welcome new clients. They love the chance to go online, with their children or grandchildren, and complete this process.
- There are always the common gifts, and clients tend to enjoy them – a local shop that does nice artisan work in your area (or if they are big and important clients, take the time to find one in their area!), nicely done chocolates, or a box or basket – I like oliveandcocoa.com for some nice choices.
You could do something fun like a holiday party with a sing-along or a presentation by an author or professional shopper who can give ideas on the latest gifts, too.
The ideas range from charitable inclinations (no more stuff!) to food, learning and everything in between. I encourage readers to write in and share some of their best ideas too.
We recently had a very nice event. I work with my two sons, and we had a family-oriented event where they talked about their journey to learn financing. Our older clients were able to consider how and where to bring their children or grandchildren into their discussions.
My problem is this: I am the senior advisor. I have no aspirations or need to bring on new clients. My sons do. They are 29 and 35. But they have not followed up. They have not reached out to these clients. If I ask them to do so they say, “Dad, you have the relationships, not us.”
How do you motivate younger people to take ownership? I cold called for nine hours some days to find new opportunities. But my sons won’t pick up the phone to call even people who are already working with me.
You probably won’t like my responses to your inquiry, but here goes.
- The way you did it doesn’t work anymore. Try as much as possible to remove comments like that from your discussion. I only say this because you will lose credibility with your sons when you reference this. It’s a little of the, “We walked to school for miles in the snow with no shoes and didn’t have cell phones to call anyone” attitude. The fact is that many years ago, dialing and dialing worked fine. Times are different and no one answers the phone anymore.
- Do your sons know what to say when they get a prospect or client on the line? It might be obvious to you, but why exactly are they calling? For an introduction to the next generation? For a survey on how clients liked the event? For a touch-base? They might not know exactly how the call should go, especially if they don’t have much direct contact with these clients.
- Are your sons the best people to make the call, or could this be a hybrid approach whereby you call the client and your son is with you to talk to the client about their family members? This could be a nice way to ease them in without putting them on the spot.
- Are you sons wired the way you are? You might be confident and outgoing and find calling someone you don’t have a relationship with “fun” or “challenging.” But your sons might find it to be tortuous, scary and fear-inducing. I’m being dramatic, but I need to make the point that we’re all wired differently. What works for one person might not work for another. My oldest daughter is my right (and left) arms for my business precisely because she is wired differently from me. She can do things I cannot do, and I would not ask her to take on duties of mine where I know she’d be uncomfortable. No one is right or wrong; it’s just different. Be sensitive to this so you can get the best out of your sons.
- One of my main points of contention with us older folks is categorizing the entire younger generation in one way. You asked, “How do you motivate the younger generation?” This isn’t an issue germane to the entire younger generation; this is about your sons and their training, capabilities and focus. Don’t diminish who they are by categorizing them with everyone else of a similar age. I find it insulting when someone “buckets” me and I’m sure others do too.
You probably won’t appreciate my response, but please – for your sake and the sake of your relationship with your sons, and even for the firm – consider whether you have missed anything and try a different approach going forward.
Beverly Flaxington co-founded The Collaborative, a consulting firm devoted to business building for the financial services industry, in 1995. The firm also founded and manages the Advisors Sales Academy. The firm has won the Wealthbriefing WealthTech award for Best Training Solution for 2022 and 2023. Beverly is currently an adjunct professor at Suffolk University teaching undergraduate and graduate students Entrepreneurship and Leading Teams. She is a Certified Professional Behavioral Analyst (CPBA) and Certified Professional Values Analyst (CPVA).
She has spent over 25 years in the investment industry and has been featured in Selling Power Magazine and quoted in hundreds of media outlets, including The Wall Street Journal, MSNBC.com, Investment News and Solutions Magazine for the FPA. She speaks frequently at investment industry conferences and is a speaker for the CFA Institute.
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