Grandparents, adult children and grandchildren in a Christmas card photo Showing your clients some appreciation doesn’t have to be elaborate or expensive. (Photo: Thinkstock)

December is fast approaching. The holidays are a time of good cheer. You’ve had a good year. Your clients made this possible. You want to have a long-term relationship with all of them. What could you do over the holidays?

Greeting Cards

Sending holiday cards seems the obvious choice. You might think in the digital age, paper holiday cards have gone the way of cassette tapes and VHS recorders. You might be surprised. According to a December 2017 CNBC report, 1.5 billion seasonal holiday cards were sent the previous year. The average age of wealth management clients is 64.2 years old, according to McKinsey. Many still send and receive holiday cards.

Here are three guidelines.

1. Thanksgiving. If you want to avoid being caught in the tsunami of holiday cards your client gets in December, try sending a Thanksgiving card instead.

2. Timing is everything. A successful Bay Area manager once explained: “People remember the first card they get each holiday season.” Get yours out shortly after Thanksgiving.

3. Personalization matters. If your card is sent by a service with your name printed inside, it screams “untouched by human hands.” Get all team members to sign each card. Hand address them. Use stamps.

What Else Can I Do?

Obviously you aren’t going to give cash to a client. It screams kickback. The industry has rules regarding the giving and receiving of gifts. Gifts should be nominal. FINRA rule 3220 references $100 as a value. Your firm likely has rules. Here are some ideas.

1. Invite some clients to (your) holiday party. Clients become friends vice versa. If you entertain at home, invite a few clients to attend. Your professional relationship isn’t discussed during the event. They are friends.

This simple act of kindness can have enormous benefits. They may reciprocate by inviting you to their holiday party. You get to meet their friends. This is a good reason to hold your holiday party early in the season.

2. Holiday open house. Here’s another at home event. It works if you are friends with lots of clients. Consider having a noon to 5:00 PM holiday open house at your home. People stop by as they run their errands or on their way to another event. They stay a short while and exchange holiday greetings.

3. Gift to their charity. They have a favorite cause. You are peripherally involved because they transfer gifts of securities. They’ve made the charity an IRA beneficiary. You make a modest charitable contribution in their name.

4. The coffee mugs. This requires some judgment, because it might be salesy. Your firm produces a tasteful line of logoed accessories that don’t look cheap. You but them a pair or foursome of mugs, wrapping them nicely. If they put them into use, they see the firm name daily.

5. Food items. They are coffee fans. You buy an unusual type of whole bean coffee. You present it as a gift.

6. Framed photo. They attended a client recognition event earlier in the year. They sent you a photo from their vacation. Either way, they look great. Maybe you somehow get a photo of their pet. You get a high-quality copy made professionally, then find a good frame at Ikea or someplace similar. People love photos of themselves.

7. Tickets to the holiday concert. Most communities have one. Tickets are nominally priced. You are planning on going too. You present them with a pair, along with an article talking up the event.

You are Invited to a Party at Their Home

What greater compliment can someone pay? You are an invited guest. You will meet their friends. You need to bring a house present. Being smart, you avoid the obvious blunders. You don’t bring wine to an alcoholic or sugar cookies to a diabetic.

1. Champagne. Can you ever have enough over the holidays? You want true champagne, from that region in France. Stick with a recognizable brand name.

2. Large format bottles. Wine does come in bigger sizes than double bottles. Bottles containing three liters (four bottles) are often called Jeroboams. They make a statement. (These are not boxed wines or jug wine!) Ask your wine store to look out for them and tell you when they arrive. Look for something from Argentina, Chile or California. Ideally at $50 or less. On both of the above ideas, be sure to attach a gift tag.

3. Flowers. Send them in advance. It will help with their decorating. They will know they came from you.

4. Ornament. If they have a wonderfully decorated tree, bring along a fancy ornament that’s been elegantly wrapped. They should remember you for years afterward.

Gift giving over the holidays doesn’t need to be an extravagant expense. You are thankful these people are your clients. You want to show your appreciation.

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Bryce SandersBryce Sanders is president of Perceptive Business Solutions Inc. He provides HNW client acquisition training for the financial services industry. His book, “Captivating the Wealthy Investor,” can be found on Amazon.