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September/October 2018

Simple Steps

Rewarding Your Best Clients: Going Beyond Discounts

Allison C. Shields

It’s natural to want to reward your best and most loyal clients who give you their business, respect and listen to your advice, pay on time and refer others to you. While occasionally giving your best clients a discounted fee isn’t necessarily a bad idea, overdoing it isn’t the best thing for your bottom line—and it may not be the best way to serve your clients or to keep them coming back.

Over time, discounts can lose their impact or devalue your services in the mind of the client. And while a discount might be nice, it likely won’t make a big or lasting impression on your clients. Instead of limiting how you thank loyal clients to a discount, get creative with other ways to express your appreciation for their business.

Send a Handwritten Thank-You Note

With increased reliance on smartphones and other digital devices, it’s rare to receive a handwritten letter or note these days. Invitations, holiday cards and thank-you notes are frequently sent electronically, making handwritten notes a novelty.

A heartfelt handwritten note can mean a lot to a client—and it may remain on their desk or bulletin board for some time, serving as a physical reminder of your great service and their experience working with you. (Just make sure your handwriting is legible!)

Send a Personalized Gift

Note the use of the word “personalized.” Please don’t send clients thank-you gifts with your logo all over them. There is a time and place for promotional items, and thanking your best clients isn’t one of them. It may be appropriate to send a client a gift with the client’s logo, though, especially to celebrate a milestone client event, like the anniversary of the incorporation date of the business for a client you helped get started.

Even if you decide to send all of your clients the “same” gift, such as a book, you can personalize the selection of the specific book to the individual needs and interests of your clients. A client who is a history buff might enjoy Alexander Hamilton, the book the famous musical was based on, and the CEO of that new start-up might be interested in Michael Hyatt’s Your Best Year Ever.

Pay attention to what your clients say about their interests and what is important to them to create an expression of appreciation truly customized for the client. The more personalized the gift, the more impact it will have.

For example, if you have a socially conscious client, you could make a charitable donation in their name. Where appropriate, you might extend your thank-you gift to the client’s staff, especially if you interact with them regularly. Send breakfast or lunch to a client’s office on a special day or on a day when you’ll be conducting a meeting in their office.

Even a thoughtfully chosen gift card can make an impression—a Starbucks card for the coffee lover, an Uber gift card for the business traveler or a gift card to a local theater for the movie buff—and leave the client feeling that you care for them, not just for their case.

Help Your Clients' Businesses or Make Their Lives Easier

Some clients, especially business clients, may not be permitted to accept gifts from their attorneys. But that does not mean that you can’t be creative in expressing your appreciation. If your client isn’t permitted to accept gifts, there are still plenty of options. And sometimes these options are even more valuable to the client than a gift would be.

You could provide extra services at no additional charge. These could be ongoing services, such as a yearly audit or review of a client’s business or estate planning documents. Extras don’t even have to be legal services. Provide an injured client with a day of free housecleaning services or pay for child care for a single parent to provide a much-needed break.

One-time freebies work too. For example, a residential real estate attorney could provide clients with packing and moving checklists or information about the client’s new neighborhood.

Another way to express your gratitude to clients and help them in the process is to invite them to accompany you to an industry or networking event. Not only will this give you additional time spent with the client, strengthening your relationship, but also they’ll see you in another context, outside of the office. You can introduce the client to others who might benefit them or their business.

When appropriate, give your client free publicity. Although this won’t work for certain practice areas, and you should always discuss it with your clients in advance and obtain their written permission, you can increase your clients’ exposure and provide them with positive press by featuring them in your social media posts, on your website or in your newsletter.

Hold a Client Event

Thank clients by providing them with information, seminars or training free of charge. You can do this at the client’s location, in your own office or elsewhere. You don’t even need to provide the content of the training or seminar yourself in all instances; you could bring in an outside speaker to provide the content while you host the invitation-only event just for your clients.

If an informational seminar or training isn’t your style or isn’t appropriate for your practice area, you might prefer to hold a more social client event. Client appreciation events come in all shapes and sizes. You can hold a small gathering in your office conference room, invite a group of clients to a private dinner at a restaurant or go all out at a catering hall. If you want to do something more informal, you could hold a barbecue or picnic for your clients and their families at a local park.

Timing it Right

Whether you’re holding a client event, sending a thank-you note or gift, or offering an additional service to your best clients, give some thought not only to the expression of appreciation itself but also to the timing. For example, you might want to send a handwritten thank-you note to a client immediately after their matter is concluded, but a gift might have more impact when it is timed for a special occasion, such as the anniversary of the start of your client’s business.

Many lawyers like to send gifts or notes to clients around the holidays. But, to stand out, you might want to send gifts at an unexpected time rather than around the holidays. The same goes for client appreciation events. Everyone is already overloaded with parties and other obligations around the holidays at the end of the year, so think about holding your client event at a different time of the year. Keep your clients’ schedules in mind when planning for your events as well. For example, if you have many clients who are accountants, holding a client event—whether an educational seminar or a client appreciation party—may not be the best idea during the tax season.

There are no limits to what you can do to show your appreciation for your clients, and it doesn’t have to break the bank. The next time you want to say thank you to a client, be creative and see what happens.

Allison C. Shields

President, Legal Ease Consulting, Inc.

Allison C. Shields works with lawyers and law firms to develop strategies to improve marketing and client service, and increase productivity, efficiency and profitability. She is the co-author of several books, including LinkedIn in One Hour for Lawyers (ABA 2013) and How to Do More in Less Time: The Complete Guide to Increasing Your Productivity and Improving Your Bottom Line (ABA 2014). [email protected]

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