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Happy Valentine's Day

Ways to Tell Clients You Care

By The Editors

We don’t want to get all mushy on you. But it is Valentine’s Day. So what better day to get to the heart of that most rewarding, frustrating and remarkable relationship—the one you have with your clients? Have you told them you appreciate them lately (assuming that you do)? Perhaps some inspiration is in order. We asked a few who excel at it to tell us some favorite—and effective—ways of expressing gratitude and appreciation for clients. Get ready for some truly sweet ideas.

Gerry Riskin

A prominent Washington, D.C., lawyer with whom I have the privilege of working noticed that one of his clients and friends, a general counsel, was favorably mentioned in a short article. He had the article printed onto a wooden plaque with a brass commemorative label and couriered it to him. Needless to say, the recipient was blown away.

Gerry Riskin is a founding partner of Edge International. Gerry consults on strategy with an emphasis on competing for clients. He wrote the book The Successful Lawyer and blogs at Amazing Firms Amazing Practices.

Matthew Homann

This is a simple one, but an all-time favorite tip that doubles as a marketing tip, too. Take your favorite client out to coffee, lunch or dinner and ask him or her, “How do I find more clients like you?” This simple question signals to your client the value you place in your mutual relationship, and it begins a conversation that will fill your practice with more “favorite” clients in the years to come.

Matthew Homann is the founder of LexThink, a legal innovation consultancy. 

Jordan Furlong

We need to remember an important point: Not every client is special. Put differently, every client is entitled to a robust minimum level of competence, service and professionalism, but not every client is entitled to unusual or outsized acts of gratitude and appreciation. You have your “best” clients and you know who they are; make sure they know that, too.

How do you do that? Give them, quietly and discreetly, “inner circle” privileges. These clients get your best rates, in recognition of the volume or frequency of their work and the pleasure of working with them. They receive customized bulletins about their issues or industry. They get invitations to select client events before anyone else. Maybe they even get the cell number you don’t give out to anyone else. Pick your prizes.

Gratitude, to have meaning, has to be earned. Identify those clients who have earned your gratitude and carve out a special niche for them. And then tell them about it. Get the full return on the investment of your thoughtfulness. If they don’t know they’re your best clients, then to quote Billy Joel, will that be a consolation when they’re gone?

Jordan Furlong is a speaker, writer and consultant who helps lawyers and law firms navigate the extraordinary changes in the legal marketplace. He blogs at Law21.

Wendy Werner

I worked with an attorney coaching client who had an affection for one of the same travel locations that I have also visited. At the end of the engagement, as a thank you for his hard work, I enlarged, matted and framed an image of this place. He hung it in his office to remind him of our shared connection and work together.

Wendy Werner is a career coach and practice management consultant for lawyers and professional services firms at Werner Associates, LLC

Mike O’Horo

Some years ago in New York, I stumbled upon a woman who made cufflinks out of old watch movements. They’re my thank-you gift for lawyers who have taken the time to apply our business development principles and processes successfully, and who have subsequently provided great references for me.

Mike O’Horo is a serial innovator in lawyer training. His current venture, RainmakerVT, is an interactive virtual business development training tool for lawyers. 

Ann Lee Gibson

Our very best clients are hungry for and deserve our most au courant insights, intelligence and thought leadership. These intellectual gifts must also be useful enough to benefit their companies, their own clients and themselves. Our gifts must make them look smart and be brightly relevant to their companies’ needs. Our gifts should be exclusive and shared with only a few, not everyone else who would also love to have them. The gifts are best delivered in beautiful wrappings—a metaphor for delivering high-value insights in a high-touch setting. The three examples below are examples of such gifts. And because they are gifts, they are all provided free of charge to clients.

  • Micro-salons. One firm provides a series of small dinner parties (10 people at the table) where (paid) national and international luminaries speak on timely topics about which the guests are quite excited to learn from the horse’s mouth. The dinners last only two hours (from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m.), so everyone can go home at a reasonable hour. The events and the resources to fund them come from the firm’s now-discontinued program of client golf outings and sports team tickets. Clients are over the moon about the value they derive from these intimate gatherings and their introductions to industry and governmental glitterati.
  • Taos retreat. Before moving to the Missouri Ozarks, I lived in beautiful Taos, New Mexico. During that time, I created a two-day summer retreat for my best clients. Naturally, I shared with them my latest, best thinking about business development and competitive intelligence. But my clients particularly enjoyed the chance to workshop their personal, departmental and firm challenges with each other. Since none of the firms competed directly (otherwise, they wouldn’t have been my clients during the same time frame), the conversation was a safe one. Needless to say, everyone loved the private art classes my Taos artist friends organized on photography, painting and creative writing. My clients returned home with fresh industry intelligence and best practices they could put to work immediately.
  • Getting personal after work. Many lawyers and clients come together outside the workplace to relax and do good. For the athletically inclined, camaraderie is heightened through overnight cycling events, ski weekends, hiking trips, scuba diving and Outward Bound retreats. Likewise, lawyers and clients often volunteer together to build Habitat for Humanity homes, man holiday soup kitchens, launch blood drives and carry out domestic and foreign medical missions. People may share key information about their personal and professional goals and challenges during these activities or discover afterward that, having gotten to know each other a little better, it’s now easier to broach these topics back at work.

Ann Lee Gibson advises law firms on new business development. She consults, teaches and coaches in the areas of high-stakes competitions, competitive intelligence and sales presentations. She is the author of the book “Competitive Intelligence: Improving Law Firm Strategy and Decision-Making.”

Categories: Client Service, Daily Dispatch
Originally published February 14, 2013
Last updated August 31, 2020
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