On one hand, it's as time-honored as sending out holiday cards to your clients and prospects. Or in the days of my grandfather, a bottle of whiskey.

On the other hand, it's a bit of fresh air in the era of content marketing — when every marketer seems to be putting down her sales hammer and hiding true motivations behind helpful how-to's.

It is gratitude marketing.

Common Courtesy

The idea behind it is simple: thanking your clients for their current and past business. One of its main proponents is Michael F. Sciortino Sr., who is a "he wrote the book on it, literally" type. In that book, he explains the three core tenants of gratitude marketing. It's about:

  • Recognizing and developing more meaningful relationships with your long-term clients.
  • Making clients feel appreciated and valued, gaining their trust and ensuring that long-term relationship
  • Staying "top of mind" in a business community to increase client retention, referrals and revenues

Not only does Sciortino have a book by the name of Gratitude Marketing, he also has a firm of the same name that specializes in working with financial advisers.

That's his background — he's been in the financial field since 1983 when he launched a career with E.F. Hutton, eventually making his way to Oppenheimer Funds, where he advised individual advisers on how to grow their practices.

‘Clients for Life’

His book and his current focus on gratitude market come from this experience; the subhead of his book is "how you can create clients for life by using 33 simple secrets from successful financial advisors."

The gratitude pitch to financial advisors is a timely one. They face a particularly disruptive world at the moment. Robo advisors are out to terminate their business. So how can human advisors set themselves apart from algorithm, machine learning-driven advisors? Be human.

Sciortino shares a real example. Years ago, he worked with an advisor who mastered the 'birthday lunch idea." Each month, this fellow called his clients with upcoming birthdays to invite them to lunch. Not only that, he encouraged them to bring three friends.

"What client would not respond to such warmth and gratitude? There's an old saying, 'If you want the heart to prompt the mind to do what logic points to, a warm, caring attitude is vital,'" Sciortino said.

Over the years, the story goes, the advisor's clients invited the same three friends to lunch. The advisor got to know the friends, then took them on as clients.

"Once the friends became clients, he invited them to lunch on their birthdays with the same stipulation: that they bring three of their friends along. Each year, as the number of candles increased, so did the fond memories," Sciortino said.

Just a Start

An amazing business development story, right? But let's be serious, gratitude marketing alone cannot drive leads, build brand awareness and grow business, right?

“Injecting gratitude, along with a serving of happiness, into your communication campaign to engage clients and prospects is worthwhile. But it can't nor it shouldn't serve as the chassis for an external communication campaign," said Jimmy Moock, senior vice president at Gregory FCA, a Philadelphia-area PR firm that specializes in working with wealth managers, investment advisors and other financial service operations.

"Today's contemporary communications and PR campaigns that are proving successful in financial services are much more robust, complete."

For starters, Moock said, advisors must not just be nice; they must show they know their stuff and are able to solve the financial problems people face through guidance and advice.

"This type of approach will carry much more appeal than nonstop expressions of gratitude and kindness," Moock said.

Relationships Count

But perhaps we are thinking of gratitude marketing on too narrow terms. As Sciortino explains, think of it more as a way to gain greater personal contact with clients on a regular basis, in a way that speaks to openness, an ability to listen and a willingness to serve them better.

"The main thing that separates successful businesses from unsuccessful ones is the ability to be open to, and learn from, new information and then implement what they have learned," Sciortino said.

It's also not limited to just those in the financial service business.

"We have found that customers seek two things from the businesses that serve them," the advisor turned marketer slash author said. "Someone they can trust and someone they can count on."

He has worked with clients on gratitude marketing across health care, hospitality, coaching and "many other industries."

We’re thankful to both Sciortino and Moock for sharing their insights.

Title image by Matt Jones