Ideas. Lessons Learned, and Occasionally, Opinions

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On February 9, 2016
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The dinner reservation at his favorite restaurant goes unmade. The bouquet of her favorite flowers goes unordered. The "airbrushed feelings" card goes unpurchased and words of love go unwritten. For many of your clients, this Valentine's Day will be different from all the much-anticipated ones that preceded it because their loved one is no longer present in their life. Indeed, for widowed spouses, the day can feel cold and bleak. Hearing the ads and watching couples make goo-goo eyes at each other just increases the pain and isolation they feel. 
 
The worst thing you can do is ignore your clients, as so many other people will do. Even small things make a difference. For instance, send a card that says something like: “No gift could make up for Jim’s absence. Still, I hope you can enjoy a few chocolates from someone who cares. We are thinking of you today.”  Or “A single rose in memory of Karen. Her love for you and for so many people lives on in our hearts forever.”
 
If you really want to make a long-term impression, consider organizing a 90-minute breakfast or brunch and do it up right. Invite your widowed clients regardless of how long it's been, and tell them you welcome their friends as well. Have a nice meal, an attractive centerpiece, and attentive staff, so they feel pampered. Print a list of questions for discussion and place it at each table to break the ice and get them sharing with each other. Examples: Tell how you and your spouse met each other. Tell one thing that drove you crazy about your spouse. Tell one well-meaning thing someone said to you after your spouse died that was unintentionally hurtful to you. 
 
When all are seated, welcome the group, saying you know Valentine’s Day can be difficult for widowed people and you wanted to provide a moment of respite from the pain the day is sure to bring. Point out the conversation starters, and invite them to share with others at their table before the meal is served. Allow 15 - 20 minutes for conversation, and then serve the food. You'll find they continue talking through the meal.  
 
To conclude the event, thank everyone for coming and tell them you plan to make this an annual occasion so they can anticipate it and return the next year. Perhaps have a drawing for the centerpieces at each table. As your guests leave, give them a small token such as a real or chocolate flower. Tell them you will call in a week or two to see what they liked best and if they have any suggestions for how you could improve the event next year. Then, of course, do call and take their feedback seriously.
 
These suggestions bracket a range of possibilities. The important thing is to be there for your clients in ways that most other people aren’t. When you demonstrate that you understand their grief and you care about more than just the money, you gain a client for life. And when their friends and associates are widowed, what will they tell them about their uncommonly wise and compassionate advisor?
 
Do you want to learn more about supporting clients through aging, divorce, death, empty nest, retirement, dementia, and all the transitions of their lives? Join us for our 2-day class in May. See the side bar for information. Learn to serve your clients in ways that others don't, and build lasting loyalty and trust.

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