Five ways to 'sock' it to your clients

12 November 2018Myra Knoesen

Brad Johnson, Vice President at Advisers Excel, shares a quick story of how he personally created a “Wow” experience to set the stage for how to pull this off in your practice…

Footwear revolution

“Recently, I took a trip to Nashville, the capital of the U.S. state of Tennessee, to meet with a business mastermind group I am a part of. A few hours into the meeting, some comments were made by the group about my socks and those of another member, and how cool they were,” said Johnson.

For any of you who missed this recent men's fashion trend here is a little information. Practical and predictable socks have the misfortune of being stuffed way under the tree and deliberately left off many wish lists. Until the footwear revolution, of paisley, pastel and polka-dotted hosiery started appearing on the ankles of men.

So, why socks? "Why not socks? You get to see that tiny glimpse of a pattern or a design or a colour that they (men) have on. It is totally different then their suit at that moment it gives me something about that person," says GQ style writer, Jake Woolf.

Long story short, Johnson said the new trend in men's fashion is wild and crazy socks.

The start of something big

“After an all-day meeting (and some serious sock envy), another one of the mastermind members and I were riding back to the airport when we started talking socks... Everybody in our mastermind loved the idea of replacing their old boring socks with a brand new wardrobe of fun and edgy business socks, though some were not sure they could pull it off (it being a pretty big fashion leap forward for them). So my friend Wes and I asked ourselves, ‘Why don't we just order them for everyone?’ So we did,” continued Johnson.

A few days later, Johnson said their inboxes started getting flooded with emails. The sock recipients were sending them:

  • Pictures of their new socks;
  • Comments from random strangers about their socks;
  • Stories of their children's and wives' comments about their new sock wardrobe; and
  • One member even updated his entire suit wardrobe to match his brand-new socks.

Power of surprise

“Who knew the fun experience sending a few socks out in the mail and assisting a few guys on their new adventure into men's high fashion could create?” He said.

Johnson said there is nothing more gratifying than witnessing the power of a surprise and seeing how excited people get when you send them something you know they will appreciate and is completely unexpected.

Moral of the story

“The best part is you can use this thought process with anybody - prospects, clients, business allies, or anybody else you would like to make a big impression on. And when done properly, the people you touch will become some of your biggest, most raving fans (compliance disclosure — makes sure you stay within all securities and insurance gifting guidelines),” said Johnson.

“Now I'm not talking about just sending an ordinary letter or card, even though those things can create a positive impact as well. Rather, I'm talking about sending something personalised and relevant to the recipient's life (but most importantly, unexpected),” he stated.

In part two of the article we will take a look at the five different ideas you can incorporate into your business model.


In part one of the article Brad Johnson, Vice President at Advisers Excel, shared a quick story of how he personally created a “Wow” experience.

In part two of the article we will take a look at the five different ideas you can incorporate into your business model

Five different ideas

So as a financial adviser, how can you incorporate the power of a well-timed surprise into your business model? Johnson provides five different ideas you can send by mail to your clients and prospects:

  1. Surprise Idea #1:Next time a client is not feeling well, what if you sent him/her a “get well” package to let him or her know you are thinking about them?
  2. Surprise Idea #2:If one of your clients loses a friend, relative or spouse, what if you sent wind chimes in remembrance of that person with an “in memory” transcription and a personal card?
  3. Surprise Idea #3:One of your clients is talking about a book they have been wanting to read. What if that book showed up two days later with a note from you saying you hope they enjoy the book?
  4. Surprise Idea #4: OK, so I can't leave this one out … A client mentions he loves the dress socks you are wearing. What if you mailed them some of your crazy socks and they showed up in his mailbox a few days later? Think he wouldd be excited about that?
  5. Surprise Idea #5: You go out to dinner with a husband and wife and they mention how much they love the bottle of wine that you have sampled that night. Three days later that bottle of wine shows up in the mail or is dropped off by one of your office staff with a note from you saying you hope they are able to enjoy one of your favourite wines at home. 

Wow your clients

A recent article by Scott Redick in the Harvard Business Review suggests that the element of surprise is the most powerful marketing tool of all. In Redick’s opinion, surprise is the most powerful marketing tool because: 

  • Surprise is addicting - people are designed to crave the unexpected;
  • Surprise induces change in behaviour - surprise introduces us to new stimuli, which we must then reconcile with shifts in our beliefs and behaviour;
  • Surprise spikes emotions - surprise is not an emotion, but rather an emotion enhancer. The interesting thing about surprise is that it appears to amplify whatever you’re feeling. When we’re surprised and angry, we’re outraged. Combine happiness with surprise, and you hit the upper register of the feeling-good scale; and
  • Surprise creates passionate relationships - Similar to a relationship with a loved one, the element of surprise with your customers can spice things up. Redick explains just as married couples reacted favourably to unexpected or exciting events, a client, customer or business partner will also be drawn to an unexpected or surprising pitch – provided it’s in line with the business relationship. 

“As you can see, it doesn't take much to surprise your clients and show them that you care. Of course, if you want to make the biggest impact, speed and personalisation are key,” said Johnson.

“So stay in tune with your prospects and clients. Really listen to what is going on in their lives. When you recognize an opportunity to “wow” somebody, make a note in your phone. You will build stronger relationships if your clients know you are thinking about them and their best interests,” he continued.

“I promise you, this simple practice will create positive experiences and turn your prospects and clients into raving fans. You may not be able to “outspend” the big financial services competitors in your market, but you can ‘out experience’ them,” concluded Johnson.


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