Long before she writes letters to clients, Anne Godfrey’s firm has already asked them about the timing of their milestones such as when they will complete house purchases, reach retirement dates or celebrate a child’s graduation.

Then Godfrey, the marketing and business development director at Pence Wealth Management in Newport Beach, California, dispatches missives to the clients after those events occur.

In the letters, she congratulates clients and then segues into reminding them how the firm’s advisory team helped them reach those milestones by setting up college or retirement funds, for example. Then Godfrey transitions into her real reason for writing to the client: to make a pitch for referrals.

Wouldn’t they want to bring their friends to the firm so that they might receive the same valuable service as they themselves have received, she asks in the letters.

“It is a very gentle way to make the pitch,” Godfrey says.

The letter’s presentation should be personal, preferably handwritten, she says.

Use high-quality stationery, and send chocolate or flowers with the note, Godfrey says.

“Make your clients say, ‘Oh my gosh, they remembered,’” she says.

With mass mailings, it is harder to walk the subtle line between reminding a client that an adviser helped them and seeking referrals, Godfrey says.

In such instances, she recommends adding a pitch about referrals below the signature line.

“Let them know you are accepting new clients, something about, ‘The greatest compliment I can receive is a referral,’” Godfrey says.

Meanwhile, though it may seem obvious, don’t seek referrals from clients who are “pains in the neck,” because their friends and relatives may also be difficult, she says.

There are some other factors that advisers should keep in mind, for instance, the “WIIFM” principle, says Susan Weiner, author of Financial Blogging: How to Write Powerful Posts That Attract Clients (CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2013).

That acronym stands for what’s in it for me, she writes in the book.

“Tell readers how they will profit from your information so you can command their attention,” Weiner writes in the book.

In all communications, Weiner recommends: “Show your personality. The services we offer are not that much different than each other. If you can convey something that distinguishes you, you can create a strong relationship before they even pick up the phone.”

This story is part of a 30-30 series on strategies to boost your practice.

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Miriam Rozen

Miriam Rozen, a Financial Planning contributing writer, is a staff reporter at Texas Lawyer in Dallas. Follow her on Twitter at @MiriamRozen.