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10 year logoBy Brian Van Bower

‘The notion that we should do all we can to exceed client expectations,’ wrote Brian Van Bower to open his August 2009 Aqua Culture column, ‘is one we hear trumpeted in almost every inspirational business seminar and in nearly every keynote speech during trade shows.   

‘There are very good reasons for this,’ he explained.  ‘After all, when you perform beyond your clients’ expectations, they’re far more likely to be pleased with the process, more reasonable in their requests and, ultimately, readier sources of the referrals that will keep your business hopping.  Not only that, but there’s also something wonderful in making people happy – if for no other reason than in doing so, we tend to make ourselves happy as well.’  He continued:


‘In the watershaping world, conjuring those good vibrations is right up there for me alongside doing the work itself to the highest standards.  Yes, we all need technical expertise, but as I see it, when you combine that competence with top-notch client relationships and a winning personality, you’re basically unstoppable.’


‘Through the years, I’ve learned a simple extra step in the relationship-building process – one that cinches the positive impressions I always try to make and that invariably ends up making my clients very happy indeed:  I give them gifts.’


‘I’m not referring to bottles of champagne or dinner out at a nice restaurant to celebrate completion of the job. . . .  Rather, I’m after gifts that are integral parts of projects – unexpected features of some kind that clients don’t know they’re getting in addition to contracted details.’  


‘It could be in the form of spray jets on a deck, for example, or LED lights that change colors.  Maybe it’s a foam jet in a shallow lounging area or an added fire feature or a dimmer on the lighting controller or something as simple as an extra sleeve for an umbrella – or the umbrella itself.  It helps, of course, to find something that you believe the clients will like, so what I often find myself doing is making mental notes about items they’ve brought up in passing or have deleted from their initial wish lists for one reason or another.’


‘Why on earth, you might ask, should I give away money that way, especially if I’m bound and determined to make the clients happy anyway?  As I see it, you’re not really “giving away” anything.  . . .  [A] complementary add-on that doesn’t gut your bottom line should be easy to find if you’re in the practice of doing accurate take offs in the estimating process.’


‘[O]nce you try this, you’ll be amazed at what it does to your clients’ mindsets and attitudes.  I’ve found that they’re not only happy, but almost instantaneously became the world’s strongest advocates for you and your business.’  


‘I only do design work these days, so including gifts for clients is much more difficult for me now.  More often than not, however, I encourage the contractors who execute my designs to give it a try.  Consistently, those who do report that it’s worth the effort and the expense.’


‘If I have one final recommendation when it comes to this form of gift giving,’ Brian concluded, ‘it’s that you need to do it with panache.  Watershaping is all about luxury, pleasure, excitement and enhancing our clients’ lifestyles.  . . . [W]hen you give a gift, be sure to do it with joy and enthusiasm and a sense of ceremony – and do your level best to make it a surprise:  It’s the proverbial icing on the cake.’

Do you agree with Brian’s assertion that a thoughtful gift is an effective tool in clinching a positive client relationship and referrals?  If you use this approach – or even if you think it’s a bad idea – please share your thoughts and experiences by commenting below.  


Brian Van Bower runs Aquatic Consultants, a design firm based in Miami, Fla., and is a co-founder of the Genesis 3 Design Group; dedicated to top-of-the-line performance in aquatic design and construction, this organization conducts schools for like-minded pool designers and builders.  He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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