A Thanksgiving Treat to Uplift Clients

Nov 20, 2020 / By John Gigliello
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What’s Working Now: This advisor established a Thanksgiving tradition four years ago that gets clients excited every year. And if there was ever a year clients could use a special lift, it must be this holiday season.

Editor’s note: In this edition of What’s Working Now, an AdvisorRADIO feature in which Horsesmouth members tell us about recent success they have had running and growing their businesses, we hear from advisor John Gigliello, who provides a special client appreciation gift for his best clients at Thanksgiving time.

You can read or watch the interview below.

Quick Overview

Guest: John Gigliello
Albany, N.Y.

Years in business: 17

Firm: Albany Financial Group

What’s working now: Giving all his best clients a handmade Thanksgiving pie of their choice

Sean Bailey: Sometimes with our What’s Working Now feature, we like to check in on something unique and innovative that other advisors can quickly and easily copy and get the same kind of benefit you’re getting. So tell us, what’s going on with you and your clients regarding Thanksgiving?

John Gigliello: So, obviously it is a special time of year, right about now, particularly considering everything that’s gone on this year so far. For the last three or four years, Sean, we’ve tried to do something a little bit special around this time of year and that’s Thanksgiving pies.

Everybody loves a good Thanksgiving pie, right? What we do is reach out to our A and B clients, our upper-level clients and offer them that. They do have to be in the Albany area, or thereabouts. We have clients out of town, even out of state, but obviously it gets to be expensive if I try to ship pies across three or four states. So, we keep it local.

“It’s just amazing what a $16 pie can do for somebody’s spirits.”

And it’s been a huge success. It’s just amazing what a $16 pie can do for somebody’s spirits. And just the remarks afterwards, clients come back saying, “Wow, you know, we had your pie, we had that blueberry pie and we sat there and it brought up family stories.” It’s amazing where the conversations go from a simple pie. So, it’s been very successful.

Sean: Yeah. And you’re associating yourself with something that tends to bring back memories for families, eating pie at Thanksgiving, or at Christmas. This is, as we say, one of the core American values—baseball, hot dogs, apple pie. Pie’s right in there. (No, I’m not going to plug that car manufacturer this time!)

So, tell us a little bit about the mechanics of it. What it’s costing you, who you go to, what kind of pies are you sending? All that sort of stuff.

John: About a month in advance or so I’ll get together with my administrative assistant, Lisa. We’ll have a quick meeting, go over the client list. Who is it that we’d like to put on our invitation list for the pies?

I somewhat simplified it before by saying it’s our A and B clients. It’s not that simple. All A’s and B’s, they do have the option of coming by for a pie, but then there are also some C and D clients. For instance, a D client may know an A client. What if the A client talks about, “Hey, John’s giving away pies. Did you hear about it?” And the D client is like, “Oh, I don’t know what you’re talking about.” So we don’t want that happening, for someone to feel left out. So we are careful to look for relationships and who knows who, and we make those accommodations.

Sean: Make sure that everybody gets the pie in that case. That’s smart, because people communicate.

John: So we narrow down our list and we define the list. In past years, a couple of the other advisors in the office have jumped in on this, and they think it’s a fabulous idea. So, in past years we’ve had upwards of a hundred pies stacked up in our lobby waiting to go out on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. This year, we have a little less because of Covid, but it’s still a pretty good turnout.

“The power of the pie is just amazing. I’ll have clients who live 35 miles away, but they’ll drive in and make a whole day of it.”

So, as I said, about a month or so in advance, we’ll get that list together. And then Lisa will call the local bakery here in town, in the Albany area, and we place our initial order. They’re thrilled. It’s amazing from their end. That way they get an order for 70, 80, 90 pies. “Sure. We can accommodate that. Why not?” We get that order in well in advance so the bakery can easily supply it.

Then there’s always orders that come in at the last minute, for whatever reason. We try to accommodate, but obviously there comes a point where you’ve got to cut that off. Our cut-off date, I believe, was Wednesday the week before Thanksgiving.

I’ll actually pick up the pies. I live about 10 minutes from the bakery. So I’ll just go over there and I’ll load up the back of my Grand Cherokee as much as I can, there are pies everywhere, a lot of pies in the glove compartment, coming out of underneath the seats. And I stuff them all in there pretty well. Then I’ll just bring them and offload them here at the office. I get our team to come down and we bring them up to the third floor, and we keep them in the lobby.

This year we are doing a drive-by pie offering. Those that want to come up to the office and talk for a little bit, they’re welcome to do that, but others just give us a quick call on their cell phone and we’ll run it right down to them, down in front of the building.

That’s pretty much the mechanics of it, and it’s worked well.

Sean: So the first thing you do is create the list, and then you communicate with them, “Do you want the pie?”

“This year, due to Covid, we’re doing a drive-by pie offering.”

John: Yeah. Lisa will send out an initial blast email. Everything’s electronic. We don’t send hard copies out. It’s a blast email initially, again probably a month in advance, and then a subsequent one or two emails after that, as we get closer. But it’s amazing how the clients have been, I guess, ‘trained’ over the years: As soon as that blast email comes out, they’re on it, man. They’re all over it. They’re looking forward to it.

Sean: Is it one type of pie, or is there a choice, or how does that work?

John: No, we’re not that boring, Sean. We offer—well, maybe we offer way too many varieties—probably eight different varieties of pies. The usual suspects, of course, apple and pumpkin and blueberry, and pecan too, but there’s a multifruit berry that we do as well. There’s even a mince pie and a couple others that are escaping me right now.

Sean: Wow. That sounds great. It’s a fantastic idea. You said this costs you about 16 bucks a pie?

John: Yeah. It’s 16 bucks a pie. I think maybe a couple of them are 18 bucks or something, but we don’t restrict!

“It’s not a lot of work, and people get so much enjoyment out of it!”

Sean: It’s a low-cost investment, high return on investment!

John: Absolutely. Now we’ve got a wire.

Sean: And that’s what you’re looking for. The kind of client touch that really sparks a good emotional connection about you and your firm.

John: Yeah. It really does. And again, the power of the pie is just amazing. I’ll have clients who live 35 miles away, but they’ll drive and they’ll make a whole day of it. They come in to Albany and they pick up their Thanksgiving pie. They go out to lunch and it’s quite an event for some people.

Sean: So let me ask you, how did you come up with this idea? Did you hear about it from somebody else, or somebody on your staff, or how did that happen?

John: Yes. In all honesty, I heard this years ago from a prior coaching group that I was involved with. They had some unique ideas and they presented the pie idea one year and I thought, “I don’t know about that, that sounds like a lot of work.” But I finally just did it one year, and it’s not a lot of work, and people get so much enjoyment out of it. So I can’t lay credit to it being my idea.

Sean: It is now.

John: Yeah, it is now. That’s right.

Sean: All right. So, any other tips or insights you’d share with advisors who are listening to this right now? They’re saying they probably can’t do it for Thanksgiving, but they definitely can do it for Christmas. Is this a substitute for Christmas or something like that?

John: No, I don’t actually do any type of event like this for Christmas. It’s just the Thanksgiving one right now.

Sean: I think that’s a good approach sometimes.

John: If there’s anything else I could add—and I guess I’m as guilty as anybody else about this—sometimes we think we have to do these grandiose events for clients and have a large budget and blow out the lights on everything. But again, sometimes the simple $16 spent on somebody goes a heck of a lot longer way on that. So, I would just say do it, give it a try. It’s really a lot of fun.

Sean: Well, John, thanks so much.

John: A pleasure.

Sean: You got it everybody, that’s the details on having your own pie day with your firm and your clients, and frankly the likelihood that John’s name gets mentioned in a warm regard over a Thanksgiving meal this coming year is probably pretty darn high. Word of mouth marketing happens in a variety of ways!


We too have done a pie day for several years but we do ours between Thanksgiving and New Year-that way people are not on overload. I love the idea of drive by pick up, solved my problem of how to do this year.
Thanks for your comment Annalee. Stretching from Thanksgiving to New Year's makes a lot of sense.
What a wonderful idea! I have always done Thanksgiving cards versus Christmas card so they don't get lost in the shuffle. Even as simple as that is, people always say how much they appreciate the card. We normally do Christmas cookies, coffee and conversation the entire month of December.
Thanks for your kind words Shannon. I love what you are doing as well.
Great idea! I pick up pound cakes from Fresh Market daily. We tear off the price tag of $4.49 and slap a logo sticker on it. Every appointment, walk-in gets a cake. Inexpensive and very well received.
Thanks Kim. Love your idea as well.

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