Source: Forbes Magazine; Written by Ian Altman
We’re just days away from the busiest shopping day of the year, and the busiest gift giving season of the year. You may be wondering what, if anything, to give your clients this holiday season. If you’re not sure how to approach business gift-giving, here are a few tips to help you get through the holiday craze with your reputation and budget intact.
The Answer Is Yes
If you’re wondering whether or not you should give your clients gifts, let me clear up any doubt: you should. It’s always a good idea to show clients your gratitude. Yes, you’ve provided great value to them, but a nice token of appreciation can really help demonstrate that you care. If your question is, “Should I?” The answer is yes.
Do Make It Personal
That said, be careful. In many cases, your best intentions can backfire. For one thing, you don’t want your gifts to land in a wastebasket because they appear to be generic and impersonal. You also don’t want your gifts to scream desperate or gauche. You want your gesture to be thoughtful and personal. Two of the most memorable business gifts I’ve ever received were a wine opener and an American-made precision piece of cutlery both of which had my family’s name and company logo etched on them. Talk about personal. My wife regularly asks about the person who gave us the gifts. Notice, I didn’t say it had the gift giver’s logo and name. It had my name and my wife’s name.
Many companies send clients gifts that contain their own name and logo. That’s not a gift. It’s a marketing piece. Don’t gift it.
“Don’t delude yourself into thinking that’s a gift for the recipient,” says John Ruhlin, Author of Giftology – my favorite book on executive appreciation. Put another way, Joey Coleman, a leading speaker on how to retain customers says, “If you are giving a meaningless gift, then you better have your logo on it. That way, whoever pulls it from the garbage will know who it was from.”
Do Be Creative
If you have a client who you know to be an avid golfer, you might send a dozen golf balls which they will promptly lose. Instead, you might get them something they’ll use for a long time. The Impact Improver is one new training device that can be used indoors to practice some of the most important elements of the golf game. I received one as a gift, and think of the giver each time I use it. You could even include a sleeve of golf balls with a note that says “If you play golf as proficiently as you run the business, three golf balls is probably two more than you need.”
Don’t Be Cheap
Consider how much you might routinely spend taking someone out for a nice meal. That meal might be lost and/or forgotten by the next morning. Yet, when it comes to gifts, businesses routinely try to figure out how little they can spend. If everything in your business is “first-class,” don’t be the low-bidder when it comes to showing your appreciation. In that case, sending nothing might be better than sending something.
That said, you don’t have to blow your budget on gifts either. You might send a video from your team saying how much you enjoy working with them. Or, you might send a photo of your team in front of a whiteboard while discussing their project. These personal touches are great ways to create a lasting impression.
Do Show Appreciation Year-Round
Ruhlin notes that timing is just as important as quality when it comes to giving gifts.
It’s natural to think of sending a gift around the holidays. But, you may want to reconsider. As John points out “The holiday season is ironically the least effective time to give a gift. Be grateful and thankful year round. Instead, wait until an unexpected time to give something memorable.”
If you take the time to appreciate your clients when they least expect it, you’ll stand out. If you show that you took extra time to tailor the gift to the recipient, then they’ll appreciate your thoughtfulness. If you throw something over the fence when everyone else is doing the same thing, don’t be surprised if it ends up in the trash.
Oh – and while you are thanking important people, you might want to also recognize and appreciate your employees. A thoughtful gift might even be more appreciated than the equivalent in cash.
Don’t Use Gifts As Bribes
Not every potential or existing client merits a gift or appreciation. Remember, the gift should not be seen as a bribe. Respect the limits and rules set by the recipient’s organization. Most government officials cannot accept much in the way of gifts. However, for the right relationship, the right gift can make you stand out whether you are a job candidate, existing vendor, or hopeful of earning their business.
Do Have Fun
Holiday shopping can be stressful and expensive, but it doesn’t have to be. You don’t have to break the bank or drive yourself crazy searching for the perfect gift. With a little bit of planning and creativity you can give a gift that creates a lasting impression. So have fun with it!