It can be hard enough finding what to gift your mother-in-law, let alone a client you only know at the professional level. Gift giving, however, is a tremendous tool for building lasting relationships with your clients.
As Ian Altman wrote in Forbes, “If you’re wondering whether or not you should give your clients gifts, let me clear up any doubt: you should.”
A small expression of gratitude can make a world a difference in the longevity of clienthood. It lifts your status from that of “professional rendering a service” to “thoughtful person who values the existing relationship.” Gift giving lends a personal touch to the otherwise impersonal sphere of business, and for that reason, it can be very refreshing.
Let Your Employees Take the Reins
Depending on the size of your business, you may or may not be directly involved with each individual client. However, don’t ignore the fact that your employees may know certain clients better than you. Often, they have unique insight into why a client should be sent a business gift – maybe a particularly pleasant business exchange occurred, or they did a favor for one another. Empower your employees to send gifts as they see fit, by installing a system for gift-giving.
At Advantage|ForbesBooks, we’ve adopted a No Questions Asked program as a component of our member experience. No Questions Asked is a simple system with an unlimited budget, allowing our team members to send any gift to the client of their choosing, any time, for any reason.
As a business owner, implementing such a system gives your employees autonomy to affirm great client relationships by sending them gifts. If you are not personally involved with the client and don’t have such a system in place, you may be missing out on a golden opportunity to show a good client how much they are appreciated and valued.
Don’t Be a Slave to Calendar Holidays
Anytime is the best time to send gifts to clients. You needn’t wait until calendar holidays roll around. In fact, it is arguably perceived as more genuine and whole-hearted if you send a gift “just for the heck of it.” Methodically sending gift baskets at Christmas, Thanksgiving, and Easter is not only predictable, safe, and boring, it doesn’t do anything to show the client they are particularly important.
Go the extra mile to show that you value them! Personalize the times at which you send gifts out to each individual client. Celebrate their professional wins or even send notes of sympathy if they experience a low. If a client is featured in the newspaper, send them a bottle of champagne. If they or a loved one gets sick, send a condolence card. When they have a professional win as a result of doing business with you, send a gift to congratulate and affirm the good work you have done together. This promotes a positive and healthy client relationship, so long as its personalized, thoughtful, and not done in eyebrow-raising excess – you don’t want to seem sycophantic either.
Avoid Branded Gifts
Our Member Experience Representative, Ben Coppel, strongly advises against sending branded gifts. Not only are they impersonal and lack impact, they feel artificial and self-promotional – having little to do with the client and a lot to do with you. Client gift-giving should feel selfless and altruistic, not make them feel as though they’re being marketed to.
Contrary to what you may think, branded items like company mugs, pens, and desk blotters are not so much “useful” as they are underwhelming. Did it ever thrill you to receive a mug, calendar, or pen embossed with the logo of your insurance company? “Don’t delude yourself into thinking that’s a gift for the recipient,” says John Ruhlin, Author of Giftology.
Gifts serve as a great way to get your clients talking about your company, organically. It’s one thing if you pointedly ask a client for referrals. If, however, you furnish them with a great gift that naturally comes up in conversation with friends/family/colleagues – or better yet, you give them an experiential gift for which they’ll bring friends – then you’ve inadvertently given your client a seamless and non-salesy way to bring up your company. Gifts with actual, functional use are ideal because not only can your client talk about them with friends and family – they can use them with friends and family.
Gift Ideas for Clients
Now the pressing question – what to give! What makes thoughtful client gifting at least somewhat difficult is the fact that you don’t have a firm grasp of what they like. You want your gift to be business appropriate, while reflecting the personality of its recipient. Gift baskets can be bland on account of being so safe. Better options include:
- tickets to a sporting event, concert, play, or other type of live entertainment
- a monthly subscription box can make a fun and unique gift that keeps on giving. Is your client a pet lover? How about BarkBox, a monthly box of dog goodies, or Meowbox for the kitties in their lives. A fashionista? Try Say It With A Sock or Birchbox beauty items. A foodie? Try Graze nutritious snacks or the Carnivore Club with artisanal meats. A cooking class could also be a fun option.
- a donation made in their name to a cause you know they have a connection to
- a copy of your book (accompanied with other items so as not to feel too self-promotional)
Once a client begins to believe that they’re perceived as nothing more than a monthly check, it’s just a matter of time before that client will be gone. A personal, well-thought out gift goes a long way in creating, maintaining, and cementing a long-lasting and mutually-beneficial relationship.