I’m so grateful for my clients. They invite me into their lives to help them find solutions to their challenges and achieve their goals. It’s an amazing gift to witness their breakthroughs and see them succeed.
So, at the end of each year I want to somehow recognize the gift they give to me by offering them something that will fascinate them or bring them joy. That’s what business gifts are for me. But when we asked other businesses owners for examples (good and bad) of gifts they received we got some surprising answers, answers that didn’t reflect the spirit of honoring the gift of a client relationship. Whether it was a good gift that went bad (a moldy ham) or a bad gift that was just bad (fruitcake, anyone?) – some businesses clearly don’t get it when it comes to gift-giving. Many of these “bad” gifts were more memorable than the “good” gifts were.
So, ok then. What is the best business gift to give? There is no single answer, unfortunately. But if you remember these five things when shopping for client gifts, you will be sure to show your clients how much you appreciate them and their business – which is why, after all, you are giving them a gift!
1. Make it personal.
Just like when you shop for a gift for your loved ones, a gift will mean so much more to the recipient if you’ve given it some thought. So examples we received: “A personal note that indicated a sincere appreciation for our business….inside a card that mentioned a donation to a charity that was meaningful to me” or “A replica of my new car.” Especially if you’re in the service business, you probably know a lot about your clients. What are their interests? What is their background? What is their religion? (Remember, not everyone celebrates Christmas!) What do they like to eat? In the responses we received, chocolate was listed as both a favorite gift and as a worst gift. Why? Because not everyone likes chocolate! So find out what your clients like to eat before you send them something to eat. In general, food is always going to be risky but you lower the risk when you know about their tastes.
2. Be original.
For this one, we are going to defer to Leo Burnett. Watch this video. Enough said, right? Most companies don’t have the budget to send their clients something of this caliber, but if you can, try to make a tie-in between your company and a gift. How many fruit baskets or tins of popcorn have you received? Don’t send someone another one!
3. Don’t skimp.
If your objective is to express gratitude for the business you’ve enjoyed, then a cheap gift just isn’t going to do it. If your budget is tight opt for something original, and personal. For instance, we heard one story about cookies that were handmade by one of her client. Good idea, just as long as you know your client likes cookies – and you make some great cookies. But really: Do you think twice if someone doesn’t give you a gift? If client gifts aren’t in your budget this year, don’t worry about it. Don’t give a gift at all, send a nice handwritten note. They’ll understand – if they even notice at all.
4. Have tiers of gifts.
You don’t have to send gifts to all of your clients, and you don’t have to send expensive gifts to all of your clients. You should probably spend a little more on your $50,000-a-year client than your $5,000-a- year client. This also helps with personalization. If you really only “know” 20 clients well enough to give them a great gift, then do that – and send everyone else a beautiful card.
5. Don’t limit gift-giving to December.
Everyone gives gifts during the holidays. Be different! What about acknowledging them at a different time of the year, like Thanksgiving, St. Patrick’s Day (If you’re Irish or they are Irish), Independence Day or Labor Day. Or, acknowledge them with a gift on their birthday or on the day your business relationship started. We’ll give it to you – gift-giving is difficult. It’s so difficult that Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote a whole essay about it! But you are grateful to your clients for their business, right? Then show them how you feel by taking the time to give them the perfect gift.
Photo credit: Alex Ristea