You’ve likely been the recipient of thoughtful gifts as well as thoughtless gifts. You feel the difference, right? One expresses a giver’s deep sense of understanding, and the other reveals a lack of effort, lumping you into an anonymous group of business acquaintances.
Your clients are no exception.
Gifting expert John Ruhlin of the Ruhlin Group believes that “dollar value given doesn’t always equate loyalty gained — in fact, the more expensive a gift is the lazier and less knowledgeable it can make you look” (Forbes, 2016).
“You can’t buy people’s loyalty and business.”
— John Ruhlin
While some enjoy a pricey wine and cheese gift basket, many may not feel a personal connection to your business through it. And if it’s not strengthening your client relationship, then what is it doing?
Here are 3 strategies for more effective client gift giving:
1. Listen to your clients
Our team values the time it takes to grow a client relationship. For us, that means making room for appropriate personal conversations. In addition to asking questions about a client’s culture and workflow, ask about outside-of-work matters.
Take note of what they care about and what they like to do. Keep a record of their key interests so you’re prepared when gift-giving season approaches. That list will be crucial in coming up with thoughtful gifts.
2. Send client gifts at unexpected times
Many corporations send client gifts during the winter holiday season, and although this is a great time to send warm sentiments, they can easily be lost in the pile of other holiday gifts and greetings.
Consider sending an annual gift around less universal gift-giving occasions, such as:
- Valentine’s Day
- St. Patrick’s Day
- Independence Day
Each year, we help customer research firm SMG create a deliverable for their clients around Valentine’s Day and Thanksgiving. (Check out our 2018 Valentine’s Day gift set for SMG.)
You can even surprise clients by remembering more personal special events:
- Anniversaries (like founding days or company milestones)
- New business acquisitions
- Achievements and recognition (especially if you assisted in a successful pitch or project)
3. Make a creative statement
Messaging can showcase your creativity. Share an insight, play with words to highlight your capabilities, and emphasize the value of your partnership.
In 2017, SMG sent personalized heart-shaped cookies to clients for Valentine’s Day.
TCD developed a concept around SMG’s customer comment technology. The personalized messaging inside the accompanying cards showed appreciation for SMG clients, while the gift set also played up a product.
At TCD, we made our creative statement with these metal tumblers, combined with hot cocoa mix and a card illustrated by our own Laura Uber. We loved the “crinkled paper” look and how it reflected on the creative work we do with our client partners.
Add local flavor by including a gift from a small business in your city. Complete the package with handmade gift tags or handwritten elements, like a short greeting and signatures on a card.
The bottom line: When generosity puts a spotlight on business partnerships, both parties recognize the value of the relationship. Gift giving can be a catalyst to customer loyalty. Don’t miss out on regular opportunities to thank your clients.