When you receive gifts from your vendors, do they end up as a cherished part of your life, or do they quickly find their way into the trash can? As we enter the holiday season, it is a natural time to consider gifts for your clients (oh – and don’t forget your family and friends).
You have wonderful clients, and you want them to know you appreciate their business. Yes, you’ve provided great value to them, but a nice token of appreciation can really help demonstrate that you care. Be careful. In many cases, your best intentions can backfire. I’ve received three gifts in the past twenty-five years that have really stood out. The first was a set of cufflinks from a colleague, Peter. He said “I notice that you often wear French cuffs, and I thought you might enjoy this personalized set.” The cufflinks were engraved with my initials.
The second and third most memorable gifts were a wine opener and a kitchen knife. If you are yawning, let me explain what made these remarkable. The wine opener is a hand-crafted wine knife that is regarded as the best on the planet. My signature is etched into the metal as you can see in the photograph.
The kitchen knife is an American-made precision piece of cutlery with a logo and name laser-etched on it. But, it isn’t the giver’s name and logo. Nope, this has our family’s name and my company’s logo on it. So, it is personalized for our family, not for the giver. My wife quickly took ownership of the knife. She regularly asks about the people who gave the gift.
But What If They Forget Who Gave It?
To this day, not only can I tell you who gave me those items (Thanks Deb, Kim, Derek, and Melanie), but I can tell you exactly where I was when I received them. Joey Coleman, Chief Experience Composer at Design Symphony is an expert at creating memorable customer experiences. He even offers a course on how to turn ordinary into extraordinary in delighting your customers in their first 100 days with you.
“Most companies give some sort of a promotional product with their logo on it.” Joey shared with me; “Don’t dilute yourself into thinking that’s a gift for the recipient. If it is truly a gift FOR THEM, then they’ll remember who gave it to them. If on the other hand 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.”
The Common Link Between Remarkable Gifts
John Ruhlin, CEO of The Ruhlin Group is one of the foremost leaders of strategic appreciation (as he calls it). It is 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.” Ruhlin’s company, as it turns out, was the common source for the wine opener and cutlery I had received. Both gifts were the result of his clients asking “What can we give that would be remembered and cherished?” Clearly he delivered the intended results.
Guidelines For Strategic Appreciation
Here are some guidelines to help you make the most of your acts of appreciation for your business associates or clients (don’t forget your referral sources).
Logo Items Are Marketing – Not Gifts: Meaningful items will be remembered. You can still give people logo items, but know they are not the same as a gift. If your goal is to engage your audience or your channel, then eGroup is another creative resource.
Include Their Spouse or Girlfriend/Boyfriend (but not both) – Think of a gift they can enjoy together.
It is a gift, not a bribe – Whatever you might spend on a dinner or entertaining evening would be appropriate as a gift. If your gift is too generous, it might make the recipient uncomfortable.
Personalize – Be sure to take the time to personalize your gift for the recipient. Remember, it is about them, and not about you. Gifts are not “one size fits all.” Personalize to each recipient.
Don’t Ask For Business – The most annoying thing is when you get something that includes an “ask” for more business. Simply express your appreciation.
Appreciate Your Clients When Others Aren’t – When you send a gift during the holidays, you get caught in the clutter. If you sent a gift in January or April, you might stand out in a big way.
It’s Not About Money – 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 that has nothing to do with a financial calculation (things Joey covers in his First 100 Days program).
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.
It’s Your Turn
Share in the comments when you have received something that really made you feel appreciated. What made it special?