Dale Carnegie likely didn't write his masterpiece with client gifting in mind. But all the same, I think the essence of his wisdom easily translates to the mind-melting, fingernail-biting, stress-inducing, age-old question that most business folks asks themselves in Q4: Should I get my client a gift?
Consider this guide your best kept secret to help answer the question above. And if the answer happens to be yes, then this guide also will serve as a reference library of ways to make said gifts more impactful, meaningful and personal. Because that's REALLY how you win friends, and influence people (and customers, employees, colleagues and coworkers).
While the fun part is usually trying to find the edges of the internet, scouring every website for the "perfect" gift, that's not the way to make your gift hit the mark.
Your 4-year old is not allowed to ask this question but YOU NEED TO!
You think you want to give a gift to a client, or a colleague, maybe an employee/employer. But why? What for? What is the gift's purpose?
- WHY THE CLIENTS or CUSTOMERS?
- To take your relationship from strictly business to a more personal, casual one?
- To thank them for their business of the past year - or to renew their business for the upcoming year?
- To remind your clients how kickass you are, in order to secure more referrals?
- To engage & educate your customers about your capabilities?
- To celebrate a project beginning or ending?
- WHY THE COLLEAGUE?
- To thank them for referrals throughout the year?
- To inspire them to refer more customers in the upcoming year?
- To make them feel appreciated?
- WHY THE EMPLOYEE?
- To thank them for their contribution over the last year?
- To keep them feeling engaged in the work/the company/the mission?
- To make them feel valued and appreciated?
- To make them feel like part of a community?
- To inspire them to work harder next year?
BUT WHO AM I?
Once you figure out the real "why them" it's actually critical to think about "who you are". And you don't need to be thrown Overboard by Kurt Russell to evaluate this question!
Your business is a living, breathing being of its own. It looks a certain way and operates with its own values. These values will shape your gift choices (if you're smart!).
- IS YOUR COMPANY:
- ARE YOUR BRAND VALUES:
- Supporting local or women-owned businesses
- BIPOC/API focused
- Made in the USA
- Gives-back to community
- Lowest price/Best deals
- High quality
- Customer service
You don't need to have a printed mission statement to know what you and your business are all about. Finding a way to give a gift that does double duty and delights your clients while also behaving like an incognito brand ambassador of your business, is a true win win.
For example: If your business prides itself on LGBTQIA+ inclusivity and support, but you give your client a gift from a retailer who is actively anti-LGBTQ... you've got a disconnect.
If you are a women-owned business and pride yourself on that, but purchase gifts from all male-owned businesses... disconnect.
Telling your clients that who you are, and what you believe in, is important, and showing them that those values carry through to your choices, your work product, etc. ... that is something that people will not only respect, but appreciate.
3 ABSOLUTE NO-NO'S
Whatever you do, just don't do these things:
- Never ever ever EVER send company swag as a holiday gift. I don't care if you have the coolest tshirts, stress balls, umbrellas, Yeti mugs or calendars with your logo... these gifts only say one thing (and it isn't good!).
- Never send a gift without a note—preferably handwritten—and always tell your recipient what you value about them and why you picked this gift. This is the part of the gift that will actually go the farthest way to creating a lasting connection.
- If buying your gifts on Amazon (or other big box retailers) absolutely DO NOT send the item directly to your recipient. Regardless if you click the "gift wrap this item" button, the gift will still arrive in a plastic bag, or an ugly box, and it will NOT stand out as a thoughtful gift from you. Have the item sent to yourself first, and take the care to package it up and wrap it beautifully, including your own card (see No-No #2) and then send it to your recipient.
- Note: Some stores like Paper Source have gift wrapping services and you can drop all your gifts off and pick them up later, looking like something out of a Martha Stewart Magazine! Check website for locations near you.
MAKE IT PERSONAL. MAKE IT MEMORABLE.
Please, whatever you do, make sure you handwrite the note. If this is not possible (because you don't have hands or you're stuck on an island in the Pacific with a volleyball named Wilson) get creative. Record a video card to your client. Or send a voice recording. Tell them something is coming in the mail and you want them to watch this video before/after they open their gift. There are also websites dedicated to making cool custom video cards, i.e. Tribute or Spreengs
SUPER BUSY? SAVE SOME TIME.
For those of you who can't imagine one more item on the end of your to-do list, and don't have an assistant or teenager to help out, here a few ways to solve all your gifting needs zippy-quick.
- Find a gift that doesn't require much assembly or time on your end
- Find a vendor that has lots of options for customizations, so you can send variations of the same thing to multiple clients (this is where specialty food gifts or local gift box companies usually shine!).
- Find something that can be customized quickly, and if you're sending multiple gifts from one vendor, ask if you can email them a spreadsheet of recipient names/addresses for them to input, instead of you doing it. Many businesses are happy to help streamline the process.