A thoughtful, well-timed corporate gift can strengthen your most valuable client relationships. But too often, corporate gifts are generic and uninspiring.
This isn’t a situation where something is better than nothing: a Business Gift Satisfaction Survey, as reported by Forbes, found that 57 percent of respondents believe gifts can affect their impression of a business partner both positively and negatively.
Memorable client gifts leave a lasting impression and make the recipient feel better about themselves and the world. Here’s a look at how you can hit this mark with every gift you give.
What to send, what to avoid
You want to send gifts to your clients, but the options are endless. Narrow down your selection process by following these rules of thumb.
Make it personal. Don’t send the same item to all of your clients. Include a handwritten note, tailor gifts to a recipient’s preferences, or send the gift during an important landmark in your client relationship.
Avoid the overdone. If you want your gift to be memorable, make sure it’s not a cliché (like fruit baskets or popcorn tins at the holidays). A forgettable gift may not negatively impact your relationship, but it also won’t move the relationship forward.
Give an ongoing experience. Research from the University of Toronto found that, from the recipient’s perspective, experiential gifts improve relationships better than material gifts.
Granted, you can’t buy your clients a vacation to Mexico – activities and events are taste-specific and tricky to organize for large groups. Instead, try a gift certificate to a retail store or a restaurant.
Or consider gifts that deliver joy again and again – subscription boxes, magazine subscriptions, coffee-of-the-month clubs, and so on.
You can also think of the unwrapping process as an experience itself: unpacking a thoughtfully curated box will be a memorable moment for your recipient.
Tread lightly with gag gifts. Humor is highly subjective. If there’s any type of gift that’s most likely to send the wrong message to your client, it’s a gag gift. In a professional environment, it’s important to consult your HR department if you’re considering a humorous gift. But if you have to ask, it may not be not appropriate.
Find a gift that does good. Beyond sending something to your client that conveys your own appreciation, try to find a gift that supports social or environmental impact. This is a symbolic way to show your company’s commitment to social good.
Think: a food basket that provides employment to survivors of abuse, a backpack created from recycled materials, or a tumbler and coffee set whose manufacturer offers jobs to individuals with disabilities.
You can also make a donation in your client’s name to a charity or philanthropic cause your client cares about. Follow up with a handwritten note to bring that donation to life.
A splurge won’t cover up a lack of thought. Corporate gifts don’t need to be expensive to be memorable. An impressive gift is one that brings joy, and items of all price levels can do that. A client should never feel pressured to make a decision by your gift.
If you’re struggling to choose a price point, bear in mind your client’s investment in your organization. In other words, a gift price should be proportional to your client’s financial contribution.
When to send
The holidays will always be the busy season for corporate gifting, but consider sending gifts outside the month of December. A gift will resonate more if it’s not one of a dozen – not to mention the fact that the element of surprise maximizes delight.
Here are several client gifting occasions that show your attention to detail:
- Key points in the client acquisition process.
- Important client milestones such as program anniversaries or renewals.
- After a major client success.
- Client occasions like birthdays and weddings.
- Non-peak holidays such as Thanksgiving or New Year’s.
If you do choose to send a holiday gift, be mindful of the fact that everyone celebrates differently in December. Also be aware of cultural differences as well as organizational, geographic, and social identities.
Gifts speak louder than emails
Strong client relationships are the product of the year-round work of everyone in your business. Sometimes these teams want to express the value of the connections they worked so hard for in an authentic way, outside of email inboxes and conference rooms.
By sending a gift, you show (rather than tell) your client you appreciate their continued partnership. Afterward, the gift creates an opportunity to connect beyond day-to-day work: if you follow up with a phone call, or receive a “thank you” note from your client, from there, you can begin a conversation that goes beyond what’s expected and deepens your relationship.
Leeatt Rothschild is the Founder and CEO of Packed With Purpose, a specialty gifting company with a social mission. Founded in 2016, Packed with Purpose was born out of Leeatt’s desire to create a social impact and her appreciation for the importance of gifting in fostering meaningful relationships. Twitter handle: @PackedwPurpose