The holidays are here and gift-giving has officially launched. As a business owner, you're probably wondering about the value of holiday gifts for clients. The consensus among the business owners I spoke to is that spreading holiday cheer is well worth the time and expense.
“Customers are what keep your business alive, so it's always important to give back, especially during the holidays," says Gabe Larsen, vice president of InsideSales Labs, the research arm of sales and marketing company InsideSales.com. “Gift-giving raises your status with clients and helps them perceive you positively. Most importantly, it creates an opportunity to communicate."
Etiquette expert Arden Clise is an author and president of Clise Etiquette. She believes that getting holiday gifts for clients is always a good idea.
“Giving clients gifts is a nice way of saying thank you for their business," Clise says. "It's the ideal opportunity to let your clients know you appreciate and value them."
When you work closely with clients, gifts can also give you an opportunity to personalize your working relationship, notes Alex Pollak, CEO and founder of ParaDocs, an events medical services company that staffs events across the country.
“Holiday gifts for clients aren't a necessity," Pollak says, "but they are a nice gesture for people who you may interact with on a day-to-day basis."
Potential Holiday Gifts for Clients
When it comes to getting holiday gifts for clients, many business owners agree that it's all about the thought put into the selection process. According to these owners, ideal holiday gifts for clients are those that:
1. Downplay branding.
“The best client gifts are unique, useful and personal, and keep branding to a minimum," says Traci Pichette, founder of Pumeli, which provides curated and custom gift boxes for corporate events and everyday occasions.
“If recipients feel like they've received an advertisement versus a gift," she continues, "it can have the opposite intended effect and leave a negative impression of the brand."
—Gabe Larsen, vice president, InsideSales Labs
That said, there can be tasteful ways to include branding in your holiday gifts for clients.
"If you feel strongly about putting your logo on the item," says Clise, "make it small and unobtrusive."
2. Make it personal.
Unique and memorable holiday gifts for clients are what Marla White seeks each year. The owner of PR company White Handed looks for personal gifts that have meaning.
“One year I took copies of my client's first scripts that were made into films and had wreaths made from them," says White. “Both screenwriters were so touched, and they actually have them up in their office year-round."
“The more personalized the gift, the better," says Erin Walter, co-founder and CEO of Nuphoriq, which specializes in marketing for catering and event planning companies. “For instance, we sent a business book to a client and included a treat for the person's dog, who is often mentioned during phone calls."
“Gift giving for clients often comes down to your relationship with them," says Naman Kumar, founder of Airo Health, which produces an anxiety tracker designed to build mental strength. “True, it's a professional relationship, but you're still dealing with a human.
"Being personal has its limits, though," he continues, "Only give gifts that reflect something you've observed during your interactions with the person. Checking a client's social media for ideas, for instance, is crossing the line."
3. Illustrate special meaning.
Memorable holiday gifts are also meaningful, believes Justin Lavelle, chief communications officer for online background check company BeenVerified.
“My top picks are planting trees in your clients' names, which helps the earth and honors your customers," Lavelle says. "Similarly, you can donate in their names to charities they support. Or give them a book that influenced and inspired you. Write a brief note about why the book is one of your favorites."
Holiday Gifts for Clients Dos and Don'ts to Keep in Mind
Knowing what sort of holiday gifts to get for your clients takes some thought. The following pointers may help guide you in the right direction.
- Include a note. “Communication matters," says Larsen of InsideSales.com. “Gift recipients are most likely to respond to handwritten notes."
- Be sensitive to client circumstances. “Consider dietary concerns, as well as cultural or religious affiliations," advises Walter.
- Deliver the gift, when possible. “Now that we're in the age of online shopping and gifting, it means a lot when you hand deliver a hand-wrapped gift, or have it messengered over," says Pollak.
- Consider making your holiday gifts. Idan Cohen is CEO and co-founder of GROW, which produces intelligent gardening products. “This year I gifted clients my homemade hard apple cider, which I make every fall from my apple trees," he says. “I think nothing says you care like a homemade gift."
- Over-give. “This applies to the amount of gifts given or the price point," says Walter. He believes that clients may think you charge them more just to be able to afford extravagant gifts. “Over-giving can cross boundaries and lead to an awkward dynamic," agrees Cheryl Sutherland, founder of PleaseNotes.
- Give gifts with negative connotations. “Avoid things like perfume," says Sutherland. “You don't want the recipient wondering if she smells bad."
- Be cheap. “Inexpensive gifts reflect poorly on the company sending the gift," says Larsen.
- Beg for a thank you. “Avoid emailing or calling to ask if the client received the gift. If it stood out, your client will respond," says Raven Thomas, owner of the business consulting company Phoenix Effect Group and the online confectionery gift company The Painted Pretzel.
Of course, you won't look like a Scrooge if you don't give your clients gifts this holiday season. But why not look generous? Taking the time to give your customers thoughtful gifts may encourage them to think more of you and your business.
Read more articles on customer relations.