5 Extraordinary Gifts Your Clients Will Never Forget

Tired of giving (and receiving) the same lame coffee mugs and booze? Here's a guide to help amp up your gift giving this holiday season.
Columnist, American Express OPEN
December 09, 2013

Let’s be honest: Gift baskets are boring. Wine is predictable. And your clients don’t need (or want) another stainless coffee tumbler with your company logo on it. Why? Because that gift is all about you and has nothing to do with your clients. It’s just a way for you to get your logo and maybe your Web address out there.

You can do better than the run-of-the-mill holiday gift for your treasured clients.

In a holiday season that’s filled with more crap than we could ever hope to find a place to store, how do you give gifts with a wow factor? Ones your clients will appreciate and remember you for as opposed to those that find their way into junk bins and the back of office break room cabinets?

Here are a few ideas to help you rev up your client appreciation this season—and not a single one has your logo or a silly gift basket anywhere near it.

A Catered Lunch

There’s something wonderful (and delicious) about a meal you didn’t buy. Why not reach out to your favorite clients and buy their team a catered-in lunch from their restaurant of choice? When I’ve done this for clients, I’ve been delightfully surprised with group photos and grateful tweets—none of which were expected but were possibly the finest thanks I’ve ever received.

How to deliver: For smaller teams (offices under 20), I typically reach out to one of my contacts and get a list of preferred lunch destinations. With a few phone calls, I can get an average catering cost for my client’s office size. Then I simply send along a restaurant gift card for that value, along with a handwritten note that lunch is on me and and that I appreciate the privilege of being part of their team.

An Exceptional Experience

Many small-business owners are fortunate enough to have developed highly personal relationships with their clients. You've gotten to know their passions, wishes, dreams and hobbies. So why not use that knowledge to offer your most exceptional clients an exceptional experience? Companies like Excitations, Xperience Days and Cloud 9 Living offer you the chance to give an experience based on both geography and price range. From private golf experiences to unforgettable and personalized regional cultural experiences, your gift will be both cherished and experienced.

How to deliver: Most experience sites offer multiple ways to give your gift, from gift boxes to emails to a printed certificate you can deliver personally. If you find yourself at a loss, why not write a handwritten note and include a gift certificate with a few experience ideas? Mention your last golf outing or conversation about top spas across the world, and invite them to design their own dream experience. 

If You’re Going to Give a Gift Box …

... you might as well go all out and give a gift box that’s going to crush the memory of every other gift box ever given. For your male clients, check out Bespoke Post. Each month, this company curates boxes that combine the best of hand-tested finds. Boxes are just $55 each for a one-time purchase. You can even buy your favorite clients a Bespoke Post multi-box subscription for $45 per month. Recipients will receive an email announcing that month’s box, and they have the choice it “ship it or skip it.”

If your gift giving includes both ladies and men, have a look at Birchbox. It offers the latest in personal care items, assembled into a neat box and delivered to your home or office each month. Gift subscriptions are easy to give—just check out their Gifts for Women and Gifts for Men pages. Ultimate level gifts are only $200 (women) or $250 (men). You can also give three-month, six-month and 12-month experiences.

How to deliver: If you’re giving a gift box subscription, you’ll usually just need to enter the recipient's information on the order form, and Bespoke Post and Birchbox will take care of the rest (including a gift message). Both sites offer customizable gift giving options like gift cards (click here for Bespoke Post’s and here for Birchbox’s).

Charitable Donations

Charitable giving is personal. My preferred causes might not be yours, and for me to make a gift to a charity I love in your name is a bit arrogant and presumptuous. If you’d like to extend the giving spirit this holiday season, here are a few ideas to honor your recipient:

  • Ask your client directly. I have yet to have a client decline to tell me their preferred charity when I ask this question. This way, you can make the donation in your client’s name and simply send them a handwritten note confirming the amount and date of the donation.
  • Kiva gift cards. Kiva is an organization that makes loans to people in more than 70 underdeveloped countries for the purpose of starting a business. You can send your clients Kiva gift cards—this lets them choose the recipient and empowers them to offer resources that can change lives.

How to deliver: A handwritten note that tells your client about your donation or includes the Kiva gift card and explains why you’re grateful for their business is a thoughtful touch this time of year.

A Place for Building Memories

If you have a writer, busy executive or journaler as a client, why not give the gift of a special journal? Those who write appreciate a place to write, and there are a world of options out there to satisfy any and every personality type.

How to deliver: A simple box. Perhaps a single piece of ribbon tied around your gift with a handcrafted gift card (nothing preprinted in boxes of 20, please). For the gents, a plain brown kraft paper gift bag. Maybe add a bottle of scotch, whiskey or vodka from a local distillery. Be sure to include a handwritten note.

Read more articles on customer engagement.

Photo: Getty Images