How to Give Gifts That Build Relationships and Build Your Brand

wrapped_giftWe’re barreling to the end of the year and, in addition to examining what went right and what went wrong, planning to make the next year even more successful, it’s also time to decide how we’re going to say thanks to our clients, strategic referral partners, and even our special vendors.

Thanking your team members and staff is also important but I’m going to save that for another post.

Whether this has been a banner year financially for you or not, it’s still important to find some way to show your appreciation to the special people in your business life.

No matter whether you give your gifts during the month of December or you save them as a kick off to the new year, I’ve got some tips on how you can use your budget effectively without looking like a Scrooge.

The most important phrase I learned about gift giving came from my very first consulting client, Bruce Kamis of Kamis Imprinted Products.

Bruce and I met in a networking group and we just hit it off.

He gave a presentation once that educated us on “perceived value”. This speaks to the price the receiver has in her head about the overall worth of your gift.

For example, we’ve all seen aluminum travel cups on sale in coffee shops. They’re typically priced around $10 to $20. So when you give someone that as a gift along with a bag of their favorite coffee and a few cookies, they’re going to see that as a gift worth anywhere from $20 to $40 dollars.

If you bought the cup in quantities from a promotional products company it’s possible that you spent only $5 or so for the cup. That takes the actual price of your gift down to the $10 to $15 dollar range.

Understanding perceived value and that the recipient of your gift is going to do the mental comparisons in her head is important if you want to keep your gesture from creating more harm than good.

For example, It’s common for a real estate agent to give a gift to the buyer after the purchase.

When we bought our house last winter, our real estate agent gave us a gift of a bottle of olive oil and a bottle of balsamic vinegar.

Seriously?

We gave him $18,000 in revenue and he gave us something that cost maybe $20 tops and that’s if he bought really high-end stuff (trust me, he didn’t) and if we add in the sales tax.

That made me feel as though he either didn’t appreciate our business or was too thoughtless or lazy to put any effort in choosing something.

A much nicer and more thoughtful gift would have been a gift certificate for dinner at one of the gourmet restaurants in town.

Even if we had the most expensive thing on the menu, plus dessert, plus cocktails it would have cost 1% of what our sale was truly worth to him.

 

But it’s not just dollars and cents in the perceived value equation.

It’s also the thought and sometimes the effort involved.

This is when it pays to adopt some of Sherlock’s powers of observation.

I work pretty closely with my clients and strategic referral partners over the course of a project. I discover who has a sweet tooth and who’s gone gluten free.

I know who is an empty-nester and who is struggling to juggle the new baby and work.

I also know who the proud pet parents are.

One of my colleagues once gave me a tiny tree. I was over the moon! It couldn’t have cost more than a few dollars, but that gift showed just how well she knew me (I’m a big birder and gardener). I planted that thing in the perfect spot and said goodbye to it when I moved. (Yes I take “tree hugger” to new levels).

Another person “adopted” a seal for me.

I was crazy with joy over that and still have the picture and the “adoption certificate”.

if you don’t know much about your clients, do a little research. Connect with them on Facebook and LinkedIn. Scan their wall or profile for things they post about and things they’re interested in.

Do you know their home town or university? Get them a t-shirt, sweatshirt, or even a coffee mug with the college emblem.

Even a key chain is a good idea. Something else Bruce taught me was you want them to use the item (or at least look at it a lot) and think of you (fondly) when they use it.

I actually like getting junk mail catalogs and I scan them all year for goofy stuff to give.

I had a colleague who had a Santa collection. So when I saw a toy Santa with a Mexican hat and maracas that played and danced to Feliz Navidad (her favorite Christmas carol), I knew I had a gift home run.

Not sure if they celebrate Christmas? That’s ok, everyone celebrates the start of a new year. A great way to stand out from the December holiday deluge of cards is to save yours (and your gift where appropriate) and send them to coincide with New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.

It helps your gift or card stand out a bit more and it takes some of the pressure off you too.

When figuring out your holiday budget, it also makes sense to prioritize the gifts you’ll give.

For example, a client who is paying you thousands of dollars isn’t going to get the same gift as a potential client who you’ve had a couple of meetings with.

As my examples show, it’s not necessary to spend a ton of money to show you appreciate and care for the person. But you don’t want to give something that looks like next to no thought went into it at all.

It’s easy to say “bah humbug” at this time of year because there’s so much to do and maybe you feel as though there’s not enough cash to go around. But when a gift is well thought out and conveys the right emotion it’s easy to build your brand and strengthen your relationship with the recipient.

If you’re a notoriously bad gift giver or you’ve got more money than time, consider hiring a professional gift buying consultant who can help you use your budget wisely and make you look good at the same time.

 

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