NEWS AND RESOURCES

General Business News for December, 2010

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How to Make Client and Customer Gifts More Meaningful

Who needs another fruit basket, a stale fruitcake or a logo-branded pen? Probably not your clients and customers, especially if you want your gift to have a lasting impact.

While that 12-pack of Florida oranges seems like a nice gift, how much does it speak to the relationship you have with your customers – and will they remember what you gave them if it’s one of several other baskets they also received? What you really want to accomplish with a holiday gift is a way to say, “Thanks for your business.” But you also want to establish a touch point so the customer will think about you and your generosity long after the holiday season.

Here are a few points to think about while you’re making your list of what to give for this season – or for any special customer or client occasion.

Determine who gets what by segmenting
You want to avoid giving the same gift to everyone, so an easy way to make your decisions is to create a three-category list. Drawing on the tried and true theory of paying more attention to your best customers, sort your list into:

  • “A” – your best clients and your best referral sources. Unique gifts should probably be on a totally separate list. These might be for top-producing employees, your administrative assistant or even the receptionist.
  • “B” – second tier, but not necessarily second best. For this list, think in terms of customers you want to honor with a gift, yet you do not need to come up with something quite as special. This could be one-project customers during the year. You want to get their repeat business, but they are somewhat less important on your scale than your “A” customers.
  • “C” – everyone else.  Unless it’s a generic, pre-printed holiday card, you can forgo sending anything to the C group. This doesn’t mean you’re totally negating this group; all it says is that you do not need to buy them anything because there isn’t enough of a return on investment.

Make your gifts tasteful, but don’t break the bank
Since many businesses are still operating in a recovering economy, it’s foolish to spend too much on holiday gifts. Why? This could send a signal to the client that you are doing really well and might not necessarily need their business next year. While you want a solid reputation, you should build it based on your business processes, client/customer service and other factors – not on a gift.

Be creative by customizing your gifts
This is especially important for the “A” category because it will demonstrate that you gave the gift quite a bit of thought. Sure, it’s easier to order 100 Amazon gift cards, but that says absolutely nothing personal about who you are and what you’re about as a business. Try these tips:

  • Send personalized gifts by embossing leather goods with the client’s name or initials. Often, you can find local or web-based sources that offer free personalization; just be sure you spell the name correctly.
  • Pay attention to the client’s hobby or favorite pastime. For example, if he or she likes baseball, get two tickets to opening day or some other game in the spring. Or pick up a team jersey or other memorabilia. Every time the customer wears the shirt, he or she will think about you.
  • Don’t dismiss food as a gift, but be wise about what you give. Ever heard the story about the customer who was on a diet and received a box of Godiva chocolates? How about giving a bottle of wine to an alcoholic? As ridiculous as it sounds, these stories are true and you’ve probably known people who were put in these awkward situations. If you’re going to give the gift of food, think about what you’re giving. Your trust factor with that customer or client will increase tenfold if you give something appropriate.

Don’t get tripped up by giving something easy and inexpensive. While logo calendars and coffee cups are useful, they are not unique. The best way to stand apart from your competition is to make your gifts tasteful, appropriate and memorable.

Have a great holiday season!

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