As the head of a corporate gifting company, I know that the period between Thanksgiving and Christmas is always hectic. The UPS and FedEx guys are making two or three stops a day at the office, and the conference table is ready to break from the weight of the gifts. If you’re a business or client trying make an impression, this season can be a tough time for building relationships. There’s simply too much noise. Another round of honey-baked hams or Tiffany jewelry just isn’t going to cut it.
Like a good content strategy, gift-giving has to be year-round, rather than “one and done.” When you give a gift at a seemingly random time, it comes as a surprise. Even a lame gift given out of season can score more points over a great one at Christmas by keeping you fresh in your clients’ minds.
One of the most successful gifts we gave was simple but touching: a handmade carving set we sent out to some key clients right before Easter, engraved with each recipient’s last name along with a note that read: “Hope these handcrafted tools are useful as you celebrate the holiday with close family and friends.” This gift was successful because it was unexpected, unique and practical. And it became an “artifact” of the relationship that reminded those clients of us for years to come.
If you want partners and potential clients to think of you, then sending a gift can be the perfect trigger, but consider your timing and the type of gift you send. At Christmas, those gifts might be disregarded, but at other times of year they can be more effective.
Either way, here are three unique ways to help you stand out and show clients and customers you care, no matter the season:
1. Send Handwritten Notes
Countless businesses send Christmas cards, but these are often generic store-bought pieces, all of which compete for attention with the other 147 cards on the wall. Instead, send out personalized notes monthly.
At the Ruhlin Group, we’ve taken this one step further: sending notes on metal letterhead. These are pieces of art, and when people receive them they show them off. One of the top Wells Fargo offices in the country has shown our notes to dozens of advisors at the office. It also sits on his desk so visitors also can see it. Because of this exposure, we are regularly receiving referrals from those he comes into contact with. It’s simple world-class touches like these that make people take notice.
2. Go Beyond the Standard Holidays
Try sending gifts to clients and prospects on a regular basis by picking one unusual holiday every quarter. These gifts don’t have to be ridiculously overpriced; we tend to go for the sweet spot of $100 to $500. It’s the timing that makes the difference: last year, we picked Valentine’s Day, the opening of baseball season, July 4th and Halloween — all holidays when one wouldn’t expect to receive gifts from a business.
For Valentine’s Day, we sent out our top 250 relationships a $100 pair of red-handled handmade Cutco shears with the client’s surname engraved on the blade. It is nearly impossible to research the preferences of 25o people so we picked a simple, practical item that anyone on the planet could use. We made sure it was best-in-class so that it would replace anything the recipient currently was using. These were so nice, in fact, that I heard of a few guys repurposing them as gifts for their wives. Cheesy and shocking? Maybe. But I’m comfortable with bailing a client out of being the schmuck who didn’t get his wife a gift. It keeps me top of mind, and that campaign is still bearing fruit through deals and referrals.
3. Crank Up Your Events, Dinners and Meetings
Look beyond Christmas parties to take your dinners and trade show events to another level. Don’t send boring paper invitations. Send a personalized, world-class gift with your handwritten note. We did this for a hospitality company that was entertaining 30 investors at a golf tournament. It was a recurring event for them, so to prevent it from getting stale, we had a custom $300 leather shave bag made up with each investor’s initials and a handwritten note from the CEO to “pack your bag” and get ready for an amazing weekend. The quality, personalization and timing of the gift created unique buzz for the event that another bottle of wine could never generate.
If you want to stand out in your clients’ memories, then look beyond Christmas with your corporate gift-giving. By showing clients throughout the year that you care, you’ll stay top of mind and become a loved and valued business partner.