This holiday season, you might seriously consider getting a gift for your clients, whether you’re a sales rep or account manager for a bigger corporation, or you’re an independent entrepreneur trying to keep your business thriving. There are many potential advantages to this move, but is this an appropriate action? Is it an expected one? And how can you make sure your gift is well-received?
Let’s start by recapping the benefits of getting a holiday gift for your client:
- Mutual appreciation. Holiday gifts are a statement of appreciation for your client. It makes them feel valued, and in return, they might appreciate you more as a vendor. It’s a powerful way to keep the relationship in good mutual standing.
- Keeping your brand top-of-mind. Getting a gift in the mail (or in person) also keeps your brand top-of-mind. If it gets you just one extra sale, or just one extra month of an extended contract, it may be worth the investment.
- Word of mouth. If your client is well-connected, they may spread word of your gift—especially if it’s worth talking about. If it’s a visual gift (like a gift basket) it may also make an impression on other people who encounter it (like your client’s business partners).
In most cases, these benefits far outweigh the costs.
When Is a Gift Appropriate?
So when is it appropriate to give a client a gift? Business gifts aren’t strictly necessary; you probably won’t make a client angry or lose a deal because you didn’t send one. But you can determine the appropriateness of a gift based on the following factors:
- Client status. First, make sure the client is actually a client. Sending a holiday gift to a prospect could be seen in poor taste—as a kind of bribery—or may be a waste of money. Keep gifts focused on people who have actually bought your products or services.
- How long has this client been with you? If you just onboarded them a month ago, a gift may not be appropriate. But if they’ve been a loyal client for many years, it would be nice to show them appreciation in the form of a gift.
- Long-term potential. How do you see your relationship evolving in the future? A gift goes a long way in cementing the positive vibes and mutual value in your partnership. If you think future assignments will be sporadic, it may not be worth the investment, but if you envision many years of consistent work, sending a gift may be strongly in your favor.
- Effort and profitability. Also consider how much effort the relationship takes to maintain, and how profitable the work is for you. If you’ve made lots of money from this client, and things have gone smoothly, you shouldn’t feel uncomfortable dropping some money on a gift. But you shouldn’t buy a client a gift that eats too much into the profit you’ve derived from them.
What Type of Gift to Get?
Now, what type of gift is best to get? This question has many different potential answers, depending on your industry and the nature of the relationship, but these are some quick tips to get started:
- Personalize it. First, make sure you’re personalizing your gifts, and not just sending out the same gift, en masse to every client you have. Personalized ornaments may be a good choice here, and make sure you write a different card for each client—preferably by hand.
- Watch your budget. Again, you don’t want to spend more on a client than they’re bringing to you in consistent work. There’s no hard rule here, but make sure you understand the true value of each client before you make a budget for their gift.
- Keep it neutral. You might be tempted to buy something unique, like a metal detector or a robot dinosaur, but even if you feel you know your client’s personality, it’s better to stick with something neutral, which anyone could enjoy, such as a food basket. That way, even if they aren’t interested in the gift, they can easily find someone who wants it.
- Understand other cultures. Finally, if your client comes from a different culture, go out of your way to understand it. Your client may not celebrate the same holidays you do, or may follow different gift-giving etiquette; for example, in China, gifts wrapped in white, blue, or black are typically reserved for funerals.
In summary—should you get a holiday gift for your clients? Unfortunately, this question is too complex and wrought with variables to answer concisely. Instead, you’ll need to consider your relationship, your industry, your budget, and several other factors to make the right move.