The Right Gift Can Change Everything
To me, gift giving is a big dang deal. It really shows how well you listen, how much you care, and how well you know someone. And when the gift is to a client, it’s high stakes. The right gift can take a client from good to great. It can help mend damaged relationships. It can help you stand out when a client hears about other great designers. Because when you receive a great gift, it’s like feeling understood and fully paid attention to. And what feels better than that? So put some serious thought into your gift giving. No more mass gifting, if at all possible. Not everyone likes salted caramels or dark chocolate. Not everyone likes red Santa platters. Not everyone likes random $8 bottles of wine.
And even though it’s still weeks away from Halloween, now is the time to start thinking about holiday gifts for clients. Why so soon? Well, let me count the ways.
Why You Should Start Getting Client Gifts in October
- The sooner you figure out what you want to get clients, the more time you have during the holidays to get gifts for your neighbor’s neighbor’s dog walker, your children’s best friend’s bus driver, and your favorite Starbucks cashier.
- You’re a lot more likely to get your clients what you want. A lot of things start going out of stock come late November.
- Companies are usually pretty slow right now, and are often willing to give discounts. Call in and see if you can strike up a deal. And it’s easier than you think. Just call in and ask, hey have any special deals going on before the holidays, any rewards for not being a procrastinator? Have a little fun with it! Make ’em laugh, win ’em over, and they’ll do what they can to help you out. Only a real grump won’t at least try. 9/10 times this’ll work. I’ve tried this for everything from pizza to a floor buffer with success! And don’t think you have to come up with a compelling argument. When we bought my Accord, I asked for a deal on a model that wasn’t even available on the lot yet. After the saleswoman left my husband turned to me and said, but what’s your reasoning? All I said was, cause I don’t want to pay full price! And it worked. You don’t always need a reason for negotiating. But you do always need to be nice. Sweet and charming gets you far, forceful gets you nowhere.
Now, the real question is, what do you get them? Like I said, I take gift giving VERY seriously. I start planning birthday, holiday, Mother’s Day gifts months in advance. I try to make each gift as personal as possible, and as useful as possible. So, let’s go over the main guidelines I give myself.
Do’s and Dont’s for Holiday Gifts
- Don’t give clutter. Or anything too specific to someone’s style. – One of my number one goals when giving gifts is not to give clutter. We all have enough “stuff.” Nothing pains me more than to think of wasting money (which I hate) on something that’ll just end up in someone’s junk drawer. Or re-gifted. But this is often what happens. So, unless I’m completely sure that this is what the recipient wants, I don’t give things like candles, jewelry, guest soap, picture frames, hand towels, or perfume. They’re either SO hard to choose for someone else, or too generic. A scent may smell like walking in a field of lilies to one person, but to another may smell like walking in a field of headache inducing garbage. Same thing with candles. And jewelry? Oh gosh, there’s so many ways to go wrong. Jewelry is SUCH a personal choice. It’s just really, really hard to get right. And picture frames? Just too, generic. Too easy. Most of these things just end up as clutter. They’re not the right style, or scent, or they don’t need anymore of them, or they don’t use them at all. So don’t give your clients something that they’ll end up thinking “What am I supposed to do with this?”
- Give things that go away – This is one of my favorites. Again, going back to the clutter, give things that can be used up. Like food, beverages, or flowers. But make sure they’re actually enjoyable. Try to stay away from overly commercialized food or gift baskets. To me, paying $100 for fruit that’s been cut into shapes with cookie cutters, isn’t a great gift. The worth just isn’t seen. But a box of chocolates filled with gourmet chocolates rarely seen in the U.S., that’s worth it. Or a box of rare coffees from around the world, and not sold in stores? Yes, please! Or a basket of flowers and flower seeds (BTW, call a local florist rather than using online services. Rarely are they a good value, or what you see online). That’s a gift they can both enjoy now and in the future. All ideas that you can work with, that won’t end up in the junk drawer.
- Make sure your clients actually like what you’re getting them. – The key to client gift giving is to make it personal. Like if you know your client loves to throw parties, getting them a monogrammed serving tray or cheese board is a great option. But if you know that your client is a bit of a hermit, giving them a serving tray makes them think, “wow, they don’t know me at all”. So think of what they ARE interested in. Now, most likely, you can’t get every single one of your clients a completely personal gift. So instead, make categories. These clients are party throwers, get them monogrammed old-fashioned glasses, these clients love to travel, get them luscious leather luggage tags or a passport holder, these clients love animals, get them a silhouette print of their pet. These clients are adventurous foodies, get them a subscription to a food box that allows them to taste ingredients, snacks, and foods from around the world. For the brainiacs and business people, what about a subscription to Harvard Business Review? (And the secret about subscriptions? Every time they get a new one, they’ll think of you!) And for the sports fans, a personalized New York Times history book of their favorite team. Just find out what your clients love, and start searching !
- Give experiences – Another great gift is to provide your clients with experiences. The possibilities are endless here. For all of your clients who have kids, maybe give them a gift card to a local cupcake decorating shop? Or to a local kid’s museum or play place? (Before you give to kids, be sure to check with the parents first, of course. But if you’re close to the family, you can really stand out as a business by thinking of their children too). For adults who love to garden, maybe a membership to your local garden? Or, sponsor a flower arranging class with a local florist and invite your flower loving clients. For the art lovers, memberships to the local art museum. Even places that are normally free usually offer great benefits for members, like discounts on special events, invitations to members only occasions, etc. For foodies, sponsor a party at a local restaurant as a client appreciation holiday party, or arrange a class at a local cooking school. And if you don’t want all your clients mingling, you can always provide gift cards that would cover a class. The opportunities really are endless! And can be so much more impactful than something like a vase or a bottle of wine.
- Give themed gifts – If you’re not into any of the above ideas, try to find a theme, and build off of that. Not like a Disney theme, or “under the sea” as that would obviously be ridiculous, but more like build your own gift box. A baking theme may include the Cook’s Illustrated Baking Cookbook and a box of baking spices and if you’re feeling really generous, the highly coveted Emile Henry pie dish. If you know your clients need a date night, get them a gift certificate to their favorite local restaurant, tickets to a local show (or just to the movies if you’re on a budget), and maybe as a bonus a mani gift certificate for the woman so she can get spruced up beforehand.
- Don’t give logo gifts – Whatever you do, don’t give anything that has your business logo on it. That’s not a gift, that’s promotion.
- Give classic – If you really want to give something tangible and more “typical”, give something classic. Keep it from being too stylized one way or another to keep it from being stuffed into the back of a closet. Give a classic platter that can be used during the holidays. Or this scarf that can also be used as a blanket. Or a glass hurricane for those special meals. Simple, classic, and quality goes a long way if you don’t have enough time to pick out more customized gifts. And although not all of your design clients would necessarily want these gifts, most would.
- Know where to go – When I’m short on ideas, I just start searching through some of my favorite go to’s and usually get inspiration. I’ve found consistently great ideas from Mark and Graham, the New York Times store, Uncommon Goods, World Market, Penzey’s Spices, any local gourmet food store, Pottery Barn ,Williams Sonoma, Etsy, and plain ol’ google. Sometimes just googling “gifts for…. Christmas/anniversary/husband” can at least give you a place to start.
Gifts Need to Be Meaningful
Gifts matter. Whether to your spouse, your best friend, or your favorite client, gifts can really take someone’s breath away. And cliche as it sounds, giving is truly better than receiving. But, not just any giving. It has to be meaningful. You can’t give a $65 Diptyque candle to someone who literally can’t smell, and expect it to mean something. But giving people what you know they would love, rather than what you would love to give them (a huge difference), can mean the world. Because honestly, nothing is better than the moment when someone opens a gift and realizes, you “get” them. And let’s be honest, it ain’t bad for business either!