Now it might seem strange to talk about gifting at the beginning of the New Year. I mean, isn’t the gifting season over?! The holidays are behind us so that means we don’t have to think about gifts for clients for at least another 10 or 11 months, right? Well, kind of. While I‘m not giving you a prescription to gift again to clients right now, so go ahead and breathe a sigh of relief, what I am going to prescribe is this – spend the time now to create the right gifting environment later.
Now what in the world do I mean by that? Well, I mean that you should only give clients gifts when there’s already an established, and continually maintained, relationship. Only give to those who you actually speak to throughout the year. Only give to those who you have some semblance of an idea what’s going on in their life, and don’t give to those who you never have any personal contact after a project has ended. As otherwise, your efforts may not be appreciated.
Gifts Should Only Be Given When There’s a Relationship
Often times we’re sent a Christmas gift by a business that we’ve done work with in the past, and it’s clearly a mass gift. And you know how I feel about mass gifting – it’s something you want to avoid at all costs. It’s often a waste of money and the client ends up throwing it out or in a junk drawer as it has no connection to the client and their interests in any way. And even worse, the gift is given without any other contact during the other 11 months of the year, making it feel even more like a mass gift (and like promotion or just a “remember us” effort rather than a true effort to stay connected).
This leaves the recipient feeling a bit, “Thanks, but why don’t I ever hear from you otherwise?” especially when you’ve worked with a business in the past in a very personal way or in a way that required a significant investment. Clients don’t like that feeling. They want more. They want a real relationship, not just a “remember us” effort.
Write a (Mostly) Personalized Card with Each Gift You Give
So how do you accomplish that? How do you accomplish gifting that actually feels like a gift, rather than sly promotion? Well, you can do a couple of things. First, make sure that with every gift you give, actually take the time to write a card. Make it at least somewhat personal instead of just simply writing “Happy Holidays, insert client name!” then signing your name, or writing out one generic card and then printing out 40 copies of it to attach to each gift.
Now, yes, this does take a bit of time, but I can assure you that its worth your time – maybe 3-4 minutes per card. That’s a small investment with a big impact. You can also make it faster by creating a general template of what you’d like to say, and then insert a space for where a personalized sentence or two can be placed. Just write down the template in your computer, and keep referring back to it over and over again as you write each card. You’ll be shocked at how much faster you’ll become as you no longer have to rethink the entirety of each and every card.
Or, if you can’t come up with a template that’ll work for most clients, and are stuck rewriting each one from scratch, just look out for the card where you think to yourself, “Nailed it!” then take a quick picture of that message. You can then use that as your template for this year, and the next, and the next. Just email a pic of it to yourself or write it up in Word and title it so that you’ll know how to easily find it again. Heck, even set yourself a reminder for November to “Pull up File Name to write Christmas cards.”
This is what I’ve done in the past and it works wonders. No reason to completely reinvent the wheel for every single card, especially when you’ve already come up with a pretty spectacular message. Just switch out a few things here and there, and you know you’ll have a well-written, but still personalized, card done in a much faster time than if you had to start from scratch each time – and possibly achieve mediocre results each time.
Keep Up with the Follow Up
Now other than hand writing a card with each gift, what can you do to make sure that your gifting efforts feel like a natural extension of the relationship rather than a marketing ploy? Make sure you keep in touch with your clients the other 11 months of the year. Or as I like to call it, “Keep up with the follow up.”
It doesn’t always have to be big, and it doesn’t always have to big a significant investment of time or money, but do make an effort to keep in touch with your clients throughout the year. Call them, email them, and if they’re really someone whose at the top of your list of staying connected with, take them and their spouse out to lunch or dinner once or twice a year. Continually pursue and maintain the relationship, rather than just simply sending an expected gift at the end of the year.
Clients, and people, want attention. Actually, let’s restate that, not just want, but crave attention. So when you give them attention, they appreciate it. They remember it. Now of course, not in an excessive, constantly reaching out to them way, but in a sincere, let’s get together or how are you kind of way. That, makes an impact.
I do this with my own clients and I’ve always gotten great responses, feedback, and appreciation from it. People want to know that you care outside of the transaction. They want to know that they’re more than just dollars to you. So when you make efforts to continually maintain a relationship with them with no ulterior motives of selling something new, they’ll know that.
Make Continually Connecting a Part of Your Routine
So make it a part of your natural routine. Put it into your calendar right now. Set yourself a reminder to contact your clients every 3 months for those who you’re closer to and every 6 months for those who you want to maintain a relationship with, but may not be quite as close.
Just simply call or email them, and ask them how they’re doing? Ask them how something is going in their life that you know they spend their time on – hobbies, interests, or activities. Or if a significant event just occurred – they had a child, their child got married, they retired, etc. ask about that. Ask them if they’ll be taking a vacation or if you know they took a vacation, ask them how it was? Simply, show them that you remember them, they mean something to you, and you want to continue on with that.
That old adage, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” is so true. It can also be reduced to an even simpler version “People don’t care about anything you have to say or do, until they know how much you care.” So remember that as you go throughout this year – spend time on maintaining the relationship first to show how much you care, then give a gift later on as just a small part of that bigger relationship. Otherwise your gifting efforts come November or December will be mostly wasted and can even be seen more as selfish advertising, rather than a selfless giving act.
Your Client Relationships Should Be Treated Like Your Other Relationships
Treat your relationships with your clients similarly to the ones you have with friends and family. If you sent a friend or family member a present once a year but never actually took the time to connect, the gift wouldn’t mean much. In fact, it would fall flat and be a complete waste of money as it would simply feel like an obligation.
But, if was part of a bigger, overall relationship, the appreciation of your thoughtfulness would be there. And, your relationship would continually move to the next level or at least be continually maintained – which is of course what you want.
So remember, clients are people too. All they want, is just a bit of our time and attention throughout the year. And with time being of the essence more and more, often time the greatest luxury we can actually give someone is our time and attention. When we decide to give someone that gift, they remember it, they appreciate it, and they connect with it. So, spend the time to pick up the phone, type out a quick email, or take an hour to reconnect over lunch. The investment may be small, but I guarantee you the impact will be large.
Write in the comments below, how do you continually connect with past clients? I’d love to hear!
And if you’d like even more help connecting with clients and making sure you gift the right way, check out “The Art of Pampering” here!