Choosing Gifts for Clients

Around this time each year, many consultants consider what premium items or gifts to send their clients. It’s challenging to come up with something enjoyable and memorable that won’t break the bank. In a recent survey, The Creative Group asked advertising and marketing executives to list the most unusual or unique items they’d ever heard of a business distributing. While some offerings, such as digital cameras or autographed baseballs, must have been hits with the recipients, others left something to be desired—a desire to never hear from the client again, that is. One person sent a client a live snake as a gift, for instance. Other unusual offerings included:
• Rocks
• A can of bees
• Umbrellas with holes in them
• A candle that smelled like burning rubber
• Plastic cockroaches
• A pigeon

Following are some guidelines to help you choose a premium gift that makes a lasting, positive impression.

Reinforce what you do. Your gifts to clients and customers are an opportunity to remind them of what you do best. Is your business known for providing last-minute marketing assistance to organizations that require help in a pinch? If so, you might send a relaxation kit, noting that you hope they can always rest easy knowing that your firm is on top of their projects. Or perhaps clients call on you because you’re known for creating timeless design. In this case, some sort of clock or calendar with a clever tagline might help drive the point home.

Another idea is to provide a premium that reflects your firm’s distinct style: a personalized stationery set with a simple, contemporary design engraved on the envelopes, for example. Place your company name on the stationery container so your clients will see it each time they write a note.

Showcase your talent. Have you made a name for yourself by creating fun, frolicking logo designs? It won’t make a lot of sense to your clients if you hand out conservative, high-end pens. Instead, consider a giveaway that mirrors your style. You might send something unusual and playful, such as a pogo stick. Or, if you’re on a budget, give away a boomerang with a card that says, "For design that keeps them coming back."

Demonstrate your thoughtfulness. If you have a small client list, you can be more personal in your gift giving. Maybe one of your clients is beginning to play golf. Why not buy him or her a lesson? Or you might have a customer who enjoys Italian food. Present that person with a gift certificate for two to a restaurant known for its homemade ravioli. Just as family members and friends appreciate receiving well thought-out gifts, so do your professional acquaintances.

Highlight your hidden talent. Your clients know you’re an excellent copywriter but have no idea you also possess a hidden talent for making extravagant desserts. This is the best time of year to show off your secret ability. Bake some of your trademark brownies or cookies and put them in a decorative tin; you can accompany it with a note saying you hope they enjoy the family recipe. Clients will appreciate the personal touch and get to know a little more about your interests outside of work.

Stick to what works. Did you get rave reviews from those who were given your firm’s handmade wrapping paper last year? Does the client who received the golfing lesson bring up how much your thoughtfulness was appreciated every time he or she sees you? Don’t change a formula that’s working. Give wrapping paper again this year, and send the golfer to a new club for a lesson. Clients will begin looking forward to your gift each year.

No matter what tokens of appreciation you decide to give away, always keep in mind the "golden rule": If you wouldn’t want to receive it yourself, you shouldn’t bestow it on others. By carefully considering your gift choices and making sure they reflect your business, your style or your clients’ tastes, you will ensure others look forward to receiving them each year—and think of you when the next big project presents itself.

The Creative Group is a specialized staffing service placing creative, advertising, marketing and Web professionals on a project basis with a variety of firms.