Maybe you have some extra budget. Maybe you have some extra time. Maybe you just have the best customers ever. ‘Tis the season for corporate gifts. But what can you give? Let’s see what professionals who have been on the receiving end have said and, most importantly, have actually remembered receiving.
Make It Nice. Make It Memorable.
The most important thing is to think of your company gift as a memorable gesture, where your clients recall you thinking of them. Everybody may eat fruit, but a fruit basket does not leave a lasting impression.
My vacation rental marketing agency friend Louise still remembers receiving a big red toy firetruck from a vendor. “It was so fab. All the lights, bells and alarms worked and the ladder moved up and down!” But then, when asked, she couldn’t remember who sent it to her or why, so maybe not the most successful corporate gift.
On the other hand, business development expert Caitlin still remembers three years ago when Google sent her “amazing Belgian chocolate truffles.” If you’re going to invest in sending something at all, it better be a nice — and even better, delicious — gesture. She said, “Probably the best chocolates I’ve ever had. Hands down. NO to fruit baskets.”
If your agency serves a local community, think about offering locally sourced gifts. Maybe you have a small green grocer or trendy food market nearby or perhaps there’s a service that creates holiday gift baskets of local treats. Maybe your client’s receptionist is just fantastic and easy to work with, so you buy him a massage or a dinner out at a popular restaurant.
Lindsey remembers back when her tourism agency in Spain was booming, “We used to receive Christmas hampers [baskets] from our biggest hotels, stuffed with wine, turrón, various jars of pickles and seafood. On the good years, the boss would get a Jamón.” She still fondly remembers her most thoughtful suppliers.
In fact, start by asking your sales team if they can suggest any of your customers that could source your gifts. Wouldn’t it show customer loyalty and that you care about your customers if you actually gave a gift made by one of your own.
While the price tag increases with this gift category, just about everyone loves a good cocktail basket. Steve really got into the spirit (literally) when one of the customers of his content agency actually gave him an artisan vermouth pack. And Leanne recommends mixed cocktail kits that let smaller teams have fun with gin and martini tastings. And if you really want to make it special (and trendy), why not share your favorite local craft beers paired with a branded pint glass?
If you want to try offering something that will stick around the office for awhile, not get gobbled up immediately, you could go a bit off the cuff and prepare your clients for New Year’s by getting them agency-branded kazoos. As a software architect, the best gift Maarten ever got was a mini Leatherman — a higher-end, small Swiss army knife — which has that company’s logo popping in and out of his pocket still to this day.
But customized corporate gifts aren’t always financially practical…
The Best Things in Life Are Free.
If you have budget at the end of the year to get your customers gifts, awesome! Congrats! But maybe you don’t. You and your team can still recognize them in perhaps more personal, memorable, and usually free ways.
Make an effort year-round to spotlight your clients. This isn’t a testimonials page — that is a valuable thing for the future, but does a lot more for you than your customers. Maybe spend the month of December tweeting about a different customer every day. Now with 280 characters, you can actually make a good introduction of each one to your following. If they’re in the B2C market, a tweet about their products paired with hashtag #holidaygifts may be even more valuable than any money you spend on them.
Never forget the old-fashioned thank-you note. Handwriting is no doubt a lost art, but the time you spend to write something out still matters. If you are going to invest just a little budget toward the holidays, why not in unique thank you cards or stationery? A former sales colleague Bob would make fun, memorable and often ridiculous postcards with images that would certainly be hung in the offices of his customers and potential customers. Images would range from the local college football team to a beautiful nature theme to his adorable dog. And of course, each postcard had a personal, handwritten note on the back.
Still, the most important gift of thanks is a call. How often do you pick up the phone to just acknowledge someone else? Not to ask for anything back, but just to take two minutes of your day to call them up, say “Thank You, [add first name here]”, that you wish them a wonderful holiday, and tell them you’re excited to be working with them again in the new year. Seriously, who gets calls anymore? Think of how lovely — and surprising and memorable — that would be! (Bonus points, of course, if you remember their kids’ or dogs’ names.)
And of course, you don’t actually have to get your customers anything. What if instead, you put that money to a good cause? (Which you of course share about in an email to your customers and on your socials.) Or maybe you can instead have t-shirts made and do a team workday volunteering outside the office, which again makes photographic brilliance and can be a great bonding experience, all while helping others.
In the end, it really is the thought that counts. Your customers really do just want to know you care — or maybe they don’t care as long as you do a good job, but all growth habits are about finding new ways to contact the same folks. And maybe the benefit of corporate gifts is not in the giving, but the fun brainstorming activity with your team.