5 Mistakes To Avoid When Buying Client Gifts

At one point in your career you will probably need to buy a client gift for someone. For many, this is an time-sucking affair that you would rather pass off to someone else. For some, it's an opportunity to get creative and have some fun. Regardless of which camp you may fall into, it's important to remember that giving a client a gift is a HUGE opportunity and that it should be done right. So here are a few mistakes you should avoid when buying a client gift.

#1 - Making the Gift About You

This is by far the most common mistake that occurs when it comes to client gifts. Most well-meaning people buy some gift (usually a fruit basket or tchotchke) and proceed to slap their logo on it thinking that it will blow the client out of the water. In most instances, this doesn’t work unless the gift has a very high value (think a new IPhone X). Regardless, in most cases when you send a branded gift to a client he or she receives it as a promotional product, which at that point that is exactly what it is. What’s wrong with promotional products? Well, the bottom line is that people don’t want to be advertised to. They want to feel valued and known for who they are as individuals.

“Sending a gift to your client is not an opportunity to advertise; it’s an opportunity to strengthen the relationship with that particular individual.”

So, ask yourself the question; how would my friend or significant other receive this gift? If it’s a USB drive with your company’s logo, then he or she would probably be disappointed. On the other hand, if it’s a bottle of their favorite wine accompanied by some accessory gift that touches on their personal interests or values (think a wine glass with a quote from one of their influences), then you have winner.

#2 - Not Personalizing It

Think about the best gift you’ve ever received. I’m guessing that the gift was probably personalized in some form or fashion or at least it catered to your personal interests, personality, or values. Personalized gifts are the best gifts. Now, you may be thinking, “I don’t have time to personalize my client gifts.” To make it easy, here are two ways to personalize a client gift—an easy way (requires very little effort) and a more difficult way (requires some effort but it will blow your client away).

Bonus: 2 Ways To Personalize Your Client Gift

Way #1: The first is to simply incorporate the individual’s name or initials somewhere on the gift. If you decided to get them a moleskin journal, then have it engraved or embossed with their name. If you sent them a nice stationary, then have it customized with their name or initials. This requires very little time and usually only costs a few extra bucks.

Way #2: The second way (and best way) is to tailor the gift to your client’s interests, personality, or values. I listed those in order of difficulty/return on investment meaning that the more difficult it is to do correctly the higher the potential return on investment. For example, it’s pretty easy to determine someone’s interests and tailor a gift towards those (e.g., the client likes fishing). Although this will no doubt be meaningful, it won’t be near as meaningful as tailoring a gift to someone’s personality or values.

What if I learn that the client is a big supporter of the United States military because his or her son is a service member. I could easily incorporate this into the gift idea. Although you must use great discretion and tactfulness when dealing with someone’s values, you also have a great opportunity to make a meaningful impact on your client. This is the type of gift that will make you unforgettable.

So, when dealing with personalizing a client gift, think about how much time you will be able to put towards it as well as your hopes for a potential impact (see Gift Personalization Matrix). If your time is limited or if you haven’t spent much time with the client, consider an easier approach (i.e., names or interests). If you seem to know the client well and would like to really blow them away, try to tailor it to the individual’s personality or values. In most cases your inbox will blow up with emails telling about how much the gift meant to them.

The Gift Personalization Matrix

The easier it is to know the information about the person the lower potential opportunity for impact. The more difficult it is to know the information (i.e., the ins and outs of their personality or what they deeply value), the more opportunity to make an impact on someone through a gift.

#3 - Buying Poor Quality

This should go without being said, but a lot of people ignore it. They often think that just getting your client something is what is most important (usually that something is cheap and tchotchke-ish). Bottom line: don’t buy something that is poor quality. It will probably end up in the trash or stored deep within the confines of someone’s bottom desk drawer (if you’re really strapped for cash, scroll down to mistake #5). 

#4 - Sending at the Wrong Time

If we’re honest, most of us send client gifts out of necessity. You hear lines like, “you’re supposed to give your clients a Christmas gift…you’re supposed to give them something so they renew…your supposed to give them something once they sign…etc.” This is what most people do. In reality, most people don’t send gifts at all so you’re a bit ahead of the game. Regardless, sending gifts during the typical client milestones and holidays is not going to help you differentiate your brand and is less likely to make an impact on your client. Think about how many Christmas gifts you received this past Christmas. Now think about how many gifts you received last Thanksgiving. Probably not as many. Once you receive a gift out of the blue for some random holiday or for no reason at all, it leaves a lasting impression on you. You begin to feel like the person just wanted to give you a gift because he or she thought of you. Not because he or she is supposed to send you something or you won’t renew. So be more unconventional about the timing of your gifts—plus your client may or not celebrate Christmas because of religious reasons (just a thought).

#5 - Not Writing a Letter

When it comes to client gifts, this is probably the most cost-effective tactic you could employ that will bring the most lasting value. Everyone loves a hand-written letter. It doesn’t matter if you’re writing a C-Suite accountant at a Fortune 100 company or a small blue-collar business owner, the hand-written letter is powerful. There has even been an instance when one of our clients wasn’t very impressed with the sample we sent him but their team was blown away by the hand-written letter that it housed. This is exactly why we’ve built our offerings around sending people hand-written letters as a component of a gift. If you haven’t heard the story of how our founder came up with this idea, you should definitely check it out—think Sharktank meets “How It’s Made" (Our Story video).

“When it comes to client gifts, the hand-written letter gives you the most bang for your buck.”

Whether you’re strapped for cash or you’re sending a client a painted portrait of them (which would be a little weird honestly), there should be a hand-written letter in there somewhere.   

Opportunity Awaits

Now that you've learned a thing or two, get out there and find a great client gift that will make an impact on your client and make you unforgettable (in a good way of course).