The holiday season is upon us, and we all know what that means — it’s time to bring out the old traditions like musty decorations, emotionally charged family gatherings, and that hard cider recipe that gets a little bit harder every year.
Holiday traditions, however, aren’t reserved for home life—today they follow us into the workplace. The office fills up with gift baskets lining every available surface, cards for clients must be signed, and you’re on first-name basis with the FedEx driver who seems to be stopping by every couple of hours, struggling under the weight of all those honey-baked hams.
Indeed, the commercialization of Christmastime, when both consumers and businesses alike are sending cards and gifts to all those to whom they feel obliged to endear themselves.
But if you operate a business, have you ever stepped back and asked yourself, “Why?” After all, from a business perspective, delivering a gift to a client during the holiday is simply a sure-fire way to blend into the noise.
As a gifting expert who has worked with thousands of companies over a 15 year career, I can assure you that December is the worst time to invest money in gifts aimed at building relationships.
Thus, it’s time to kill Christmas — for business gift giving.
Don’t believe me? Just a look at that mountain of identical gift baskets cluttering your desk. Can you honestly say that you know who sent every last one? No, you can’t. Limiting your gift giving to the holidays is a sure-fire way to be forgotten.
People feel special when they have their expectations exceeded, and this is next to impossible during the holidays. When FedEx shows up in the middle of March and all you’re expecting is a batch of contracts or reports to read through — but instead, it’s a gift out of the blue — now that’s a surprise. Maybe it’s set of personalized knives or branded pullovers — it’s the surprise that makes it a great experience.
Here are three little ways to show clients you care:
1. Write Notes by Hand: Everyone sends Christmas cards, but few bother to go beyond the generic. Personalized notes sent every month have a far greater impact. We only send notes on metal letterhead. This makes them more than just a token — they’re basically a work of art and the little details make all the difference.
2. Choose Unusual Occasions: Maybe it’s Valentine’s Day as you want to show your clients you love them, perhaps it’s Major League Baseball’s opening day for the sports fan, or what about Halloween to get a tad spooky? Either way, look beyond the standard gift-giving holidays. Pick one unusual holiday each quarter and change them from one year to the next.
3. Don’t Break The Bank: You do not need to spend thousands. One year at Valentine’s Day we sent $100 handmade Cutco shears with red handles and the client’s surname engraved on the blade. The sweet spot is between $100 and $500; it’s no more than you’d spend on dinner, a round of golf, or tickets to a ball game, but the timing makes all the difference.
4. Turbo-Charge Your Events, Meetings and Dinners: Your company dinners and tradeshow events shouldn’t be standard or predictable, with the same paper invitations sent out each time, and oftentimes it can be as easy as giving your guests a unique gift to walk away with along with a handwritten note. For example, each year we help put on an event at the Memorial Golf Tournament and to keep things fresh, we commissioned $300 leather shave bags with each investor’s initials embossed on the front, and sent them out with a handwritten note from the CEO that said “Pack Your Bags.”
In the end, it’s often more about the surprise than the gift itself. So don’t be predictable at the holidays. Kill the Christmastime giving — use the Ritz-Carlton “surprise and delight” mentality — because if you show clients that you care all year round, then you’ll stay top of mind and forge lasting business relationships.
John Ruhlin is the founder and CEO of the Ruhlin Group, a firm that specializes in high-level gifting plans to build relationships and drive 10x Referrals. The Ruhlin Group’s partnership with Cutco has enabled it to become the No. 1 distributor in Cutco’s 60-year history. John is a sought-after speaker on the topics of C-level selling, referrals, and strategic gifting; he is also the co-author of the best-selling book, “Cutting Edge Sales.”