More than any other kind of business, if you’re a service provider, your livelihood depends on how well you establish relationships. Your social skills need to be top-notch, and one of they ways we show social regard is through the custom of gift- giving. In fact, you may be in a business where you receive monetary tips, which is a type of gift-giving in itself. To show appreciation for those that support your business growth, it’s customary to send gifts or cards once in awhile. And besides, it just feels good.
Now that the big “year end” holidays are here, small business owners are buzzing about customer gift-giving and trying to figure out what they want to do. If you’re a new entrepreneur, you may not even have thought about it before, but even the old-timers put if off till the last minute.
There’s multiple decisions you’ll need to make when designing your company gift-giving program, but the scope of this article is really “should you send holiday gifts to your customers or not?”
The plus-side of buying holiday gifts
One of the big plus-sides of buying holiday gifts for your customers is that you can plan & buy for everyone at the same time, and you’re done. If you’re the type to get into the buying, wrapping, and customizing of theme gifts, it can really be a lot of fun. By the way, you will need to have a system for determining who’s going to receive a gift. Most of the small business owners I know only send gifts to their “active” customers, not their whole data base (like you might if you’re just sending cards.)
Another plus-side to creating a once-a-year holiday gift package that goes to your best customers is that you can use it to reinforce your brand. Are you in the spa/salon biz? Put together some travel-size products & accessories in a gift bag. In the health or fitness biz? Wrap up your favorite healing tool with some herbal tea. Whatever field you’re in, your gift should be complimentary to your business and reinforce the image and benefits of what you’re all about. (Unless you’re buying a personal gift for one particular customer, then feel free to break that rule and get something that’s about them, not you.)
The pitfalls of buying holiday gifts
Since I was once married into a Jewish family, I’ve become much more sensitive to the religious connotations of “holiday” cards. Even though they don’t “say” Christmas (to be politically correct) they often scream it with red/green envelopes or icons. Obviously you would never mean to offend someone with a gift, but it’s easy to do by mistake. So be careful there.
If you’ve decided you do want to buy an annual holiday gift for your customers, then make sure it’s something classy and relevant to your business. If your budget is tight and you find yourself looking at $.19 ball point pens and thinking “that’s all I can afford, so I’ll just get those,” don’t do it. Save your money. It’s better to send no gift than a meaningless one.
Consider celebrating personal holidays instead.
In my own business, I prefer to send birthday gifts instead of buying a bunch of generic holiday tokens. Not only is it more personal, but this way of gifting allow me to spread my gift expenditure over the whole year. Not only do I ask for client birthdays on my intake forms, but I also ask about their favorite colors. That really helps to make my gift shopping easier!
Another personal holiday you might consider acknowledging is the anniversary date you have with active clients. If you work with people on important issues over time (coaching, therapy, weight loss, etc.) it’s important to acknowledge your client’s progress on a regular basis. A 1-year mark is usually a big deal for your client, so don’t overlook this special opportunity to validate them.
Don’t forget your helpers!
Maybe even more important than client gifts are the tokens of appreciation you should get for your service providers. Even if you’re a solo-professional, you probably have a team of individuals that help you throughout the year:
Unless you’ve had an especially abundant year, you don’t have to buy a gift for ALL those people, but if someone’s really made a difference in your world, let them know! For instance, when I worked in places with a lot of retail delivery, I made sure to tip (or give a free service) to our regular delivery people. Trust me, this goes a long way towards getting excellent service all year long!Whether you decide to buy holiday gifts, other kinds of gifts, or just send cards now and again, the important part is to show your appreciation. It’s really not about how much money you spend (or don’t spend.) It’s about building an authentic relationship with your customers. And that’s the kind of good will that will come back to benefit your business all throughout the year.
Jaya Savannah - Chief Inspiration Officer. Strategy Coach for Holistic Businesses. Trainer, speaker, and writer. Spiritually aware, yet street smart. Elephant lover.