Each year we enter a season of giving and thankfulness as it winds down. One of the things that come out of this is a sort of season of customer appreciation. The challenge in this attitude is finding the best way to show our appreciation without coming off too sappy. We want to thank our customers and build loyalty, not overwhelm them with more selling.
To Brand or Not To Brand
The first decision to make with this customer appreciation “gifts” is whether we slap a logo or other brand label on them. Do we give our customers a notebook with our logo on it? A nice drinking glass with our motto? Or some other knick-knack that is a glaring reminder of who gave it? I think the answer to this question can be found in our other seasonal gifts.
Do you buy your relatives a gift stamped with your name? Do those gifts you give, scream the source of them? No, you often give something that is about the recipient instead. Now, there is a consideration of how to handle gift-giving from a company. When you stamp your label on an item, it can be filed under marketing. I think this is understood by most people, so it is not seen negatively. Therefore, if you want to put a logo on an item, try to make it subtle. There are good examples of this all over where a typical logo is replaced with one for marketing purposes. You can fall back on the golden rule (sort of) in this situation. Ask yourself if the emblem is unobtrusive or subtle enough that you would use the gift in public without feeling “odd.”
Does Size Matter?
The size or value of the gifts is always part of the consideration as well. There are industries where limits are placed on gifts, and that makes it easy. However, I find it far more common to be in a sort of Wild West of gift valuation. In these situations, I think it is a heart decision. How generous do you want to be?
It is easy to use some sort of percentage of profits from a customer as a rule of thumb. For example, take five percent of the profits earned and use that as a measure of what to give. That feels a bit cold and calculated though. I think you will find a better response when you focus on utility first and then find a value that fits. A personal example was a gift of laptop bags for customers. It started with the idea of those backpacks being desirable. Heck, I even got one for myself that I use daily. Then I looked at options that fit my rough budget. The focus was the gift, not the sales appeal or monetary valuation of it. This approach helps build a rapport as it shows thoughtfulness instead of simply a business relationship. Customers like to be appreciated for more than just their wallet.
The Moment of Truth
The last facet of gift-giving I want to visit is the delivery. I think we all agree that hand-delivering the gifts is always best. It is a personal touch and a chance to show our sincerity. You might also see it as a chance to sell to your customers. I have seen this a lot from consulting companies. The gift then becomes an excuse to get a few minutes of time from decision makers. I recommend you avoid this at all costs. You will get a lot more loyalty out of giving a gift with no strings (or sales) attached than one more shot at a sale.
Business and personal life often coincide in the modern world. The season of giving is no different. Just make sure you come at it with the right attitude.