The CEO's Guide to Marketing
By Mark Cipolletti, Pinch Hit Partners Founder and Fractional CMO
They say “it’s better to give than to receive.” That may be true, but when it comes to giving gifts to our business clients, it’s not just the thought that counts.
Our clients know we have ulterior motives and they often see our gifts as thinly veiled marketing and sales opportunities. So, like any marketing campaign, they scrutinize them and talk about what they like or dislike. I’m sure you’ve been on the receiving end of a client gift and compared the quality of items from various vendors or asked yourself, “Why did they think I would want this?”
If you want your client holiday gift “campaign” to reach its goals then you need to treat it like any other marketing initiative. Here are some tips for making your client holiday gifts deliver.
Timing is everything
If your holiday gift is doing double duty as a marketing campaign, then the first thing you should be asking yourself is “Is this really the best time of the year to give my gift?” You want your gift to stand out, to get noticed. Since most companies give gifts at the holidays, maybe you should find another time of the year to show your appreciation.
Thanksgiving is a great alternative. Obviously, the holiday ties into being thankful but it’s also an opportunity to get your gift into your client’s hands before the Christmas rush. Clients will notice that you made their gift a priority, not a last-minute obligation.
At my company, Pinch Hit Partners, I actually skipped holiday gifts altogether last year. Instead, I delivered appreciation gifts to my clients on the opening day of the Major League Baseball season. My baseball-themed gift basket filled with craft beer and ballpark treats was a welcome surprise and didn’t compete with offerings from other vendors.
No logos please
It’s one thing to give clients branded merchandise when you stop by the office during the year, but when it comes to your main appreciation or holiday gift you should leave off the company logo. As I said before, it’s okay if your gift is a “thinly veiled” marketing initiative but adding your logo screams “use this item to help me sell more stuff!” That’s not the response you’re going for.
However, there’s nothing wrong with using your logo on gift wrap, packaging or on a personal note.
If possible, choose a gift that’s unique to each client. Demonstrate to each person that you know them well and have chosen something that’s meaningful to them. This will take some time to figure out but think back to conversations that you’ve had with them to recall some of their personal interests like hobbies, sports teams and charities.
Some companies like Good Run Research personalize their gifts without buying different things for each client. “We hire a local artist to create an original illustration that reflects our company. We send that to our clients at New Years along with a personal note from our CEO,” says Andy Duerson, Good Run’s head of communications.
Too many client holiday gifts are selected without much thought. If you view these gifts as an end of the year obligation and you send them because “everyone else does it,” then you really should just stop. If your gift isn’t going to make a good impression of your brand then it might actually hurt it. Take some time to get creative so that your client gift stands out and is a positive representation of your brand.
Try to find something that connects to your business or mission. That’s exactly what Red Orange Studio did last year. According to Jolinda Smithson, Red Orange’s Business Development Director, they designed a creativity activity booklet. “Our hope was that clients could use the booklet for team building or as a nice break from the work day to do a fun, creative activity.”
Also consider gifts that will be useful after the holidays are over. Sure, a pie or cookies taste good but, after one day in the break room, they will be thrown away and forgotten.
Don’t relegate client holiday gifts to a last-minute, check the box activity for the intern. Treat it like the important marketing initiative that it is. Make sure that you incorporate the project into your annual marketing and sales plan and start working on it months in advance. And don’t forget to create some goals so that you can measure the effectiveness of your efforts.
Happy gift giving.
Pinch Hit Partners provides fractional marketing leaders to growth-oriented companies.