Your gift provides an opportunity to set you apart from the pack, distinguish you from the competition, and form a stronger emotional connection with your customers. It’s been a busy year. So busy, in fact, that it’s mid-December and you’re just now thinking about giving gifts to your customers. What should you give? Do you mail the gift? Will it get there in time? Can you send it electronically? Will it have the same sentiment? And do you have the budget to actually make a difference? Okay, we’ve made some assumptions here: maybe you have it all under control. But in case you're like the rest of the world that's wondering "Where did 2021 go?" we’ve put together some guidelines that could help you escape your gift-giving quandary and maybe give you some peace of mind, too. Do You Need to Give Gifts to Your Clients? As a small business owner, you have the opportunity to experience the joy of your customers and clients year-round. You remember them each time they send a check or stop by your place of business. But is it necessary to thank them? “Showing your appreciation to clients is a great way to retain their business and maintain a solid professional relationship,” says business guru Latoya Irby. “Sometimes a thank you card will suffice, but occasionally, you may choose to show your appreciation with a gift. Deciding whether to purchase a gift for a client is the easy part. Choosing the right gift can be tough, especially if you’re looking for budget-friendly gifts for multiple clients or you want to get clients gifts without seeming like you’re trying to ‘buy’ the client’s attention.” Does that mean a low-cost gift isn’t worth sending? Not at all. It’s likely that your gifts (and the ones your competitors send) won’t be the best your clients will ever receive. But your gift does provide an opportunity to set you apart from the pack, distinguish you from the competition, and form a stronger emotional connection with your customers. So how do you find something that fits within your budget and other limitations while still making a positive impact? Here are some tips to follow if you decide to upgrade from a card to an actual gift: Personalize It As noted by Irby, a simple card can be incredibly effective. It’s the authenticity that counts, so a handwritten note that specifically thanks your customer could help them feel remembered. But if you send a generic note that just says “Thanks for being a client,” the impact will be minuscule. It’s time to personalize. There are two ways to personalize: Personalize to Your Business Have you ever visited a website and immediately hit the “About Us” page so you can find out who’s behind the business you’re researching? You’re not alone. “About” pages are often some of the highest traffic content on a website. Your clients are curious. They want to connect. Use your holiday card as a way to showcase the real you and give insight into your business. How? Snap candid holiday photos with your team and make a collage. Have team members hand-write short blurbs in a thank-you note. Own a restaurant or a catering company? Include a favorite handed-down cookie recipe and its story. You may land on the best ideas by brainstorming with your team. Order lunch and start planning. Personalize for Each Client There are times when uniformity is essential, however, like when you’re sending out a large number of gifts to diverse clients throughout the country. But you may get a bigger impact if you personalize your card or gift to each client. You could send a special client who is an avid trout angler a spool of your favorite fly line and a couple of high-quality flies. If another client is a big-time camper, send him a solar charger for his phone. And if another client is a foodie, send her a gift basket with artisan cheese from your town. If cards are all your budget will allow (and there’s nothing wrong with that!), personalizing is easy: write a thank-you that reminds the client of positive interactions you’ve had through the year. If a person on your team is their closest contact, you want to highlight that team member and have them include a personal note, too. Connect the Gift to Your Business Want to be remembered? Think about what makes your business unique and send a gift that reflects you. For example, your clients may be located throughout the country but you’re in a region of the country known for certain baked goods or handicrafts. If your location is unique, consider focusing on a local specialty in your gifts. By sending items that are extra special because of their connection to your business, you’re sharing a part of your story—a great way to enhance the emotional impact of the gift and further distinguish yourself from the competition. Don’t Fixate on the Holidays One of your business goals is to stand out from the crowd, right? Then don’t limit your gift-giving to the holiday season. Even a well-chosen gift that arrives in December could end up in a jumbled pile of items sent by countless other businesses. Since you’re already running a little late, what about sending a gift to celebrate the vernal equinox (start of spring in the northern hemisphere) in March? In the plumbing business? Send a gift for Hug a Plumber day in April. You could choose to send a gift to celebrate your company’s birthday, which will remind customers how long you’ve been in business. Your auto-detailing shop may want to send sunglasses at the start of summer—to remind clients of how shiny you’ll make their cars. By sending at a different time of year, you’re sure to stand out from the crowd, which may give your gift a better chance to have an impact. Remember to Include the Card Even when a substantial gift is involved, the card still matters. Our world has increasingly moved to sporadic texts and faceless chat boxes, so a tangible card feels special. Avoid the cheesy sentiments that come with pre-written messages—instead, use a high-quality piece of paper with your business branding on it and pen a customized note. Finessing the Finish These tips can help you choose thoughtful gifts that connect with your business and make a lasting impact on your customers and clients. It’s not the price that matters most, but the personalization. Even a top-quality gift can be severely hampered by cruddy packaging—so make sure that your gift’s presentation is tidy and welcoming. The recipient should know just by looking at it that there’s something special inside. And, if you want to encourage repeat business, you could slip in a gift card to your own business too. Disclaimer: The information provided in this post does not, and is not intended to, constitute business, legal, tax, or accounting advice and is provided for general informational purposes only. Readers should contact their attorney, business advisor, or tax advisor to obtain advice on any particular matter.