Whether it’s the holidays, you’re improving your customer service, or you’re trying to formulate a customer retention program, gift giving to can feel a bit tricky – especially if you aren’t used to it and aren’t familiar with the etiquette.
You may be worried about picking the right gift, knowing the right price range, and a lot of other things that can make you hesitant to give gifts to your customers.
Absolutely, and it’s a really good way to show them your appreciation.
However, there are some etiquette tips to follow – a lot of it depends on your industry too. Generally speaking, these guidelines should help you successfully give the right gift to your customers, and at the appropriate time:
Make sure it makes sense for your business.
The type of industry you’re in determines a lot about if and how you do gift giving to customers. If you offer a service people don’t need frequently (such as being a handyman or running an auto shop), it probably doesn’t make too much sense to send customers physical gifts in the mail. It does, however, work well to offer a discount code “gift” such as 20% off for your birthday, or a 10% off for the holidays.
If you’re in retail and want to show appreciation for frequent customers, it makes more sense to give some small physical gift as a token of appreciation – whether that’s because of a holiday or to emphasize how grateful you are for the people who support local small businesses. It may be wise to choose something related to what you sell in your shop.
For example, if you own a home goods store and offer a collection of different home décor and essentials, maybe you give clients a soap sample from one of your top-selling product lines. If you aren’t in retail, or you have a stronger relationship with your customer (i.e. being a consultant, lawyer, real estate agent, etc.), it makes more sense to send a more personalized gift. You spend a lot more time working with your customer and building a relationship, so it’s not out of place to show a gift of appreciation for the consistent business they give you.
You can get even more specific with your gift depending on your trade. If, for example, you are someone’s real estate agent to help them buy a new home, you could give them a housewarming gift after the sale successfully goes through. Or, if you’re a graphic designer helping a company with their launch campaign, you could send them a gift to congratulate them after they launch.
Whatever your trade is, just remember that gift giving should make sense for your business!
Avoid putting your brand on the gift.
If you are giving someone a gift they can unwrap, don’t put your business’s logo or name on the gift. You might think it’s a good idea to give your customers a wine glass that has your name etched on it, but it’s just tacky and will take away from it feeling like a genuine gift. Make the gift all about the customer – if you want to go the customization route, put the customer’s name on the gift and leave your business out of it.
A lot of people will most likely toss anything that just feels like a promotional item, and you don’t want someone finding your brand in the trash.
Don’t be cheap.
If you are going to the lengths of gifting a customer with a physical gift (especially for a specific or special occasion), don’t go the cheap route. By that, I mean the type of gifts that are clearly mass produced for a very cheap price, such as a drink koozie or a flimsy tote bag.
This doesn’t mean you have to break your budget or spend a huge amount of money. Just take extra care with the quality of the gift you are giving. Put yourself in your customer’s shoes: would you enjoy receiving that gift? Even if it’s a box of really good chocolate assortments from a local candy store or a gift card to a popular coffee shop, that can be better as it’s more thoughtful.
It may seem like incentivizing a customer with a gift is a good idea, but it actually isn’t. People can see right through bribery gifts and it can turn them off immediately. If you have already prepared a welcome package for customers, that’s okay, but try to avoid it when you are trying to acquire more customers – especially when you are in the middle of negotiations of any kind.
If you are, however, a retail shop owner and are running a promotion to give a gift when a customer spends a certain amount of money, that’s okay because it’s clearly a shopping reward. If you do that, it’s probably smart to limit how often throughout the year you offer that promotion. As a small business owner, it probably isn’t even within your budget to do it and that’s okay! You aren’t missing out on business if you can’t offer promotional gifts as some major corporations do.
Be mindful of holidays.
This shouldn’t come as a surprise, but unless you explicitly know that a customer celebrates a holiday like Christmas, it’s best to avoid specific holiday gift giving. Customers might not celebrate the holiday and it conflicts with their beliefs. If you give a Christmas gift to someone who celebrates Hanukkah, that will come across as insensitive and may turn your customer away.
If you are in the mood to give a holiday season gift, don’t make it about a specific holiday like Christmas. Deliver it with the message about warm wishes for the holiday season. Make the gift’s wrapping winter-themed, and maybe about the new year.
Don’t wait for the holidays.
The holidays are obviously a common time to send gifts, but that also makes it not such a good time for your gift to stand out. People can be getting a lot of gifts, and not give much thought to them. It also seems like standard procedure to send a holiday gift, so if you want to stand out, you should think about the rest of the year for customer appreciation.
It could be a customer’s birthday, or it could just be a milestone of business they hit with you. The more you can plan it around holidays, the better it will work out for you as the customer will feel more surprised and appreciated.
There are so many opportunities and occasions that you will feel it’s very fitting to give a customer a gift, and you should go for it! Just make sure you follow this guideline, and you’ll be golden.
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When she’s not writing for SB, Pauline runs an intuitive healing business... and is still writing as she types up psychic readings! As she was raised by entrepreneurs, she knows what it takes to be a small business owner.
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