Your guide to the puzzle of how to handle customer-appreciation gifts
To give or not to give, that is the question.
Tis the season for gifts, gifts and more gifts, right? I know the Grinch told us that Christmas can still “come without packages, boxes or bags.” From that memorable holiday movie, we know that the holidays aren’t all about presents. The holidays are about showing love, affection and gratitude. Without question, I’m sure you are grateful for your customers' business, but how do you show it to them?
This question can’t be tackled without deciding which customers you want to reach out to. Are you sending a Christmas card? If so, send it to everyone. All of your customers brought you some business this year and a card is a great way to show you are thankful for them continuing to support your business.
From there, I usually break down my list by sales. I run a report in our Clear Computing billing software for sales from top to bottom. Any municipalities, government agencies, etc., are immediately crossed off my Christmas list. No, they haven’t been naughty. It’s actually illegal to send gifts to a government employee. While I am thankful for their business, I really don’t want to go to jail over it, so I just send them a holiday card.
From there, I pick a cutoff point. Usually it comes down to 20 large customers and a handful of smaller ones that don’t bring me a ton of business but are special to me for other reasons.
For my really big customers, I try to pick a specialized gift. In the past, I have given gift baskets, cookie trays and other delicious treats like this. But honestly those barely even get a thank-you. Given the amount of money spent on the basket and the shipping, I started to feel like my money was almost wasted.
So I started buying presents for customers like they were family members. For one customer, who had a 1-year-old grandson that he talked about all the time, I bought a Cozy Coupe, the Little Tykes red and yellow car that you probably had as a child. He was so touched by the gift and the thought I put into it, that he actually called me to say thank you personally.
A couple of years ago, we bought all of our customers SodaStream machines. We printed stickers that said “From Royal Flush” and put the stickers on all the machines. We then hand delivered them to each of our customers and they were thrilled. I had so many emails and calls from that gift because it was something different.
The year of Hurricane Sandy, we actually gave a donation to the Red Cross in each of our customers' names. The East Coast was hit hard by that storm and many of our customers had in some way been personally affected by the storm. During a holiday season that wasn’t so jolly for many people, we felt that gifts seemed tacky. We wanted to celebrate by giving back that year.
As you can see, none of these gifts are wildly expensive, they are just well thought out and a little different. Don’t get me wrong: a basket of cookies is a huge hit in any office. But when you pick something a little different, you show your customers how much you truly appreciate them.
About the author: Alexandra Townsend is co-owner of A Royal Flush, based in Philadelphia.