The Tremendous guide to client gifts
Build client gift programs that foster relationships, promote customer loyalty and drive revenue. Start here.
A thoughtful client gift sent at the right time can strengthen your relationship. But it’s not as simple as adding a fruit basket company to your contacts. A successful client gift-giving program requires you to:
- Know your clients’ likes and dislikes and the dates and holidays that are important to them — or find a thoughtful way to send gifts en masse
- Decide on a gifting budget
- Think about how you can brand client gifts
- Understand any laws or policies that might prohibit or limit gifts from vendors and service providers
With all of that sorted, you can focus on the fun part: building a list of go-to gifts you can use to thank and celebrate clients.
Why give clients gifts?
Before we delve into client gift ideas, it’s a good idea to be clear on what you hope to achieve with your gifting program.
Being thoughtful is always nice, but when you run a business, customer retention and the bottom line are top of mind.
Gifting can help.
Here are a few ways that gifting can work for your business:
1. Gifts can add value to your client relationship
When you celebrate clients’ birthdays, holidays and major life events, you strengthen the connection between your clients and your business.
One general reason is that most people enjoy getting treats and feeling special, but there are more specific reasons, too — and some numbers you should know.
Gifts can make clients feel appreciated
Both business and consumer clients have high expectations for how the companies they do business with treat them.
Across B2B and B2C customers, 80% say “the experience a company provides is as important as its products or services,” according to a global survey conducted for Salesforce’s 2020 State of the Connected Customer report.
Companies can drive higher customer retention rates by providing positive experiences, like client thank-you gifts and birthday gift cards, which show those clients that you value them as customers and as people.
Gifts can strengthen customer loyalty and increase customer retention
Nearly all the customers that Salesforce surveyed — 91% — said a good customer experience with a brand makes them “more likely to make another purchase.”
That means a thoughtful, well-designed client gifting program can not only help you keep those customers but also sell more to them over the course of your relationship.
The best client gifts are tailored to each client’s preferences and interests.
For example, a client that runs a busy startup might appreciate a tower of gourmet snack boxes to treat the team, while a solopreneur client might prefer a voucher for a spa day or a round of golf.
To make sure your gifts have the impact you want, keep a running list of unique client gift ideas in each customer’s CRM profile, along with the dates that are meaningful to them.
2. Gifts can increase brand awareness
Customer appreciation gifts also create positive touchpoints with your brand and promote brand awareness.
If you’ve ever ordered branded swag for trade shows and conferences, you know there are plenty of small items you can get customized, but those are promo items, not client gifts.
For individual gifts, think of your brand as a subtle reminder you can include by writing a note on your company stationery. The goal is to treat your customer, not to ask them to passively advertise for you.
3. Gifts can increase customer lifetime value
Gifting isn’t a quid-pro-quo with clients.
But, if you choose the right gifts for your customers, you can build the kind of positive experiences and loyalty that encourage clients to increase spend and generate higher revenue for your business over the long term.
When should you send client gifts?
What’s the right time to give a client a gift?
Just like in your personal relationships, the number and timing of gifts depends on how long you’ve known them and how well you know them.
For example, sending frequent gifts to a brand-new client might seem desperate, but never sending gifts to a client you’ve worked with for years can seem aloof.
However, there may be some instances when you can’t send your clients gifts at all, to avoid ethical and legal issues. For example, if the gift could create even the appearance of a conflict of interest, it’s best to avoid it.
- Journalists are prohibited by their code of ethics and often by their employers from accepting gifts from sources and anyone who they might cover in the course of their work.
- Federal government employees are banned from accepting gifts from vendors and service providers, and some state and local governments have similar policies.
- Doctors are urged by the American Medical Association code of ethics to avoid accepting gifts of cash or expensive items from pharmaceutical vendors and recommends that physicians only accept small gifts that “primarily entail a benefit to patients.”
So, as you build your list of customer loyalty gift ideas, make a note to research the industry your clients are in so that you understand the rules they might follow for accepting gifts.
When you know what the parameters are, you can consider gifting at various points through the customer lifecycle.
1. Client onboarding
Who doesn’t love a “signing bonus?”
Giving a small, personalized gift when a new client inks a deal with you can make them feel welcome and get them excited about the new relationship.
2. Closing a deal for your clients
If your job is to help your clients make big purchases, whether they’re buying a home or acquiring another business, you can celebrate successful deals with a gift to your clients.
This could include gifts like:
- A special bottle of wine
- A gift card to buy home essentials
- Event tickets
Gifting experts have different opinions about whether you should send clients gifts during the winter holiday season (Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day).
Some think that it’s too easy for gifts to get overlooked in the busyness of the season. Making sure they’re delivered on time can be a challenge because there are so many packages in transit during challenging winter weather.
However, omitting gifts to clients during the winter holidays has the potential to leave them feeling overlooked by your business — especially if other people they do business with are sending gifts.
One option is to send gifts at other times of the year when they’ll stand out more, and send a hand-signed holiday card in November or December.
An alternative to winter holiday gifting is to give your clients birthday gifts.
A birthday gift is automatically more personal than a holiday gift, because it shows that you remembered the client’s special day and took the step of getting a gift just for them, rather than doing a generic gift order for all your clients in November.
5. Special life events
If you know your clients well — especially if you also know their co-workers, families and friends — you have more professional and personal opportunities for sending gifts.
For example, you could send a gift card from a retailer to help your clients celebrate a:
- Business expansion
- Product, business or team award
- New baby or adoption of a child
- Wedding or a major wedding anniversary
- Adoption of a new pet
- Move to a new business location or to a new home
If you have a longstanding, close relationship with a client and you know their hobbies, you may also be able to send impactful gifts when they accomplish something cool.
For example, a client who completes their first marathon would probably appreciate congratulations and a gift card to their favorite sporting goods store or day spa.
How many client gifts should you send in a year?
For many small businesses, one gift per client per year is plenty.
For larger businesses, or those whose clients generate lots of revenue, most experts recommend only two per client per year.
Too many gifts can make it seem like you’re trying too hard, and because a steady stream of gifts can create ethical issues for your clients.
So, if you’ve already sent a birthday gift and a holiday gift to a client who then earns a major business award, wins a big bike race or welcomes triplets to their family, a handwritten card is the way to go.
What client gift ideas should you send?
Even if you know your clients well, it’s important to remember that these are business relationships. That means gifts should be something related to work or something that takes their personal interests into account without being too personal.
Monetary gifts for clients
Sending cash to clients is a no-no, because it feels transactional and because many companies have rules against giving or accepting cash gifts.
Non-monetary gifts for clients
There are so many customer appreciation gift ideas out there that it would take another article to discuss them all, but the most impactful client gifts will be tailored to:
- What the client likes
- The gifting event
- Your company’s gift budget
- Any rules the recipient has about the maximum value of gifts they can accept
A few ideas include:
- Tickets or passes to events your client will enjoy, like a gallery opening, movie, theater production, concert or sporting event.
- Gift baskets tailored to their tastes and interests. A wine connoisseur might appreciate a creative vintage from a local winemaker, while a client who enjoys spending free time with their children might like an arts and crafts gift basket they can use together.
- Gifts that can make your clients’ workspace better, like easy-care indoor plants, premium coffees and teas, and handmade wood or ceramic phone and business card holders.
Pro tip: Before you gift food or beverages, make sure you know the recipient’s preferences and any dietary restrictions they may follow. You don’t want to give a fruit-and-nut basket to someone with a nut allergy, for example.
What about gift cards and prepaid cards for client gifts?
Some might argue that gift cards and prepaid cards can be impersonal, but they don’t have to be.
When coupled with thoughtful intention or a kind message, you can provide client’s the right mix of appreciation and freedom (to buy anything they want).
For example, maybe a valued client is a basketball fan, but she’s unable to accept gifts above a certain dollar value. Tickets to a game are out of the question, but a Visa® prepaid card could:
- Partially cover the ticket cost
- Buy a jersey
- Purchase food and drinks at a game
Or perhaps you have a large client base, and you’d like to send them all a thank you for using your service. Sending a digital Amazon gift card with a video message from the CEO or an account representative could be an effective way to say thank you (particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic).
If you do intend to send a high-volume of gift cards or prepaid cards, you might even qualify for a discount.
7 client gift ideas — by category
You understand what you can offer clients at a high level, but let’s get into the nitty gritty with some classic, timely and (sometimes) cheesy gift ideas.
We’ll start with the least expensive and work our way to high-dollar, tailored gift ideas.
1. Company swag
Company swag is the lowest-hanging fruit. There's a possibility these types of gifts might fall flat.
Because these gifts are often low cost, bought in bulk and handed out freely. The best gifts are those with value — even if it's only perceived value.
That doesn’t mean company swag is bad. It means you should be thoughtful about what swag you select and how it portrays your brand.
2. Gift baskets
Depending on the occasion, a gift basket could make a great client gift.
If you’re rewarding a large group of people and you don’t have the time, budget or desire to provide individualized gifts, a gift basket could be prime.
Or, if you know someone really loves a certain hobby or food item, a gift basket in that theme would be meaningful.
3. Food and beverages
There are certain occasions that just beg for food or beverages.
- A major sale begets a bottle of bubbly.
- Customer loyalty events and charcuterie boards belong together.
- A fine wine suits the retirement of an executive
Pro tip: Do your research to understand what the client likes (and is allergic to).
4. Gift cards and prepaid cards
Grant your clients the choice to buy what’s meaningful to them.
Either pick up a gift card to their favorite retailer, or send a Visa prepaid card (that can be used at various stores).
When sending apparel, it’s best to match the gift to an event or theme. For instance:
- Send a sun hat, sunscreen and a beach towel with note wishing the client a happy, healthy, sun-protected summer
- Provide matching shirts or hats for a team traveling to tour your facility
- Gift new ski goggles for the client about to embark on winter holidays
Sending cool gadgets can be a thoughtful way of staying top of mind. And it doesn’t have to break the bank.
For instance, you could send a smart speaker (like a Google home or Amazon echo) for your client’s office.
Take your client and their team out for an adventure. Use the opportunity to get to know your clients on a personal level and build a relationship beyond the work setting.
This could include:
- A sporting event
- Axe throwing
- Wine tasting
- An escape room
Your client gift checklist
Before you start visiting gift sites and searching through all your options, run through this quick checklist for picking gifts that rock.
1. Do you know the client’s workplace or industry rules on gifting?
Some clients can’t accept vendor gifts at all. Others can accept practical, work-related gifts under a certain dollar value.
To adhere with company policy, some clients may not be able to accept gifts of alcohol, and others may have to get approval from a supervisor to accept a gift like a day trip or a weekend getaway.
2. Does the gift align with your company values?
For example, if your workplace mission is creating sustainability, a retail gift card for a fast fashion chain may confuse your client.
3. Does the gift align with the client relationship?
For example, a small, thoughtful gift is perfect for onboarding new clients.
If you’ve just helped your client close on the home of their dreams, something bigger is in order — ideally something useful in their new home, or a gift card enabling them to buy what they need.
4. Is the gift useful?
The goal of gifting is to build good will toward your company. Nothing rings hollower than a gift that’s out of touch, unappealing or just plain bland.
For example, a client who loves to ski and has a trip coming up would probably enjoy a skiwear gift card more than a popcorn tin — and they’ll think of you when they go shopping.
5. Is the gift personalized?
There are two ways to think about personalizing a client gift.
- Personalizing the gift idea to the client’s likes and needs — no one-size-fits-all fruit baskets for every client. A gift that’s unique to your client shows that you value them as a person.
- Personalizing the gift with your client’s name or initials on the gift. This is a nice touch if you’re certain that they’ll like and use your gift.
Pro tip: If you’re not sure — and if you’re not 110% sure of their initials or the spelling of their name — skip this kind of personalization and just go with the gift.
6. Is a gift card the best option?
Gift cards are often the easiest and best option, because they give your recipient the chance to get what they really want. Especially now, when more of us are shopping online, people appreciate digital gift cards they can use. You can also personalize the gift cards you send to clients with a thank-you or congratulations message right on the card, and include a note letting the client know how much you appreciate them.
Gift cards can also save you time and postage, because you can order them in bulk and send them for free via email — so much easier and less expensive than wrapping and shipping physical gifts, especially if you get a discount for a bulk gift card order.
Client gifts: Wrapping it all up
Picking the right gift for each client is an art that takes practice, guided by a few rules, good sense and your company’s budget.
Setting up a client gift program that includes a mix of gift cards, prepaid cards and personalized gift choices takes some work, but it can pay off in the form of stronger client relationships, more customer loyalty and more revenue over the long term for your business.