Remembering your clients at the holidays is a great way to recognize and thank them for their patronage. And, holiday gift giving is the most marketing fun you might have all year!

Whether you plan to send cards, give a gift of a promotional item or something more personal, contribute to a charity, or some combination of these efforts, the holidays are the perfect time to build your brand and create positive vibes for your team and your clients.

How to Wow

My dad owned a trucking company from the time I was about eight years old. The holidays were filled with business gifts, both that he gave and that he received. Every year, he would buy special gifts for his clients, including their assistant.

Tip: Don’t forget about assistants and team members! 

I remember the female assistants always got the Estee Lauder promotional makeup gift tray. He delivered everything himself, he was such a Santa, but he saw it as an extra connection point to his clients.

On the receiving side, the most memorable business gift he received at the holidays from one of his clients (a family-owned steel mill) was porcelain Royal Doulton figurine. Every year was a different figurine, from a snowman to a kitten. I still have the collection and bring it down every Christmas.

Tip: Include your service providers and vendors in your holiday plans.

So how about you? What will you do this year for your clients and service providers?

I’ve put together some guidelines and questions to help you clarify your holiday gift giving/marketing strategy. And, I’m offering a free holiday gift consultation (more details below).

But don’t wait until it’s too late! Most promotional product companies need at least 2 to 4 weeks to process a custom order, and holiday card printers get flooded with orders in November and December.

Try to have everything decided and ready to go by Thanksgiving at the latest, so you can start sending out your holiday cheer the first or second week of December.

Step 1: What’s your budget?

It’s easy to go overboard at the holidays. Everything looks so nice and we can get caught up in the spirit of giving and over-give.

Look at your marketing budget for the year and see what you can comfortably afford to spend on holiday gift giving. (I’m not offering tax advice; please check with your bookkeeper or accountant for the proper categorizing of holiday cards and gift expenses.)

And, if you’re still making a budget for next year, why not include a line item for holiday marketing?

Having a budget in mind will help when you’re choosing cards and/or gifts.

Step 2:  Who gets what?

Set up a simple holiday gift giving spreadsheet. Make a list of every client and service provider (if you’re including them) you’ve done business with in the last year. Include columns for “card” and “gift.”

Now it’s time to decide whether you’re:

  • Sending cards only
  • Sending a card and a gift to everyone
  • Sending a card and a gift to only certain clients

If your budget only allows for certain clients to receive gifts, set criteria to sort your list. It might be based on the size of their account, their frequency of use, or whatever makes sense for your business.

One law firm I worked with sent a nice gift basket to most clients, but the clients who brought in the most billable hours received gorgeous gifts from Tiffany. One year it was a festive serving platter; the next year it was a matching bowl.

Tick the appropriate boxes on your spreadsheet for each client/service provider on your holiday gift giving list, either “card” only or “card” and “gift.” Tally the totals for each column so you’ll know how many of each you need to purchase.

Step 3: Pick a card, any card.

Well, maybe not any card. Business holiday cards, in my opinion, should be tasteful and reflective of your brand, style and tone. There are so many stationers online, producing high-quality, customized cards, it’s a no-brainer for holiday marketing.

Plus, cards can be quite economical so even if you have a small budget, you can still get customized card printed with your business name and logo.

I was delighted to find Paper Culture, an online stationer who plants a tree with every order to offset the paper used in making the cards. You can customize most business holiday cards with your logo, some with a photo of you and/or your team, or even upload your own design. They’ll even mail the cards for you for a small fee.

Here are a few questions to ask yourself in choosing holiday cards for your business:

  • What will the card say? When customizing your greeting, be sure to thank them for being your client, or for making it such an amazing year.
  • Who will sign the card? Sure you can have the company name printed on the card, but will team members sign the card personally as well? If so, be sure to include time in your production and mailing timeline for this extra step!
  • Do you want a double-duty card? Some business holiday cards include a calendar for the next year on one side, or some other informational reference, making it something your client can post on their fridge or filing cabinet and see all year long (and remember you).

Personally, when writing the greeting for your card, I wouldn’t worry about being too politically correct. Sometimes it seems like Christmas has become “the holiday which shall not be named” for fear of offending someone who doesn’t celebrate Christmas.

Most emotionally mature grown-ups will accept the glad-tidings of the season in the spirit in which they’re offered. So, if you want to say “Merry Christmas,” then for heaven’s sake, say it. If you love saying “Happy Holidays” then say that.

Bottom line: be you. Do what resonates with your company’s values and vision. Use your brand board to help with colors and typography for extra on-brand appeal.

Step 4: Choose a gift.

Now let’s have some fun! I have a certain affinity for holiday gift giving, having written a book on gift giving. It’s my jam, my zone, my happy place. So much so that I’m offering FREE holiday business gift consultations the entire month of November; click the button below to reserve your spot:

Sending a holiday gift sends your clients a clear message: we appreciate your business, we value our relationship and hope to continue to serve you.

 Be Santa, not Scrooge

According to the most recent business holiday gift giving survey from the Advertising Specialty Institute, only about a third of businesses gave client gifts in 2016, down ten percent from 2014.

While it’s true that gifts, even promotional logoed items, can be expensive, there are several lower cost opportunities that can still “wow” your clients at holiday time.

For example, you could have custom notebooks created by May Designs (starting at $10) or send a customized Greetabl (starting at around $12). Or, go for the classic desk calendar like my dad received every year from his insurance agent. Literally 40 years later, I can remember the agent’s name (Vic White) because one of his calendars sat on the desk in the dining room my entire childhood. That’s brand staying power!

What to give

Corporate holiday gifts will generally fall into three categories:

  1. Food or drink – about 47 percent of businesses send clients food or drink for the holidays. It could be a nice box of chocolates or something more luxurious like a Fortnum & Mason hamper filled with goodies ($170, Williams Sonoma).
  2. Logoed promotional items – about 70 percent of all corporate gifts have the business’s name and/or logo imprinted on them. Popular items include calendars, pens, apparel and drinkware like water bottles or commuter cups.
  3. Other – sans logo and no calories to be found, other gift items range from flowers and plants to the aforementioned Tiffany serveware. Follow my Pinterest board with lots of ideas to inspire your holiday gift giving.

Here are just a few ideas:

Many retailers have a corporate gift program; check your favorite store’s website, or if you have a favorite local shop, check in with their staff to see what they can recommend for business gift giving.

Step 5:  Get charitable.

Whether in combination with holiday gift giving or as the sole focus of your holiday outpouring, giving to local non-profits is a great way to give back.

Charitable giving can take a variety of forms:

  • A lump-sum donation in honor of your clients (and you can mention this in your holiday card);
  • Dedicated donations for specific clients, perhaps to a charity they favor;
  • Volunteering as a company;
  • Holding a drive to collect toys or non-perishable food items that your team members and clients can contribute to; and/or
  • Adopting an entire family for Christmas, where your business anonymously provides gifts for a local family in need.

To find local non-profits with specific holiday programs, contact your local Catholic Charities , Lutheran Social  Services or Salvation Army to name just a few, or ask your team members. You might be surprised where they donate their free time and contributions.

One caveat: please do not do this for the publicity. Do it because it means something to you and your company’s values.

That said, it is perfectly OK to put out a social media post or a blog article about your charitable efforts. For example, to invite donations to a toy drive or to show your team packing holiday food boxes at the local food pantry.

Sending you lots of holiday spirit as you create your card and gift list, choose your gifts or your charitable deeds for the season. May your holiday efforts reward you most of all with the feeling that you’re spreading goodness at a time we need it most.

Don’t forget, if you’d like some help selecting a holiday gift for your business, set up a free consultation with me.

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Season’s Greetings … and all the best for a magical and successful New Year!

Note: None of the links in this article are affiliate links.

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