How I Plan to Personalize My Holiday Gifts This Year

It has often been reported that the cost of acquiring a new customer for your business is 6 to 7 times more than retaining an existing basket, client gifts, client appreciation gifts, customer appreciation gifts

That’s an amazing statistic, and one which I think explains why so many small businesses go under.

Why? Many businesses are like dogs chasing a squirrel they will never catch. They fail because they are spending too much time and money fretting about how to bring new customers in the door when they are sitting on a goldmine – their existing and past client or customer base.

It’s a crazy situation. Many business owners will spend thousands of dollars on advertising or marketing all aimed at acquiring new customers when they could save that money and make much more by just keeping past customers in the fold.

With that in mind, I knew I didn’t want to run around chasing any squirrels when I started my business. I knew I wanted to keep my existing clients happy, coming back, and referring their friends and family. This was a huge priority for me.

A key piece in that puzzle is how you find a gentle way of reminding past clients that you are still open for business after you are done working for them day to day.

That’s where other firms I worked for before striking out on my own really failed. They didn’t have a system for reaching out to past clients, so they did nothing. Zilch.

Why Holiday Gifts Are Crucial

That’s where holiday gifts come in. Giving out gifts in December each year to existing clients, past clients, and good referral sources is an awesome opportunity — an absolute must if you are in business.

I am being a little crass here, and I don’t mean to be. No one should give out gifts to clients just because they want more business. If your motives are only self-interested, your customers will figure it out. So you need to be genuine.

You should give gifts like you expect nothing in return.

But I do want to share my thoughts on gift-giving during the holiday season because it’s something I’ve talked with my clients about, and because I think if you are not giving out thoughtful gifts to your best clients (at a minimum) each December, you are wasting a huge opportunity.

My Gift-Giving Strategy in 2011

I launched my business in September of 2011. Although the holiday season was still a few months away, I immediately started thinking about what gifts I was going to give my clients , in spite of the fact that I didn’t have a lot of clients and didn’t want to spend a lot of money.

At the outset, there were three decisions that needed to be made:

1. Purpose – What result did I hope to achieve in giving the gifts?

2. Scope – Who should I give the gifts to?

3. Gift Choice – What actual gift should I give?

As for my purpose, it was twofold. First and foremost, and in the spirit of the season, I wanted the gifts to be an expression of my gratitude to my clients and those who had helped me get started with my business.  But secondly, I wanted the gifts to be a gentle reminder that I was around and available to serve them – which should be a secondary purpose of any business sending out holiday gifts.

As for the scope, I knew I couldn’t send gifts to everyone I wanted to, or else I would go broke. That’s not a great way of staying in business.

I knew I definitely wanted to send gifts to my clients, who after all were paying my bills each month.

The more difficult question was which non-clients to send gifts to. I identified people who had referred good clients to me and drew the line there.

Out of about 16 gifts I sent out last year, about half went to non-clients who had referred clients to me.

As for what actual gift I would send out, I wanted something memorable but also not too unusual, practical but not too boring. My priorities for my customer appreciation gifts that year were:

  • I wanted to give a food item as a gift, as I know from experience that food is most likely to be actually used (and therefore appreciated) by a recipient.
  • I did not want to buy a generic gift from a large company (in other words, no fruitcakes or popcorn tins).
  • I wanted gifts that had a local connection to a company based either in Marin county or the San Francisco Bay Area.
  • I wanted the gifts to be affordable, which for me meant in the $20-30 range

After a fair amount of research, I settled on gift packages from Peets Coffee for most of my clients. Peets is a local SF Bay Area company founded in Berkeley, California in 1966, but with locations nationwide.

I purchased their “Day and Night” gift package, which was nicely presented in a gift box and included both coffee beans and tea for the non-coffee drinkers.

The cost was anywhere from around $16 to $50, depending on the size package.

The ROI on Holiday Gifts

The most important question is what return did I get from these gifts. Was it worth it?

Without even checking the numbers, I can tell you wholeheartedly: yes it was.

Most of my clients emailed me back right away, thankful for having received it.  The gifts caught most of them off guard and they were pleasantly surprised that I sent thought of them.

Was it worthwhile to spend the money and time on sending out gifts? It’s difficult to point to any one new piece of business that came later directly because of the gift I sent out.

I can’t say for certain whether the clients who did receive holiday gifts from me and gave me business later did so because of the gift I sent them. But what I do know is the relationships with the clients who I sent gifts to continued, and many of them sent me signifcantly more business in the months following the 2011 holiday season.

My Client Gift-Giving Strategy For This Year

This holiday season I hope to build off of last year’s lessons. I am starting the work earlier this year in the hopes I will send out the gifts earlier – preferably in early December.

Secondly, I am expanding the scope this year of who I send gifts to. I still think you shouldn’t spend a bunch of money sending gifts to people who have never sent you business, because you will go broke. But I am broadening the scope to include folks who I am developing a relationship with and who I’d like to do more business with.

Also this year, I want to provide a gift that is unique and memorable. I don’t want it to be too cheap, but I also don’t want to break my bank.

Here are a few of the options I am considering:

(Note: Some of the links below are affliate and/or paid links. If you click through and make a purchase, we may receive a commission. We appreciate it!)

1. Coffee gift package from Weavers Coffee, a local Coffee Roastery

Weavers Coffee is a new coffee roaster in San Rafael (where my office is located) started by the former head roaster for Peets coffee. Like me, it is a relatively new company – it was founded in just 2007. It also has received national recognition for its coffee, so you know it’s good.

2. Rustic Bakery.

Earlier this year, I gave two gift baskets from Rustic Bakery as thank you’s to people who referred new clients to me.

Even though Rustic Bakery is a local operation with just a few locations, they have a large prepackaged baked goods operation. I have been pleased with their products in the past so I may use for some of my gifts this year.

3. Cowgirl Creamery

Cowgirl Creamery is a great organic dairy in West Marin which produces a number of delicious cheeses, including the Mt. Tam Triple Cream. If you haven’t tried it, that should be on your bucket list. It’s that good.

4. is not as local as I would like, but it is convenient. They have a number of gift basket options and it’s incredibly easy to point, click and send.

5. Candy Direct

Who doesn’t like receiving candy?  Candy Direct is like the 1-800-Flowers of candy. It has bulk candy and a number of gift options.

Moral: Be Selfless and You Will Be Rewarded

The final message which I probably haven’t articulated clearly enough is that it’s a good idea to send out holiday gifts not because you expect to get something in return, but precisely because you do not.

I firmly believe if you act out of a sense of sincere gratitude to those who have put their trust in you to send you business, you will deepen your relationship with them and they will continue to support you with their business. Not because they feel obligated to, but because they want to.

And that’s the best kind of gift.


Photo credit: Microsoft office online