Holiday commercials started hitting the airwaves even before the kids went trick-or-treating. “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer” has already been stuck in your head three times. There is no mistaking it—the hustle and bustle of the giving season is upon us. With one of the largest buying weekends right around the corner, consumers are thinking about where to spend their precious dollars, which means small business owners need to think about how to say thanks to those folks who choose them. To get you beyond that ubiquitous 10 percent-off coupon, we have “five golden rings” to consider as you create memorable thank you gifts for your customers this year.
1. Give your time and thoughts.
Though you may want to bulk order some flashlights with your logo on them, leave that for a summertime promotion. A refreshing gesture in this era of emails and texts is a simple, yet personal hand-written thank you note. Alexandra Mayzler, founder and director of Thinking Caps, an innovative tutoring company, says, ”I have found that hand-written thank you notes go a long way. Personalizing the note and actually taking time to thank our clients communicates our level of thanks and, I believe, resonates with those working with us.”
2. Remember, it’s a thank you, not a marketing tool.
There is a fine line between a thank you gift and a promotional object, which is why Jeannie M. Bush, owner of Amenity Electrolysis, never gives a thank you gift with her business name on it. “My thank you is about my guest, not promoting myself. People have noticed that huge difference and commented,” says Bush. ”In the years before unlimited long distance calling, I gave each of my guests a pre-paid calling card, asking them to call someone from their past and tell them how they impacted their life, [or] mend a relationship, [or] say thank you. People told me at length about their special phone calls.” Bush says this gift choice makes a big impact. ”The last couple of years I have turned to a leather-cased post-it note set engraved with a message on the cover. Last year, it said ‘Note to self--you matter.’ It has a meaning so that my guests will remember they are valued each time they use it.”
A box of cookies or a bottle of wine—both are lovely to receive, but not very personalized. Elle Kaplan, CEO of Lexion Capital Management, one of the only 100-percent women-owned investment firms in the nation, changes that by creating her own delectable gifts. “I infuse my own vodka and give small bottles out as gifts to my clients,” she says. Julia Labaton, President and Founder of RED PR, a boutique beauty, fashion, and lifestyle public relations firm, also puts a personal touch on her end-of-the-year gifts for clients. At the start of the holidays, Julia spends three days baking chocolate chip cookies from her own secret recipe in her Upper East Side kitchen. However, you don’t have to be a whiz in the kitchen to go this route. David Jacobson, the owner and producer of TrivWorks, a corporate entertainment and team building company that specializes in live trivia events in New York City, uses yummy treats from other great local businesses. “I send my most loyal clients a huge box of hot chocolate from The City Bakery—arguably the very best in the city and make sure it is delivered fresh and piping hot with the message, ‘Wishing you a warm and sweet holiday season!’ ” Customers notice these added personal or local touches that makes treat gifts more thoughtful.
4. Individualize the gifts.
For many businesses, customers don’t come in a “one size fits all” category, so why should the thank you gift you give them all be the same item? Jennifer Pottheiser, a commercial photographer who works primarily with corporate clients, spends time selecting specific gifts she knows her customers will appreciate. “Each November, I rack my brain looking for personalized gifts meant specifically for the recipient. I sent one young ad agency a ‘beer of the month’ membership so that they could be reminded of me each month while they were enjoying their custom brew,” says Pottheiser. “One client of mine is an ice cream fanatic, so I got her two beautiful ice cream bowls with sundae spoons and fancy ice cream toppings.” That type of individualized gift-giving, taking note of a client’s interests, makes a special impression.
5. Create a holiday memory.
Yeosh Bendayan, one of the owners of Push Button Productions, an Orlando, Florida-based company that provides audio for radio advertising, including jingles, came up with a unique way to say thanks. “Last year, we thought it would be fun to do some surprise workday caroling at local agencies and clients in Orlando. We visited about 12 agencies, took video of some of the surprised employees, and put it on YouTube,” says Bendayan. Not only was it an enjoyable and successful way to say thanks, it made a huge impact. “We got praise from our clients on Facebook and Twitter. This made way more of an impression than sending a box of chocolates or a holiday gift basket. Actually, we were in the middle of caroling, and another vendor showed up with a basket of treats as the whole agency was gathered in the lobby listening to [us sing]. I heard the other vendor say ’I can't give them this basket now...’ and walked out.” Think about what you and your employees could do to create a memorable thank you holiday moment for your customers.