As the song goes, it's "the most wonderful time of the year," but for many the holiday season is also the most stressful. If you're a freelancer or virtual assistant, you might spend more time racking your brain for client gift ideas than roasting chestnuts over an open fire. While shopping for family and friends can happily be postponed, coming up with the perfect way to say "thank-you" to your customers or clients, especially on a budget - is a challenge that requires planning.
What can you send that's distinctive and won't suffer the worst fate of all presents: ending up on the company's crowded table of discarded holiday gifts with a "free to a good home" sign stuck on it?
Fortunately, help is on the way. Deborah Carpenter, owner of www.smartgiftsolutions.co.uk (A*)has some creative and pocketbook-friendly ideas:
Change is good. While there are some advantages to sending the same gift every year - the gift-giver is instantly recognisable and some people do look forward to receiving the same thing each year - there is also a downside. "Some people perceive it as uninventive, particularly in the creative field," says Deborah.
If you do send an annual food basket, for instance, work with your supplier to vary it every year so there's some element of surprise.
Eat, drink (and be merry) at your own risk. While food and beverages are a seemingly easy choice for gift-giving, there are some downsides, as anyone who has received chocolates that melted before opening can attest. "You should be cautious when considering a gift of food or alcoholic beverage - or even giving a holiday-related present at all," says Deborah. "Some clients have dietary restrictions, issues with alcohol or may not celebrate the holidays in the same manner as you."
The bottom line is you must know your client well before sending food or beverages.
Show off your other talents. Your customers know you're good at your business, but are they aware of your culinary or creative skills? "Anything that gives your clients a little more information about your personality, talents or creativity makes an impact." If you're a photographer on the side, you might take a picture of a place or landscape you know your client would appreciate and frame it as a gift.
A copywriter client of Deborah's added a hand-made card to the gift basket she was sending to all her clients. "Personally chosen for you, by Alison Braidwood" left a lasting, positive impression with them, Alison says.
Consider Any Day. Even if you procrastinate to the point of no return, take heart - sometimes the best gifts aren't tied to the holiday season. "Some clients send gift baskets on the anniversary they started working together as thank-you gifts," says Deborah. "Many clients are inundated with gifts and cards from November until the first of the year, so you can make a bigger impact at a different time."
Another idea is to choose an obscure or otherwise ignored holiday and adopt it as your own - "one of my clients creates a simple, unique gift basket for clients every year on Valentine's Day with the message - we love doing business with you." This is especially good if you're a supplier of office products or anything else that relies on customer loyalty for fear of losing a customer to competitors with lower prices.
There are a lot of intriguing ways to say "thank-you" to your clients, and many of them can be created on the cheap. The bottom line in any gift-giving scenario is to know what's appropriate for your customer and demonstrate some innovation and personality. In the end, it's the thought that counts: A gift - whether it's a dinner, home-made cookies or a gift basket- is most appreciated and remembered when the recipient can tell you had him or her in mind.
Customise your gift basket - it allows you to put your own stamp on a gift and show that you have put some thought into it. "With companies it really is about conveying a certain message."
Mangla Sachdev - www.publicityworkshop.com
The Gift Basket that makes Business Sense
Gift Baskets from www.smartgiftsolutions.co.uk (A*) continue to give over and over again. Loaded with everything you need to send to clients, suppliers and people you'd like to do business with. Perfect Gifts for your near and dear ones as well this Christmas. Smart Gift Solutions (we deliver last minute gifts as well). Call us today 01689 825658 and ask for Deborah, the Director to ensure you get a top class service.
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