Please, not another fruit basket. Why gift giving has to change.

I know you. I’ve got you pegged. You aren’t really a sentimental guy, but you know that connecting with your colleagues and customers is a big deal.

You understand the importance of staying top of mind to your clients so when it comes time to choose, people pick you.

It’s about to be the most wonderful time of the year. That’s right – those weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas when every day reminds of sneaking down the stairs to see what presents Santa may have left in the form of a brown box from Amazon on our doorstep.

If you’ve not already, it’s about now that many of us start thinking about the gifts we’ll send clients to show our appreciation for all the money they gave us this year. (Er, I mean, for the relationships we’re trying to nurture!)

Here’s the deal though. I don’t want to get another fruit basket or box of 36 different kinds of chocolate I need to bite into to find the one caramel I really want.

The idea of honoring those we partner with this time of year is steeped in tradition from the 1840s when nativity scenes were all the rage in handmade cards sent for a penny in the post.

Now, cheesy greeting cards containing politically correct holly leaves with Happy Holidays slathered in Gold Foil script (so as not to offend folks that don’t like the words “Merry Christmas”) are sent in mass to people we hardly know anything about.

What if this year, you chose to do something different that would actually be meaningful, get noticed and make more impact than the moleskin you’re tempted to give with your logo on it?

Enter John Ruhlin. He wrote the book Giftology and has turned the corporate gift giving world on its ear.

John put into words what I had been feeling for years, and when I turned to him to help me find the perfect gift for my assistant Kim, he got it.

The gift needed to represent the relationship.

Kim is super special to me, and what she does for my business was worth way more to me than a gift card to Starbucks.

With John’s help, I was able to create a memorable experience for Kim that goes well beyond a nic-nack for her desk.

Watch the creation of Kim’s gift here…

So, what if instead of a gargantuan cornucopia of oranges at Christmas, you sent a gift in February or May?

Don’t worry so much about being top of mind amongst all the other cards and towers of high-end chocolate. Instead, focus on providing meaningful gifts when people least expect it that strategically position you at the front of the line, and build relationship almost immediately.

People won’t say “Remember that coffee mug imported from China Bob sent last year? That was amazing!”

They will say, “Remember the headphones Todd sent that had my initials engraved on them?”

Nothing seems more memorable to me than a story John told about getting a meeting with a guy that happened to like Brooks Brothers shirts.

John spent $7,000 buying shirts and coordinated with a hotel someone was staying at to turn his hotel room into a simulated Brooks Brothers store! You bet he had (and held), the attention of Cameron Herold, whom John was eager to spend time with. Cameron will take a meeting with John anytime now. Wouldn’t you?

The creativity of gift giving doesn’t have to cost $7,000, but it isn’t cheap. Neither are the relationships you want to build. We can spend $10k on an advertising spot, or $500 sending custom gifts to several key clients and wonder which will get us more business in the end?  

The possibilities are endless, and all it takes to be an expert gift giver, like my friend John, is paying attention and getting a little “outside the box”. Go beyond the normal and ask questions.

Your client casually mention that he likes rootbeer? Send him a case of specialty rootbeers from around the US. He’ll remember you for it.

John had to ask Cameron’s shirt size to recreate the Brooks Brothers store. Creepy? It might sound like it, but the end result is anything but.

I once sent a case of specialty potato chips from Pennsylvania to a client of mine because I remembered him posting once that they were the best chips and he missed them since moving to NYC.

It wasn’t an expensive gift, but it was thoughtful and recognized one thing: my desire to offer what he would value, rather than using gift giving as a marketing gimmick.

Good gift giving enhances these three key elements of any relationship:

1. It’s about them, not you.

There will be no logo, no swag and for the love of all things holy, no expectation in return. It takes the sincerity out of it.

2. It doesn’t do what everyone else is doing.

If getting Apple earbuds is the best you can do, (and your clients have Android!) you’ve missed the mark. Because a gift is popular, it may not be what your client can even find useful. Study your recipients, and know what will be meaningful to them. I read an Inc article describing Ruhlin that said, The best gift is a purple cow. Be purple, people. Be purple.

3. It doesn’t wait for the right time

When is the perfect time to plant a tree? Yesterday. Second best time? Today.

The same is true with giving gifts. It doesn’t have to be Christmas to show someone you care about their relationship. You can send a gift on July 12 and it will likely have MORE impact than a cheap bottle of wine.

For more ideas on the kinds of gifts, you can give that will make you stand out, create memories, and perhaps land the deal: download our idea bank of the best places we’ve found to send meaningful gifts to our most important relationships.

Or, check out The Ruhlin Group and let them do it for you!

Happy Gifting!

For more ideas on the kinds of gifts, you can give that will make you stand out, create memories, and perhaps land the deal: download our idea bank of the best places we’ve found to send meaningful gifts to our most important relationships.

Click Here to Download Your Ultimate Gift Giving Guide

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