Holiday gifts for clients
I am looking for ideas for holiday gifts for my growing client list.
We have had a good year (up about 40% from last year) and it is really due to some great client relationships that we have developed over the last few of years. I would like to do something for everyone on my list (about 20 or so local regular clients) So, I am looking for creative inspiration....
What do some of you do for your clients during the holiday season, beyond just sending a card?
FrostLine Productions, LLC
I'd like to send them all an invoice...
Video production... with style!
We don't do this ourselves, but vendors wanting our business would often gift us with branded mouse pads, post-it not pads, and pens, to keep their names around as reminders. Since purchases are actually handled by procurement people, the goodies soon dwindled because we obviously were not the right people to impress with such things, having little influence past the initial spec writing.
One single-time client nevertheless sent us boxes of chocolates for a couple of Christmas seasons. Which was kind of creepy, if the chocolates weren't just some kind of automatic thing they did for everyone on some list, and they just forgot to purge their list for a year or two. So gifts that smack of incincere intentions, might be counter-productive.
I think there's a fine line between no-obligation trinkets and come-on-too-strong potential bribes. If you send gifts that are too ostentatious, like huge bottles of fine wine or whatnot, I think you risk alienating the clients. Perhaps the safest bet is something of relatively low cash value but that still reflects some aspect of them you know on a personal level, learned from working with them. Say, one of their passions or interests. if they are huge golf freaks, an imprinted ball or maybe chocolate candy golf balls might be good, especially if you throw in some note about "being on the ball" regarding their projects. Or if they are huge pet lovers, send them a chew toy or whatnot for their dog and name the dog to show you remembered. I dunno, is that too much? Greeting cards from my insurance agent or the oil change place do not impress me. It only tells me they have a database and automatic calendar. But some simple message that shows a person knows me and what I care about... that's more impressive to me. Or something that's pure entertainment. Perhaps a holiday demo reel DVD or youtube link, with suitable themed bits, that entertains but also subtly reminds the clients about what kind of work you're capable of. Maybe if you know a charity thye like, you can send thema note that you're donating to it in their name or something like that.
We show appreciation for our customers throughout the year by giving them great service. You can't wrap that in a bow!
Some of our vendors send us cookies, candy, popcorn etc which generally disappear within 15 minutes of arrival.
A few vendors who I work with directly (narrators, designers) have sent me modest restaurant gift cards, or simply a card.
I think a card is the best way to go - preferably something with the company name on it.
We usually send out a fair number of cards.
Unfortuantely, about ten years ago we came up with a really good card, and people who get them keep expecting something good the next year, so the pressure is always on to come up with something clever. Since there are five of us on staff, for a few years we always had a staff photo, something where we could use all five of us. One year we were the Rat Pack, standing in front of the Sands in Vegas (thanks Photoshop) with our names on the marquee. One year we were the Reservoir Dogs. That streak all started with this card, which was the first in our "movie poster" line (that's me in the Gabriel Byrne center position)...
The last couple of years we've gone a different route with something else. Oh... and we always personally sign all cards, maybe writing a personalized extra line when appropriate.
About a dozen or so clients get actual gifts in addition to a card... usually something homemade of the edible variety. Several years we've packaged up this great party mix (which we label "Fantastic Snacktics"). One year was homemade lemon cookies in the shape of ducks ("Fantastic Quacktics"). One year was this hot chocolate mix we packaged up with these old-style Thermoses we found ("Fantastic Smacktics). This year our art director Kim (who is also my better half) was in the baking mood so she made scads of homemade cookies. We found these brightly colored small plastic buckets (in our "company colors") which we packaged them up nicely in.
In the past we have also given bigger gifts to a few of our larger clients... mostly advertising agencies. One year they were portable DVD players, because we knew of a couple that would benefit from having those (and we found some cheap).
We try not to go overboard, but yet recognize those that have been good to us.
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
We do holiday cards to about 100 of our contacts, both client and vendor. Then we have done all kinds of holiday treats to our top 12 or so clients. We sometimes make it a local vendor, like Candinas Chocolate, but this year we went with Chery's Cookies.
Tilt Media Inc.
Video Production and Post
We do a couple of things.
First all of our current clients, colleagues, vendors, etc... all get Christmas cards. They're all a part of our "family" and we want to say thank you to everyone who both works for us, gets us gear and of course, those who pay us for what we love to do.
I make sure every envelope is hand addressed rather than computer generated. Just a small touch but it does make the cards stand out when they arrive. We also all sign the card personally. Well, all of us except Molly. Her paws are too messy....
We started sending some clients hot chocolate a few years ago and that has gone over well. Just a small container that's good for about 10 or so cups, so it doesn't go to waste over the winter.
And a few clients get more creative gifts, especially those who have done a LOT of business with us. This is usually some sort of toy or game because, well I'm a sucker for fun toys and games! Anyone who visits our shop and sees my office knows this right away.
So whatever you do, try to make it somewhat personal and reflective of who you are and what your company is all about. In my case we're all about excellent service in a very friendly, relaxed, low-key atmosphere. We love to have fun, our clients have fun when they're here so I like our cards and gifts to be fun.
Now Todd has certainly given me an idea for next year's card.......
Walter Biscardi, Jr.
Editor, Colorist, Director, Writer, Consultant, Author, Chef.
HD Post and Production
Biscardi Creative Media
"Foul Water, Fiery Serpent" Winner, Best Documentary, LA Reel Film Festival...
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When you're in the business of advertising and promotion you'd better be prepared to prove that advertising and promotion works. That's why for the holidays most years we pull out the big guns: high individual cost, 3D mailers. Instead of sending a card to everyone or a gift only to selected large clients, we do a promotional item in a themed box for about 150 to 180 of our clients, closest suppliers, friends -- and here's a key -- prospective clients.
Themed means that the box has a tease which is paid off once the box is opened. For example, the box says:"This year it seems like our idea of a holiday message will just go over most people's head." Inside the box is a neatly folded custom-printed Griffin Communications sweatshirt wrapped in gift tissue. Another year the box copy was: "After years of Nick Griffin's blatant attempts to promote his services under the guise of a holiday gift, FINALLY a seasonal message that's in good taste." Inside the box was a set of high end bottled spices, re-labeled with our logo and copy.
This year we sent a fleece vest with our logo embroidered onto the breast pocket. By the time we add up the cost of the vests, the customization, buying the right boxes, having the boxes printed, paying for professional assembly/wrapping and postage costs, not to mention all of the costs shipping items and boxes to us we're typically around $25 - $30 per recipient. These are sent as deep as needed into client companies. At some of our larger clients multiple people in multiple departments can originate projects so we want each of the key people, along with their gatekeepers, to receive our mailing.
Here's the good part, once we are doing these for a 100 clients there's very little incremental cost to adding key suppliers, business friends and even selected past employees to the mailing. It keeps our name out front with everyone, reminds people that they pay us to originate clever ideas, and is completely different from anything they're getting from anyone else. Well worth the $5k when all is said and done. That's our secret recipe for holiday cheer.
We send out a nice box of chocolate truffles to our top 10 clients.
We print a nice label with our logo and a holiday cheer and affix that onto the box.
Clients love it.
Video Atlanta LLC
Thanks everyone for some great ideas. I love the wide variety of suggestions, it helps a lot.
Have a great Holiday!
FrostLine Productions, LLC
Getting in late - but maybe with an important warning.
Many large corporations have VERY strict rules about vendor gifts. Our largest two clients have specific sections in their Corporate operations manual which place a STRICT limit of $15 on ANY gift to an individual for ANY purpose whatsoever and if that policy is violated, the vendor can be dumped even tho they have a contract.
So be wary.
That's why we ONLY do department gifts of sharable premium food. With a 10 person department we get a reasonable budget of $150 to work within.
Back years ago we did the "give our rep a nice gift." thing. And it got back to me that all the OTHER reps were pissed that THEY didn't get one.
Final gift story.
Once MANY, MANY years ago, we got a MAGNUM of champagne from the graphics company that did our PMTs (a photo process, long gone from print ads I believe) We had a LOT of rush work, so I thought it was a nice reflection of how hard we'd busted our asses to accommodate last minute revisions in client work - UNTIL it triggered a suspicion in me. I looked at the books and SURE ENOUGH, with all the client insisted RUSH charges and revisions - I had actually PAID that one individual small vendor MORE than I took home for the entire year!!!
One of the biggest and most important lessons I ever learned in business! Triggered by a vendor gift! -
We revised our approval processes and clamped down on our clients by showing them how much we BOTH could save by changing out production schedules and to my delight I NEVER earned another MAGNUM of champagne end of year gift from that vendor again.
Live and learn.
I couldn't agree with Bill more. Over the years we've ran into big corporate situations where we were told not only that individual gifts could not be accepted but gifts of any type, including deli platters and such had to be taken and given to homeless shelters because they would not, under any circumstances, be accepted. Every situation is different and you have to be aware of your environment.
Two thoughts on what we do these days. Who's to say what our items are worth other than what we say? Virtually nobody who monitors these sorts of things stops to think what it costs for us to have the item custom-embroidered, come in a custom-printed box, get hand packed and hand wrapped. Even when the postage paid is right there under their nose, no one has questioned (yet) that the ITEM is under $10? (This becomes especially absurd on the items we send to the UK and Europe where the postage alone is more than twice the cost of the item.)
Second, my philosophy has always been to start at the top and that includes with gifting, uh… I mean holiday promotions. It's one thing -- and potentially easy to criticize -- when our "item" is just going to a product manager or a VP of marketing. It's entirely different when the same thing goes to the CEO, the Exec VP, most departmental VPs, their managers and even select secretaries and admin. assistants. We make interfacing with our clients on multiple levels a goal, no where more so than during the holidays.
My final (for now) gift story. One of our clients uses us for content creation but insists on using their own firm for content delivery. Last year my partner happened to be in their office when an OBSCENELY LARGE fruit and gift basket was delivered -- we're talking something which was easily in the $200+ range. When I later subtly brought this up with one of the VPs and made the quiet remark that they must consider you a VERY profitable customer (in contrast to the numerous lower cost providers we had suggested), he simply replied, "Oh no… they just really like us." Unlike Bill's story of the magnum, sometimes even the obvious fails to get attention.
Live and learn, indeed.
Back to the subject of cards... I'll grouse for just a sec about something I don't like... which is "e-cards."
We usually get a couple of them a year from either vendors or customers. I just got one today that was actually very nice and well done, a complex flash piece that I know they put a lot of work into. They said something to the effect of "Because we are a creative company, we decided to do something more creative than a card... click here."
BUT... on a scale of 1-100 on the "this is personally for you," it gets a zero.
The email wasn't even addressed to me specifically... I was a blind recipient so I'm sure I was one of a massive list of recipients.
To me, this does more harm than good. I don't want to think I'm just a name on a list (although we all are, of course), and this really magnifies that. While we might not hand-address our envelopes like Walter does (no one could read my writing), we do individually print the envelopes one at a time, and do hand sign them. Some people get cards signed by the whole staff... for those who have only personal dealings with me alone, I sign their card by myself (the same goes for the other people here). The cards we send are designed by us and custom-printed in short runs of a couple hundred, and this year they had a hand-assembled insert as well. I didn't figure it up because it's not important, but by the time you include the postage it's probably costing us two or three bucks to send someone a card... not including the value of the concept and design time. Of course it's not about the money, not at all... it truly is the "thought that counts." And being a recipient of a blind mass emailing kinda shows me the only thought was whether to click the check box by my name.
My own family knows I have long held a similar feeling about gift bags... and in fact they now purposely give me gifts in fancy-schmatnzy gift bags just to hear me say, "Awwww, you almost cared enough to actually wrap it." :)
Happy holidays all...
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
One of my clients sends me a signed card and a little paper tree ornament which says that they've donated to a charity in my name. Last year they gave me a choice of charities, which was great.
I'll share what we typically do, just to add to the conversation.
Mostly, we try to do something small but fun for current, a few past, and a very few prospective clients. Nothing too fancy, this year it was a card plus custom M&M candies in a tin. Everybody likes candy, right?
Now, rarely, and only when a client is also a friend- which does occasionally happen- I will personally go out of my way to find them something they will really appreciate. For instance, a client took me out for scotch tasting after a very intense tv commercial job this summer. It was a lovely gesture, and so I wanted to repay that in kind. He got one nice- not insane, but nice- bottle of scotch.
That said, I would never do something like this if I didn't know the guy, knew he'd appreciate it, that it wouldn't violate any ethics, etc. And really, after he was so gracious with me, I'd have sprung for it even if he wasn't a decent sized client this year. Gotta match class with class, you know?
Happy Merry Christmas, everybody!
Web and Video Design