The 4 worst gifts you can give your clients

If you’ve already listened to our podcast episode featuring author and business owner John Ruhlin, you’ll already understand how a well chosen gift given to your clients can impact your business in bigger ways that you expected. When done well, gifts result in strengthened business relationships and an increase in sales, referrals and sometimes, free promotion.

Unfortunately, a lot of businesses, big and small, are getting it wrong.


worst client giftsHere are 4 of the worst gifts you can give your clients.

And of course, a few exceptions to the rules, to help you make better choices. Let’s see if you can spot any trends.

“Save the earth, save the landfills… do I really need a pen with your logo on it?”

I’m not going to lie. I do like a free pen. But it doesn’t make me like, appreciate or want to tell people about this company any more than if they hadn’t given me the pen, in the first place. Sure, if you’re running an event, make the pens available, but don’t expect much of a positive impact.

There can be the odd exception to this rule. For example, I recently received a notebook from a company. As I’m currently in a phase which involves non-stop note taking, list writing and brainstorming, it’s actually pretty useful.

But more than that, it looks nice and I enjoy writing in it. The only branding on it actually works really well as a design feature rather than an obvious advert. It’s the kind of notebook I’d want to buy and it’s a positive association with the company which makes it a valuable gift.

think outside the box

“What would your client really, really want and would consider a precious artifact in their home?”

2. Clothing

Clothes are a very personal thing. I’ve received several t-shirts over the years from companies and I can guarantee you – they’ve never been worn outside of my house. Why? Because they’re usually a bad fit and always have a logo on them. I’m not a walking billboard. If you want me to promote your restaurant/marketing/event planning businesses, there are better ways to motivate me! Or at least earn my love and loyalty to the extent where I want to walk around proudly telling the world about how much I love what you and your brand do.

John Ruhlin has a great story about how he impressed a major influencer with clothing – but it was an exclusive shopping experience and not one single promotional t-shirt was involved.

“Imagine if you gave your client a ham for Easter and they were vegan!!? #awkward

3. A generic gift basket

Great gift givers know that it’s all about tailoring your present. The more personalised and specific, the better. You want to make a big impact by giving your clients a gift that makes them feel valued and loyal to your brand. That means thinking carefully about what they would like. For example, never give a ham – what if they are a vegan!!?

Here’s an example that really annoys me.

Certain beauty companies make this mistake all the time. When they give away packs with miniature versions of their products, they include items that only suit certain skin tones. As someone with Indian heritage, this puts me off the brand and shows me they don’t really care and they’ve wasted money giving me a gift I can’t use. (Umm, I’m not that skin colour… thanks, but no thanks.)

Smaller businesses should pay attention and not buy pre-made gift packages that don’t suit your clients or prospective customers. Invest a little more time and create your own. Alternatively, invest a little more time and effort and choose one item that will be appreciated and will make an impact.

4. A discount, a coupon or any kind of special offer for your products or services.

You should definitely factor these into your marketing strategy but let’s be honest, they’re not really a gift are they? You’re asking people to spend money but framing it as a great present. People see right through your thinly veiled attempt at gift giving. Please. Don’t do it.

Want to know what other business gift giving mistakes you should avoid?

You can download a freebie bonus from our podcast guest, John Ruhlin, author of Giftology for additional ideas of the WORST gifts you can give your clients here:

What’s the worst gift you’ve received from a business? Comment below or message us on Twitter or Instagram!

Make 2019 your best year ever with advice, guidance and tips from the expert guests who feature in The Simplifiers Podcast. Find all our episodes HERE

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