Given today’s business economy and the need to cut costs at every turn, can corporate gift- giving still be considered a reasonable cost of doing business? From “tchotchkes” to extravagant weekend spa packages and vacations, companies have historically given business gifts. The reasons for gift-giving vary from a way to reward clients to motivating your employees. But what about using gifts as a marketing tool?
Corporate business gifts are a highly visible form of B2B marketing, a way to add value to your product, service or brand. For professional service providers (i.e, lawyers, accountants, management consultants, etc.), giving a thoughtful gift to a client can build loyalty in a time when switching to your competitor is merely an internet search away. Competition is stiff and competencies are purportedly interchangeable. As a result, distinguishing yourself in the marketplace is perhaps now more critical than ever.
Remember, the fundamental idea behind corporate gift giving is to say “thank you” like you mean it. Baring that in mind, here are some guidelines that will help achieve the desired result:
This cannot be overemphasized. The expense of a gift will not matter in the least if it embarrasses or offends the recipient. For example, liquor might be a valued gift for many, but for someone whose personal preference or religious beliefs prevent them from alcohol consumption, even the rarest bottle of wine will likely not be appreciated.
Exercising some due diligence on what the client or service provider likes will go a long way towards ensuring that the gift is received in the spirit it was given. If it then turns out that bottle of wine is appropriate, all the better.
There is a significant difference between business gifts and give-aways. Companies that give away promotional items guarantee that the client remembers who gave them the gift, but not necessarily fondly. Promotional products have a different purpose and should not be used as a business gift. After all, how special can it be if you’ve got the same pen or business card holder by the dozen in the storeroom?
In fact, the more important the intended recipient is (especially if s/he is a government employee), the more a monetary gift may resemble an attempt to improperly buy influence.
What could be more appreciated than the arrival of a carefully selected gift basket of gourmet cheeses, sausages and artisan breads or crackers just to say thank you! Consider giving a select assortment of fine chocolates for the chocoholic, or stemware for the client you know to be a wine connoisseur.
There are countless beautiful gifts a professional can give that will be memorable for all the right reasons. If the idea is to reward loyalty or to say ‘thanks for the business’, a business gift giving plan is a great idea, sure to enhance any professional’s image and reputation. And that is a gift that keeps on giving.
Research indicates that almost 80% of consumers find new professional services, or any product for that matter, on a referral basis. Why? Not surprisingly, 90% of people believe that word of mouth referral is the most trustworthy source of information.
For many service providers – lawyers, CPAs, financial advisors, insurance and mortgage brokers – their best source of new business is sitting right underneath them. It’s their existing clients. It’s a readily available database of contacts that has worked with you already, so what better group of individuals to vouch for your work and refer new business your way? The question is, “How do you get them to spread the word and refer new business?”
Sometimes it’s just luck, but more often than not it will be based on the strength of your relationship with your client. This will be based on a number of factors, some of which are within your control, some of which are out of your control. Performing quality work at the right price won’t necessarily get your client to open his or her mouth, however. It is going to be your ability to stand out in your client’s mind that will ultimately determine whether or not you get a referral. And this takes time as it largely depends on how many quality interactions you have with your client on an annual basis. Do you think you stand out in your client’s mind now?
This is where it gets tricky. Many service providers don’t feel comfortable coming right out and asking their existing clients for referrals. If they do, it might be once or twice, but anything beyond that might be negatively perceived. There are plenty of tactics to market to existing clients – such as newsletters, email marketing, dinners, or sponsored events – but how effective are those channels? Generally speaking, direct mail and email marketing efforts yield conversion rates under 1%, while dinners or sponsored events can easily run into thousand-dollar plus (or hundred-thousand-dollar plus) events and often reach very small audiences. So this often leaves many service providers asking, “Is there a better way to market to my existing clients?”
This was a trick question – your answer should be “almost zero”, regardless of your function within a professional services firm. For any service provider – CPAs, Lawyers, and Financial Advisors alike – time is their commodity, it’s what they sell. So many marketing activities, which are done with the goal of driving new or repeat business, often fall by the wayside.
The best marketing strategies are the ones that (1) take the least amount of time to implement, (2) allow for a very targeted approach, and (3) offer clear cost-control capabilities… all of which is done for the purpose of strengthening existing client relationships. Because almost any service provider knows that their next piece of business is either going to come from an existing client or a new word of mouth referral from an existing client. So you have to effectively market to your existing clients to be… effective!
Call or visit Giftsontime.com (888-468-1830) and see if our free gift planning tools can help you stay “Top of Mind” with your Clients.