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Use Gifts to Reinforce Your Alliances

5 ways to move beyond appreciation and deepen your client relationships
December 16, 2009
URL: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/204396

Whether it's the holiday season or any other time of year, the purpose of giving gifts to clients, business partners or customers is always the same. In short, gifts serve as both a thank-you (showing recipients that you truly appreciate and value them) and a brand-building tool. But with the sheer volume of gifts and promotional items that people receive from businesses increasing every year, how do you cut through the tchotchke clutter and choose a memorable gift that gets you noticed and reinforces your relationship?

Here are five ways you can reinforce your marketing messages with gifts and show the recipients that they are important to you in more ways than just a sale:

1. Useful
The gifts you give should be useful. Don't just add to the pile of company pens that get lost in the back of your clients' desk drawers. Instead, choose gift items that your clients will actually use ... frequently. If your client works in dark or cramped spaces he'll probably appreciate a high quality flashlight over those mouse pads you passed around last year. Don't be afraid to contact a promotional items company and ask for help in selecting gifts. They're knowledgeable in new and popular items and can steer you in the right direction.

2. Meaningful
Choose a gift that will appeal to an aspect of the recipient's life that you know about through your relationship-building efforts. For example, if you know your client spends a lot of time coaching his daughter's soccer team, select a gift that he can use on the field. This type of specialized attention can go a lot further than a logo-imprinted ruler.

3. Helpful
Everyone likes to receive gifts that can help them make their lives or jobs easier. Why not give a business book or informational material related to your client's field? Imagine a client's reaction to receiving a book about effective DIY marketing options, especially coming from a marketing firm! That sort of selfless honesty is sure to bring your business some appreciation and make a lasting impression.

4. Social
Gifts don't have to be tangible items to help you communicate your marketing messages. Sometimes a social gift works quite nicely. For example, if your client likes sports, give him tickets to a popular sporting event. Take him to dinner before the event, and while you certainly can talk a bit of business, even if you don't you're still building your relationship. You can even take this gift idea a step further by inviting spouses or guests to join you so you can delve even further into your relationship by getting to know the important people in your client's lives. In one fell swoop you've given your client a great gift and given yourself a networking opportunity.

5. Fun
Sometimes it works to give gifts that are just plain entertaining. Sharing a laugh goes a long way to solidifying a relationship and keeping you in the other person's mind. Stay tasteful and professional, but don't be afraid to have a bit of fun.

No matter what gifts you give to communicate your marketing messages and generate future recall among your clients, business partners and customers, remember that a gift that helps you further your relationship with the recipient is the most powerful choice. If the gift you're considering giving to your client isn't useful, meaningful, helpful, social or fun, then you might want to reconsider.