The Gifts that Keep on Giving: Gifting to Clients

A business owner mentions to you that he just sent one of his clients a Hermès tie and another a Tiffany keychain.

Do you think he’s making a good investment? Or wasting his money?

On some level, sending luxurious gifts to your clients seems counterintuitive. You’re spending money without any obvious ROI. 

The truth is, though, that all humans enjoy appreciation, and your clients are no different. The happier your clients, the more successful your business.

But there’s more to it than that.


Providing Relational Value

The value that you provide to your clients consists of two main components: transactional and relational.

  • Transactional value means trading one value for another. You give a farmer money and you receive an apple. Or, from a more modern perspective: you give your cleaning crew money and you receive a clean office.
  • Relational value entails building a connection with your client that goes beyond transactional value. 

Remember that providing the value is table stakes. If the farmer doesn’t give you the apple, you won’t be happy. If your cleaning crew doesn’t clean your office, you won’t be happy. 

You might think that most of your client relationships are purely transactional一but you would be wrong. There is so much more to each interaction than meets the eye. 

Imagine for a moment that you need to visit the appropriate office to renew your driver’s license. You wait for a bit, provide them with the information they ask for, pay, and then receive your license. Transactional value? Check.

But how about the relational value? After your typical license-renewing experience, you may likely walk out of the office feeling disgruntled. The employees who worked with you probably gave you the impression that they’re annoyed by the fact that they need to help you at all. In a business situation where you had alternatives (which is unfortunately not an option with your license), they would probably retain very few customers.


Relational Value and Client Gifting

When it comes to your own clients, you want to make sure that you’re providing both types of value—transactional and relational. Sure, you should always be looking for ways to improve your transactional value: more convenient hours, closer parking spots, faster transactions, improved customer service, home delivery, and so on. But as a business owner, you should also focus on building a relationship with your clients that goes beyond the transaction itself.

That’s where gift giving comes in.

You can and should thank your clients for their business. But after a while, “thank you for doing business with us” can become trite and meaningless. Gifting your clients shows them that you see them as vital parts of your business. It demonstrates appreciation (hopefully sincere) and can make clients feel more loyal to your company.

A gift should create an emotional connection between the giver and the recipient. A gift shows that you are willing to invest time, effort, and money into the relationship. If the gift is thoughtful and tailored for the client’s likes, it is even better. And finally, a gift that displays your brand logo can serve as a constant reminder of your business’s relationship with the recipient.


Gifting Do’s and Don’ts


Not all client gifting strategies are created equal. Here are some important tips to keep in mind when you start a new gifting initiative.


DON’T…be boring and predictable. What you give matters—a lot. How many pens or notepads have you gotten from reps? Boring gifts are like holiday fruitcakes: expected, unexciting, and forgettable. Instead, pick a unique, thoughtful gift. Ideally, send it at a time that’s unexpected so it won’t get lost in a deluge of gifts from other clients. 

Personalized keychains? Boring. So are personalized pens, notepads, calendars, and magnets. Be memorable!


DO…make it personal. Think about what your clients would want, not about what you would want. Are they sports fans? Consider game tickets. Are they into natural living? Consider diffusers or candles. Do they enjoy throwing dinner parties? Consider wines or whiskey. Tip: Most people today generally enjoy receiving trendy electronics. (Need some ideas? Think about a levitating Bluetooth speaker, custom imprinted AirPods Pro, or a bamboo docking station.)

These scented candles would be the perfect choice for one client–and the worst possible option for another. Moral: know your recipient.


DON’T…give cash. While it may be an easy out, money is not a gift. It’s a kickback. Gift cards often feel like cash, so be wary of gifting them as well. The one exception? A gift card to a specific local restaurant. Unlike other gift cards, these feel less like money, and more like the gift of an experience—the experience of spending a nice evening out. Hopefully, they’ll think of you while they are enjoying it.


DON’T…be overly extravagant. While generosity is key to gift giving, presenting the recipient with anything too excessive can look like a bribe. So while your client may want a Gucci purse, look for something lower-budget to increase your relational value. At the same time…

Too much. Gifting this purse, at a price point of $1,699, would make most clients feel uncomfortable.


DON’T be too pragmatic. Yes, a grocery store gift certificate will be useful…but it doesn’t build the emotional connection that you’re aiming for. A good gift is a “small splurge,” something the recipient wouldn’t buy for themselves. This doesn’t mean you have to spend a fortune. A small splurge just means upping the item beyond “normal.” For example, if a typical bag of coffee runs $8, a small splurge would be gifting a gourmet bag of $16 coffee. 

Going for a “small splurge” can be done even without breaking the bank.


DO…budget time for planning. It is essential to spend the time to find and procure the perfect gifts for your clients. The investment is worthwhile in the long run.

This is part 1 in a series about gifting. This post discusses the best tips towards building a client relationship through gifting. Part 2 will explain how employee gifting can increase loyalty and productivity, and Part 3 will address the best usage of swag and giveaways. See all the articles in the series here.