When you think about your top clients or customers, what comes to mind?
Do you think of a broad group of professionals?
A particular demographic?
A list of names and email addresses?
A bunch of people browsing online whose attention you’re trying to grab?
A lead to win, a click to capture, a check to receive in the mail?
However you categorize your clients or customers, the main goal is to keep them happy and returning to you. The way to retain your clients, your customers, and your team depends on how valuable the service, product, or exchange is that you provide to them. Right? It’s a simple way to boil down the complexities of running a successful business.
But why are there some companies that stand apart, when hundreds of their competitors are seemingly doing the same thing? Why do some companies retain great talent, and others have high turnover? Why can some companies find success solely on referrals, and others struggle to generate enough leads every month? How do some companies build customer loyalty when others struggle to maintain that attention and connection?
Although there are a number of comprehensive answers to these questions, there is an all-encompassing and fundamental truth that runs throughout: success is built upon healthy relationships.
Companies nurture those relationships by establishing trust, building strong communication channels, creating an engaged employee base, and gaining a deep understanding of the needs of their clients, partners, and customers. The foundation of this kind of relationship-building starts by connecting with the individual person behind the group, title, or email address.
No matter how much we personify companies, your company is not a person. However, YOU are a person, your CLIENTS are people, and your TEAM is made up of individuals. It may seem ridiculous to point this out. Of course you’re people. But in this world of personification, it’s good to remember that people are what make and build companies; it is not companies that make people.
That is why relationships and the fostering of relationships is so important. As people working in a business, we should treat our customers and clients not as a nameless, faceless entity - but as a friend, as ourselves, as we would want to be treated. This is what sets extraordinary businesses aside from others - they nurture the growth of the individuals that make up their company, that devote a huge chunk of their lives to making it successful every single day. This is a key way to build employee loyalty. These businesses include people that see not only the individual in every team but the individual in each customer or client.
The greatest value comes from connecting those individuals, whether by fostering team bonding internally or by making the effort to devote attention to clients and customers on a deeper level.
An excellent way to foster connection and build relationships is through company gifting. Corporate gifting builds loyalty by showing employees, clients, and partners that they are valued and appreciated. This can create a positive impression of the company (and those individuals that work for your company) and foster strong relationships with people who have contributed to its success. Company gifts also boost morale in the workplace, and branded team gifts can create a deeper bonding between coworkers. These gifts act as a reminder that their hard work is an important component of the bigger purpose.
However, not all gifts are built the same - and thoughtful corporate gifts go much further than cheap tchotchkes, generic gift cards, or mass emails.
In his book, Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals, Oliver Burkeman describes the value of time and effort over the “thought” that supposedly counts more. He calls this “The Efficiency Trap” - in an effort to check things off our to-do list, get our work tasks done, eat lunch, send emails, send corporate gifts, and get on with our lives, we neglect the fact that sometimes being more efficient ends up costing us something other than money: the value of the experience.
We know that it’s easier to just send a mass “thank you” email to clients all at once or to send an e-card for someone’s birthday. However, if you’ve ever been on the receiving end of this kind of convenient solution, you know that getting a handwritten letter is much more meaningful. The intent is diluted, and therefore the message is diluted. As Burkeman says, “It isn’t really the thought that counts, but the effort — which is to say, the inconvenience.”
Now, consider the relationships you have with the people you’re the closest with in your life. Do they like the Instagram story you posted about your trip to Italy, or do they meet you for coffee to hear all about your experiences - maybe even pick you up from the airport?
We’re not saying you should start providing airport rides and hosting individual catch-up sessions with customers and every single person you work with. (Hey, if you have the time, go for it!) But these are important factors to consider when you’re making an intentional decision - like sending a gift - and maximizing the meaning behind it.
Ultimately, the best way to think about corporate gifting is to shift the focus away from being a thoughtless action to check off your to-do list. Instead, think about the individuals behind your email list and target demographic. Consider each member of your company as a unique person, with hopes, needs, and wants - and a desire for appreciation and connection.
Use corporate gifting as a way to shift your focus towards the relationships you want to cultivate and grow, with the people you value the most.