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2017 Client Gift Guide for the Holidays & Beyond

by Bill Cates
Bill's 2017 Holiday Gift Guide

Tis’ the season of giving! Although it’s important to show your appreciation year-round, sending reasonably-priced gifts during the holidays can go a long way in keeping you engaged with your clients and centers of influence, while continuing to nurture those all-important business friendships.  Remember – a sense of “engagement” with you and your team is what makes you Super Referable and can stimulate referrals without even asking.


While some will argue that “it’s the thought that counts,” not all client gifts are created equal. While sending a mass-produced gift basket from some magazine or website may be better than nothing, if you want to send a client gift that is memorable and makes you stand out from the crowd, the key is personalization.

The More You Personalize Client Gifts, The More Impact They Have

There are two ways to personalize client gifts.  The gift could be personalized to the client’s world.  For example, I’m always sending reasonably-priced gifts related to a client’s favorite sports team, university, author, etc.

Client gifts can also be personalized to your world.  I have a lawyer friend who spends a full day every holiday season baking gourmet brownies with his wife to send out to his clients and referral sources. Since they have been doing this for years, their lucky recipients (myself included) have come to expect and look forward to the brownies’ arrival. 

Please note… personalizing client gifts does NOT just mean slapping your logo onto something and calling it a day! Instead, it means investing a bit of time and energy into choosing a gift that will be personally meaningful to the person to whom you giving it.


3 Types of Personalized Clients Gifts

1. Gifts personalized to the client’s world

As I mentioned above, not only might you personalize client gifts relating to a favorite sports team or where someone went to college, you could also take into account their hobbies or special interests, their children’s names, or even where their children go to college 

***NOTE – If you are a financial professional, you probably have restrictions on the amount you can spend on client gifts.  Usually with dinners and such, where you can attend, the restrictions are removed.

  • A nice dinner out – including spouses ($$$-$$$$) – For this idea, I’m thinking that you attend this dinner with your client (and spouse if appropriate). This type of client gift gives you additional face time with your client or referral source. If time and scheduling becomes an issue, you could always fall back on a gift certificate to their favorite restaurant.
  • A favorite activity ($$-$$$$) – Give them the gift of something that you know that they love to do – golf, a spa day, tickets to a game or concert. Bonus points if you attend with them (once again… face-time!)
  • A donation to a charity that they are passionate about ($$-$$$$) – This one is pretty self-explanatory. Show them that you care and appreciate their support by supporting something that they care about.
  • A favorite book ($) – if you’ve read a good book lately that you feel they would enjoy, share it! It’s an inexpensive gesture, but can be a way to highlight your common interests. Make sure to include a handwritten note on the inside cover.
  • A bottle of their favorite wine ($$-$$$$) – You can even order personalized labels on websites like Etsy. The key here is to send wine that they will actually like. It goes without saying that the gift will not be as well received if you send a dry red when they prefer a fruity white. In the US, not all states allow wine to be shipped across state lines, so be cognizant of the laws in the related states or provinces. Ordering from a website like can help take the guesswork out of this for you. 


2. Gifts that share a piece of your world

While centering the gift around the client’s world is arguably the best way to show that you’ve been pay attention to what they are passionate about, if you’re struggling to come up with something, the next best thing is to share a bit of your world with them. 

One good way to do this is to send a gift with some local flavor – something that falls into the category of the “best of” your area.

Being from Maryland, for a number of years I sent my out-of-state clients a “taste of Maryland” gift box that included Old Bay, a spice that is most commonly used in the steaming of Maryland Blue Crabs, but can be used to season almost anything – even sprinkling on French Fries. (Heck, some die-hard Marylanders will even put it in their coffee!)

Another way to personalize a gift is to share something with your clients that gives them a little peek into who you are as a person. Doing so can help people to feel like they know you better, and connect with you on a more personal level. For example, , one of the most well-received client gifts I ever sent is when my daughter was a little girl selling Girl Scout cookies.  I sent out 144 boxes of Thin Mints!  Not only did my clients love the personal nature of the gift, but my daughter led her troop in cookie sales that year! Win, win.


3. Branded gifts (Proceed with Caution!)

My long-held philosophy has been, “If it has your logo on it, it’s not a gift. It’s a promotion.”  My exception to this rule is if the item that is likely to be truly used or enjoyed by the client or referral source.   For example, I had a financial advisor give me a high-quality golf umbrella that I still use to this day.

Forget the mugs, mouse pads, or pens. If you absolutely must send a branded gift, the key is to ensure that the promotional nature of the product is outweighed by its unique functionality, especially if that functionality relates to one of your client’s passions or interests. For example:



This article is not meant to be an exhaustive list of gift resources; rather something to stimulate your thinking and get you rolling on anything you might want to do in this last quarter.

I wouldn’t be the “Referral Coach” if I failed to reiterate the point that you should be making it a point to thank your referral sources whenever they make an introduction for you. Don’t wait for the prospect to turn into a client.  Just “reward” the giving of the referral or making of the introduction. 

While a phone call or handwritten note would be minimum and might suffice during the year, it is often a good idea to go the extra mile at the holidays by sending a nice “thank you” gift or even a “thank you” event; a social event where you only invite clients who have sent referrals your way over the course of the year.


Referral Coach