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Cates’ 2016 Guide to Client Gifts for the Holidays & Beyond

by Bill Cates
Bill Cates' 2016 Guide to Client Gifts at the Holidays & Beyond

Sending reasonably priced client gifts during this holiday season is a great way to stay engaged with clients and to create the all-important “wow factor” that builds business friendships and, therefore, makes us more referable.


Remember – a sense of “engagement” with you and your team is what makes you Super Referable and can stimulate referrals without even asking.


One of the best client gifts I ever sent is when my daughter was selling Girl Scout cookies.  I sent out 144 boxes of Thin Mints.  My clients loved it and my daughter led her troop in cookie sales that year.


While you can send a pre-packaged, mass-produced gift basket from some magazine or website,  to truly make a statement that screams “Thank you for your business and for your referrals!” you want to send a client gift that is memorable and makes you stand out from the crowd.


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.

Personalizing client gifts does not mean just slapping your logo onto something. It means that you took just a little bit of time and energy in selecting what to send to the client.


3 Types of Clients Gifts for the Holiday Season and Beyond



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


***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. 



Send them something delicious that falls into the category of the “best of” your area – a well-known local favorite.

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.

While these exact ideas will most likely not apply to you (unless you live in Maryland), here are a few examples of excellent choices from the Baltimore area to get you thinking:

  • G&M Crab Cakes: ($$) Maryland is probably best-known for its Blue Crabs. One of the restaurants with the best crab cakes in Baltimore – G&M Restaurant – will actually ship crab cakes anywhere in the U.S.
  • Goldberg’s Bagels: ($-$$) Arguably the best “New York” bagel in Maryland, Goldberg’s is always a hit.
  • Smith Island Cake: ($$) As Maryland’s state dessert, Smith Island Cake is an Eastern Shore tradition that is certainly more unique than a Harry & David gift basket. The Smith Island Baking Co. will also ship their cakes anywhere in the U.S.

    Delicious Local Client Gifts - Smith Island Cake

You get the idea.  What “taste of ______” gift box or basket could you send to many of your clients or referral sources this year?


3. BRANDED CLIENT 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’ve used for years.

Forget the mugs, mouse pads, or pens. And while calendars are a bit trite – if your clients actually use the calendars or it contains photos of animals or places personalized to your clients, then that could work.


Pet Peeve Alert!  I find absolutely no use for those calendars with a quote or saying for each day.  The minute I receive those, I recycle them.  Just my pet peeve.  You (and your clients) may feel differently.


Example of a “useful” branded gift:

  • Branded Vent Mount ($): I received one of these as a thank you gift from a company I worked with last year, and I have been using it ever since. Every time I get in my car, I see the company’s logo. In my mind, the promotional nature of the product is outweighed by its functionality.

Branded Client Gifts - Example: Vent Mount

Example of an “enjoyable” branded gift:

  • Branded Starbucks Card ($$): Need a gift for a coffee lover who you’ve never seen without a Venti Latte in-hand? actually offers the option of co-branding a gift card… you can even include a short message in addition to your logo. The beauty here is that every time they pull the gift card out of their wallet, they will see your logo and think of you!

Branded Client Gifts: Starbucks Card

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.



Attention Managers and Leaders!

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