From The Urbach Letter –
The Ideal Business Gift
The holiday gift-giving season has passed, but more gifting occasions occur throughout the year. I'll leave the family/friends/birthday stuff up to you and instead focus on what's appropriate in a business context.
One my favorite things to give as a business gift is a book. Even if I know very little about someone, I usually have enough info to select a book that'll be of interest to him or her. Books make great gifts for business associates and valued clients. They're personal (yet not too personal), relatively inexpensive, show you listened, and are easy to buy and give.
If you want your business to thrive in the new competitive environment, then you must go out of your way to give your clients an AWESOME experience every time they interact with you. I'm not saying you should send a book to everybody you meet. Of course not. But you know who your "A-List" clients are. Not only are they great people, they also refer their friends, family members, associates, and co-workers to you. What can you send to these folks to reward them for all these great referrals? What product costing $20 or $30 would have the same impact as a well-chosen book? (By the way, that price range is about right no matter the size of the account. Don't spend too much, lest it be construed as a bribe.)
I'm a big fan of Amazon.com, Borders.com, and BarnesAndNoble.com. Aside from not having to leave your desk, the best thing about them is the ability search for books based on a keyword. The second best thing is they'll gift wrap and deliver the book with a personal note from you. Most of your client and preference information is retained, making future transactions easy and fast.
Of course, there are non-book gift options to consider. However, please don't confuse "ad specialties" (logo imprinted items) with gifts. Unless they're really exceptional items, with your logo or company name subtly displayed, they're not gifts. They're promotions. I distinctly remember receiving a cheap plastic clock as a "holiday gift" from a financial services firm whom I'd paid five figures in professional fees in the prior year. Let's see… I paid them a high five-figure fee and I get an ugly $8 clock with their firm's name printed across it in huge bock letters. Didn't even arrive with a personalized note or anything. Believe me, I would have much preferred getting nothing than this impersonal and inappropriate gift. Stupid.
So, even though you don't want to be extravagant, don't go too far in the other direction. But whether the gift is a carefully-chosen book or something else with meaning, it's an investment that will pay huge dividends. Probably the smartest money you can spend – and it'll make you feel good too!
Never Pay Full Price
The online book sellers mentioned above run promotions all the time. For some, you have to register as a "member" to receive discounts. Borders offers weekly 25-40% member discount codes and coupons, good online or in-store. If you're a heavy Amazon.com shopper like me (along with books, they sell tons of other stuff, all with top-notch customer service and good prices), then it's worth it to pay to belong to "Amazon Prime." For $79/year you get free two-day shipping on most items (no minimum order size), or pay just $3.99/item for overnight delivery. Amazon Prime has cut my bricks and mortar shopping down to virtually nil, saving me lots of gas money, time, and aggravation.
There are more opportunities to avoid paying full price for items you buy online. Many sites have a field to enter a code ("promotion code," "coupon code," "discount code," etc.). If you see one of these, your next stop should be RetailMeNot.com. Trust me, this one is the best. If you try Googling "promo code" or some such, you'll get six million hits and many of them will be worthless. Just go to RetailMeNot and enter the URL for your shopping site. You'll get a list of current and past promotion codes, along with a success/failure ranking for each. More often than not, you'll find something that'll work.
(c) Copyright 2002-2010 Victor Urbach
This article may be reprinted with permission and attribution