From The Urbach Letter –
Reader's Question: What kind of gifts are appropriate to give to important clients?
My Answer: 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 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 lots of 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. If you spend too much, it could be construed as a bribe.)
I'm also a big fan of the on-line bookseller sites like Amazon.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. I love this because I give lots of nonfiction books away as gifts. 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.
One more side note about non-book gift giving: don't confuse "ad specialties" (logo imprinted items) with gifts. Unless they're really exceptional items, and your logo or company name very 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 over a hundred thousand dollars in professional fees over the past year. Let's see… I paid them a six-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!