Episode 19 – Gift Giving For Business – Debbie DeChambeau

Gift Giving

Thank you for joining us today for the Select Business Team podcast as we talk about gift giving. I know your time is valuable and you have a lot of podcasts to choose from so we hope you’ll find a lot of value in today’s episode. Select Business Team brings business owners of service professions together to discuss the back office issues of running a business.

We help business owners look at areas of the business that increase profits.

My hope with every podcast is to get you thinking a little differently about how you operate your business. To not necessarily do what everyone else is doing but to find a way to stand out and be remembered. Be different, adapt to technology, create systems and make sure that you are making a profit.

When it comes to marketing, this is just as important. Since my core focus in business is referrals, the topic I’m discussing today really resonates with me.

When I sold insurance, this is something I did regularly. When I started Select Business Team, I did this a little bit but over the years, I’ve really gotten out of the habit. With this episode, I’m making a point to get back into it and make it a regular marketing tactic.

I’m talking about gift giving

Did you give gifts to your clients, to your strategic partners, to your prospects between Thanksgiving and New Years Eve?  If so, if you asked the person today what you gave them that they would remember?

My guess is they’d pause, run a few ideas around and maybe they’d guess correctly.  The real question is, WAS YOUR GIFT MEMORABLE?’ Was is something that jumped out at them? Something that they’ll remember in 2 months, In 2 years?

In today’s podcast, I want to talk about 4 areas of gift giving.

  • The first is promotional products or swag vs. personalized and customized gifts,
  • The second is why you are giving gifts,
  • The third is when you give gifts
  • We’ll finish up with some different strategies for getting business from gift giving.

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Separate from gifts, what types of swag or promotional items do you give away to clients, prospects and strategic partners? Are you giving pens, calendars, fruit or food baskets?  Logo’d apparel or items like measuring tapes, key chains or memo pads? A lot of companies do this and don’t really measure the results. They know they are suppose to do this. They hope it has an impact, but for the cost of the swag, was there a measurable return?

As I look around my own office, I have a small clock that has a picture frame attached. I’ve had it for years and it has the logo on it from the company that gave it to me. To be honest with you, I know think the company is a credit card company, but I don’t really know for sure. I also have a pad of sticky notes with another company. It has the name and logo and what they do but no contact info. It would be nice to have their number so I could easily call them. I like having the sticky note pad, but I’m not sure the branding would ever have me call them!

This is part of the thought process you want to go through when selecting and putting your logo on promotional products.

Here’s a Thought

What if you took the budget you have for promotional items and bought fewer gifts? But they are special and personalized to the recipient and are only delivered to a few people that would have the most impact.  And, you didn’t give them during the holiday season, but you gave them at a different time of year. Just because.  What if you only gave 10 gifts – 5 to the top 5 prospects on your list and 5 to your best strategic partners. Do you think you would have the same impact? Could it have a greater impact than the swag you give away at networking events, trade shows and other marketing events?

Promotional products certainly have their place. I love the water bottles I get when I enter a race, the t-shirts I get and the towels. But honestly, one can get too many water bottles, too many t-shirts. And the last towel I received was so coarse, I couldn’t use it. Almost felt like sandpaper. So was it a waste of money for that company to have their logo printed when I couldn’t even use the product?

There is also the other school of thought, why would I wear your t-shirt and promote your company? Why would I keep your license tag cover on my car and promote your dealership?

We all like free things, but as a business owner, you need to consider the value of what you are giving and make sure it aligns with your bottom line.

In one of our recent select business team meetings, I asked members to share their thoughts on  some of the best promotional items they’ve received. Here’s some of the feedback I received:

The results of giving them away

  • Measuring tape in the drawer for 5 years that was given to him and he uses it regularly to measure how much his kids have grown
  • Phone charger, used over and over
  • Golf balls, used to market the company across the field

Why do you give these gifts? 

I think when you have a clear mission about giving gifts, it will impact what you give away. And I think it goes back to what it is that you are measuring for all the promotional products and gifts you give away? If you give out 100 pens at a trade show, did you get 5 clients? Was the entire cost worthwhile?

Some of you will say yes, others will shrug your shoulders but might respond with something like, it’s exposure.  Your thought process is that those people will keep our pens and when they need our services, they’ll think of you! Truthfully, maybe they will, maybe they won’t.

When you know why you are giving the gifts, it’s easier to measure the ROI. And remember, if you aren’t measuring, you aren’t marketing, but I digress!

  • Are you giving away promotional products or swag to attract new customers, – this isn’t uncommon –
    • One example from one of my members was an insurance agent that dropped off pens to the car dealership every 3 weeks. He would stop by, say hello to a few of the sales people and be on his way.  From the car sales persons perspective, they always had pens and if they had a buyer that needed insurance, he was one of the first people they thought of. So from that insurance agents perspective, his investment in the pens was worthwhile because he got referrals from it.
    • When I sold insurance and worked for my fathers agency, we had auto rental and repair shops stop by regularly with pens and paper. They hoped that if our clients had car accidents, we would refer them. I can personally say that the pens were looked at on more than one occasion when clients needed rental cars! With technology and how claims are now handled, it might not be as effective, but it worked at the time!
    • A similar story was told by one of our realtors where a moving company came by their office every two or three weeks to replenish the candy jar. He would walk around, say hello, and he is always thought about when a referral for a mover comes up.

Something else to think about:

  • Are you giving swag away to solidify current client relationships?
    • A realtor might give a buyer a housewarming present at closing as a way of saying thank you for letting me help you buy your home, a car dealer might offer 6 months of free car washes for buying a car from them, an insurance agent might give an embossed portfolio binder to hold all of the important papers that every household needs. Again, all thank you gifts for buying from them, but also useful and hopefully memorable.
    • Maybe you give something to clients that have been with you for 5 years, 10 years, etc. Maybe you give them something with their name on it like a personalized doormat or grill cover.  Or perhaps you provide gift certificates to their favorite restaurant
  • The other question is ….. are you giving them gifts just because you were told you needed to give things away with your logo on them so that people will think about you?

What I really what you to think about is measuring what happens when you give gifts? If you give away 100 pens, are you able to track how much business you received? If you give away 10 bottles of 100 y/o scotch that was custom packaged and delivered, did you get some referrals from it?

Knowing the WHY and the outcome you are looking for is part of operating a smart business.


Something I’ve said for years is, don’t  engage in gift giving during the holiday season to your clients or strategic partners.

Why? They are bombarded with gifts during this time of the year and yours won’t stand out. If you are going to invest in giving a gift… you want it to stand out. To me this should be a no brainer business decision but so many people think differently and the only time they send gifts is during the holiday season.

One of my members is a realtor and I hear him say almost every year, he wishes people would stop sending him food during the holidays. He gets so much he can’t eat it. He also gets so much he can’t remember who gave him what!

My suggestion, STOP IT.

Why not send a gift mid year, as a just because. You’ll stand out and have a better chance of being remembered!

For example, one of my members is a bookkeeper. She get a lot of business from accountants during the year.  During tax season, she provides dinner to the accounting staff one night – since the accounts are working 18 hours days with no time to eat a good meal, she provides them with a gourmet meal delivered to the office. It’s her way of thanking them for the referrals, during a time when it’s most appreciated.

Another strategy you might want to consider, is something taught by Brian Buffini. If you aren’t familiar with him, his organization coaches real estate agents, and one of the marketing tactics he encourages is what he calls ‘pop by’s’. It’s giving away an item of value, attaching a note to it with some cute saying and then having your name attached somehow as well. Brian recommends doing this  monthly, but if you don’t have that type of budget, consider doing it quarterly.

Here are some examples of some ‘pop by gifts’

  • Dry Cookie mix in a mason jar – attach the directions and they can be made anytime – this came from one of my members, Nancy Heisel
  • A contractors level with a note attached that says “mirror mirror on the wall, who provides the best service of all? My service is best, to this I can attest and my level best will always be better than the rest.”  This was suggested by Lori McClelland.
  • How about giving away a bottle of windshield washer fluid and add a label that says “we can help you clearly through your next real estate transaction’. This was submitted by Maureen Ohalloran.
  • Last example for this podcast is a mason jar with a straw, orange juice and a bottle of Bacardi – with a note that says ‘two things you should never do alone is drink alcohol and buy or sell real estate’ – submitted by Alicia Holdaway

If you are on FB, go to his page and look for his post on January 7th 2017 and you will see several examples of pop-bys.  This is where I took these examples from and why I’m mentioning names because I want to give credit where credit is due!

Buffini recommends implementing this with your strategic partners and top clients as a way to stay visible and remind them that you are looking for referrals.  Personally, I think it’s a great idea for almost any service type of business.

When my children were young, and they were getting braces, their orthodontist had a brand new practice.  Actually we were one of his first 5 patients. Every month we would go in there would be something on the counter that his wife was preparing for him to give to other dentists. I remember a pail with shovels and a beach ball which he sent as an invitation to a beach party he was having in his office, just for dentists. I also remember her packaging up cookies for valentines day as an item to take to dentists for their referrals.

If you want to try this tactic, I would recommend you do so for at least a year. Be strategic and make it memorable.

Now, have you given any thought to using gifts as a way to open doors for sales? I’m referring to people you don’t know, not people you know. In the example above, where I talked about pop-bys, those would be to people you already know or they could be used as a door opener for strategic partners.

Gifts for People You Don’t Know

I recently listened to someone being interviewed on a podcast who said he invested about $200. To send a personalized knife to a business owner with a note that said ‘can you carve out 5 minutes of your time for a meeting with me?’ Obviously the note worked because he got the meeting and it wasn’t to sell the business owner knives, it was to talk to the business owner about how to help his sales people open the doors to other businesses. Just like he had just done!

What if you identified 5 or 50 prospects that you wanted as clients. Instead of sending them marketing pieces, you sent them a really nice gift, with a similar note. Do you think it might open the door that otherwise remained closed?

This might seem like an investment, but think about how much money people spend on trade shows, on attending networking events and online advertising and never get results. If you haven’t tried this tactic, it might be worthwhile.


From promotional items to expensive personalized gifts, there are many ways to get the word out about your organization and open the doors using gifts.

Just like with any other marketing tactic:

  • have a plan,
  • measure the effort and
  • tweak it as you go along,
  • give it plenty of time before you give up

Be consistent in your efforts and I believe you will see results!


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Here’s to your success…and remember, you are amazing!