Gifts and seasonal alternatives


15th December, 2020

Alternatives to gift-giving for your seasonal business development strategy

It’s that time of the year, where chances are your contact with prospects and clients is about to disappear for a month or more. How will they think of you over their holidays?

In both Australia and New Zealand, the summer shut-down means that in the business-to-business world, many people take the vast majority, if not all of January, off. This means it can be tempting to go big on the seasonal gifts, lunches and other socialising events in an effort to stay top of mind with your clients. But, is it really the best strategy?

In this short article, we’ll look at some of the seasonal activities people undertake and provide you with the positives and negatives from each. This should help you make better decisions on where to spend that seasonal marketing and entertainment budget.

Greeting cards: Physical cards or a digital alternative?

Physical greeting cards

A big advantage of the physical greeting card is the bespoke, individualised nature of the medium.

If you get a hand-written card with a personalised message from someone, it’qs likely to have a positive emotional impact with you. The same is true of your clients. It does mean that you must make each message relevant and specific to each individual. So perhaps less is more here, and send these to your most important clients.

Sending physical cards can be a time-consuming process when done thoroughly. Also, it’s questionable from an environmental perspective. The production and sending of cards, even recycled ones, has an impact on our carbon footprint. As a result, environmentally conscious clients may not appreciate a physical card.

Digital greeting cards (e-cards)

Digital cards are relatively low-cost to produce and deliver. Online tools like Canva and other video editing software means you can do this yourself at a pretty low-cost. They can also help drive some traffic to your website or YouTube channel, as people will need to click on a link to view the e-card.

This method of reaching out ahead of the holiday period can be a good way to promote your brand, but it’s important to get the tone right.

Focus on the big messages, like season’s greetings, and any big wins or challenges that have been worked through during the year. Also, remember to make your e-card design non-denominational so it will appear to people of various faiths and cultural backgrounds without causing offense. Finally, it could be a good idea to spend donate the money you might have spent on printing cards to a charity, which you can then highlight in your communications.

As for drawbacks to the digital send option: tt’s just not very personal. As so many e-cards are produced and sent out, they tend not to receive as much engagement. In short, it’s very hard to stand out. It can also absorb too much time if you get too involved in the production of your e-card.

READ: What you need to know about FBT-free gift giving (Australia)

Client lunches and celebratory drinks

Taking the people who most support your business out for a meal or a drink to say thanks is a great way to demonstrate your gratitude at this time of year.

In-person events show you appreciate your clients and that you enjoy spending time with them. If you’ve both worked hard on something together throughout the year, then it’s nice to sit down and relax over some nice food and simply have a relaxed conversation. Some clients genuinely look forward to being taken out for a lunch by their providers at the end of every year. Some clients even expect it.

Unfortunately, and depending on how many good clients you have, this option can be quite an investment on your budget and your time.

My personal view is that lunches in December are great as a ‘thank you’ to your client, but are unlikely to have a positive impact on your business development efforts as many clients will be winding down their plans ahead of their holidays.

If business development is your main aim, it’s better to book in events for late January or early February.  After all, lunches and meetings in early 2021 will have you top of mind during the part of the year that your clients start making decisions. They may also appreciate it, as many people are overloaded with invites during December and sometimes attend these events out of duty, not out of a real desire to attend.

If you need any additional assistance with your 2021 plans, download this BD Client Action Plan.

So, should you be a corporate Santa or The Grinch?

In summary, the above has shown there are lots of benefits to be gained by sending cards, e-cards and lunch invites to your clients. However, it pays to invest in the right activities with the right clients.

If the quiet summer months is a time you believe you should spend the most on client lunches, my advice would be to flip that and look to do more of this in January/February instead. It will have a longer impact throughout the year, with your clients. After all, after the madness of Christmas, the New Year and the summer break, I must confess I struggle to remember much of what happened back in December by the time the next year opens for business. I suspect the same is true of your clients.