Not exactly the advisors’ gift-buying guide


Do you get a calendar from your realtor or insurance agent? How does it make you feel about your relationship with them?

Early in my career as an advisor, I used to buy poinsettias each Christmas for my top 20 clients. They were dead two weeks later. And so was any lasting impact they might have made. (I did not have any Jewish clients in those days, or I would have changed my strategy sooner.)

It is once again the time of year when you may be making final decisions on what Thanksgiving or year-end gifts to get clients. Here are a few ideas that may help, gleaned from various advisors and client advisory boards over the past year.

Principles for any gifts

Whether you are getting a small gift for many or all of your clients or just a few larger gifts for a few select clients, here are some thoughts to help make sure they give the right impression.

Leave your logo off it – There is nothing wrong with distributing branded items to clients. It may be calendars, pens, refrigerator magnets, or something more substantial. But those aren’t gifts. They are promotions. They may be appreciated by the recipients but they are not perceived as an expression of appreciation. A promotional item is about you. A gift is about them.

Make it something useful – When I talk to clients, the most popular items tend to be those that get used on a regular basis. As a nice byproduct, you get more benefit as well. Whenever the recipient utilizes the gift, there is an opportunity to think of you.

Consumable, sure, but more than single use – Gifts that get used over a period of time seem to provoke more comments than those that get consumed in a single sitting. In a recent advisory board, we provided a list of the gifts the advisor provided over the past few years and asked for feedback on them. The most popular by a wide margin was a high-end olive oil. Everyone used it, and it lasted a while. Compare that with a pie or ham that gets eaten in one meal.

Bigger gifts for special clients

It may be that you want to do something more for specific clients. Meaningful gifts do not have to be big. In fact, you may be prevented by regulation from getting anything too expensive. So when I refer to bigger gifts, I mean more personal. Even if modest or inexpensive, a sincere expression of gratitude will have personal relevance to the recipient. Yes, this means gifts for your special clients will be different, each unique to that person. If they are a scotch lover, it may be a bottle of their favorite or embodying characteristics they like. I gave a pair of Porsche cufflinks one year to a proud driver of their cars.

Remember your referral sources

Did someone refer several people to you, or refer a particularly significant opportunity, this year? Give them a special gift. Offer them a symbol of your gratitude whether or not those referrals became clients. In the study I did with Julie Littlechild last year, we found that firms who spoil their referral sources tended to receive more referrals. It can be especially powerful if the referrals came much earlier in the year. If you remind them of their prior referral and demonstrate that you still remember months later, it makes an impression and may inspire them to do it again.

Don’t forget centers of influence

Include your COI referral sources in mind when you are developing your gifting strategy. Employ the gifting principles above: make it unique, personal, and remind them of the referrals they have provided you this year.

While this is not a complete gift buying guide, these principles may help communicate your gratitude. What’s the best gifting idea you have heard about? I (and our community of readers) would love to hear from you in the comments section below.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to top