Giving to your clients long after the holidays are overRyan Floriobuilding customer relationships
One summer during college, a good friend of mine invited me to
spend a few weeks visiting him in Salt Lake City, where I would
have a chance to work for the family business his grandfather
started. The chance to go to a place where I could take part in
some of the best skiing in the country sold me instantly. And,
considering that I was a poor college student with no extra money
and none on the horizon, the added bonus of a job opportunity made
me feel like I had just won the lottery. So I packed my bags and
left the next day.
Once I got there and learned my work assignment, I found that I
was seriously disillusioned with what I had anticipated to be my
work-to-ski ratio. It turned out that my friend's father decided to
place me in the role of his full-time assistant, who was on
maternity leave at the time. He felt that in doing this, I might
gain real-life exposure to the responsibilities of running a large
manufacturing firm. Needless to say, I was less than happy about
working more and skiing less, but in retrospect, I know that my
time with him provided me some of my biggest lessons in business
and helped to develop my key ideas about the development of
One afternoon, he asked me to join him in a meeting with his
largest client. On our way to his office, we stopped at an artist
gallery to pick up a hand-carved wood sculpture of a '67 Ford
Mustang convertible. Apparently, it was his client's birthday, and
he knew that this unique gift would make a big impression. His
client's love of cars led him to develop parts that supplied some
of the country's biggest auto manufacturers, and we, in turn, were
a supplier of some of his machinery. It was because of this that
the business relationship was formed.
Through the years, the two had exchanged stories about their
most memorable cars, and my friend's father knew the Mustang was
his client's first and most important car. On the special occasion
of his birthday, he wanted to honor their relationship with a gift
that was personal and showed that he had paid attention through the
He shared with me his wisdom that an expression of gratitude to
those who support our success is always returned to us a
thousand-fold. Over the course of 25 years, this client eventually
became his largest customer and one of his closest friends.
It goes without saying that a little bit of gifting goes a long
way in creating customer loyalty. By remembering your clients with
such tokens of appreciation, you are creating a subconscious bond
that may be developed more strongly over time with your initiative.
However, when choosing an appropriate gift, there are some key
points to remember:
Choose something tasteful yet personal for your
It will show that you were paying attention when he mentioned
playing football in college or the fact that he spends his spare
time gardening. A gift to reflect a personal detail he shared with
you will be especially meaningful and take the first step in
creating a relationship.
Make sure the gift will not expire
Recently, it has become popular to send fruit baskets or restaurant
gift certificates. Although these items are enjoyable, they are
quickly forgotten once used or consumed. By choosing something
timeless, your customer will continue to remember you and your
services for the life of the gift.
Avoid promotional gifts that feature company
We have all received countless gifts of this nature, and in a few
days they end up in our closets, drawers or, worst of all,
Remember dates that most other sales professionals
If you can remember your customers birthday or anniversary, you can
instantly exceed standard business protocol and distinguish
yourself as a superior salesperson.
It is often the least expected exchanges that make the biggest
impressions in our lives, and while I thought that my summer trip
was all about mastering my jumps on the slopes, I was gifted with
lessons that were far more valuable. Equally, if we can show
appreciation for our clients in unexpected ways, the effects will
lead to measurable results in the quality of our lives, creating
customer loyalty and friends for life.
With the holidays behind us, remember to create a true spirit of
gifting all year long.
Ryan Florio is president and CEO of Cleveland-based SpecialClient.com, a
Web-based company that offers automated client relationship
programs as a vehicle for client retention. He may be reached at
(216) 598-0934 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.