There’s something special about picking out a great gift for someone to demonstrate your gratitude for their relationship or excitement over a significant life event.
We have a tendency, though, to be better gift-givers as people than we do as business owners. For whatever reason, we often forget certain characteristics of great gift-giving when we’re giving gifts to clients. We slap our logos on the side of everything from cheap pens to more luxury items and send them on their way.
It’s as if we expect engaged friends of our clients to notice the ant-sized font on the side of the pen and be interested enough to strike up a conversation. “OMG! I L.O.V.E. this pen. Tell me all about it! Does it write things? I have to book your photographer! My junk drawer is missing a pen with this color.”
Slapping your logo on the side of something and sending it off to a client is like when your weird uncle gives everyone in the family a t-shirt with a picture of his face printed all over it. (Or is that just my uncle?). It has a slim chance of seeing a public setting. And even if it does, is it how you want to share your family with people?
Transforming Your Clients’ Experience
A thoughtful, well-timed gift has the ability to transform the experience that you provide clients.
There are natural points of friction that nearly all businesses have in their client experience. One point of friction is when a client pays. It’s normal, especially when paying for something expensive, to feel a bit of buyer’s remorse (to feel uneasy about the purchase). A thoughtful gift around the time a new client might have these feelings is a great way to reassure her that she made the right investment.
We encourage people to map out their entire client process to identify potential points of friction in their experience. Then we challenge them to see if they can take potentially “low” areas and turn them into high points. Thoughtful gifts can be a great solution.
If you own an Apple product, you know what I mean. Just taking the item out of the box is an experience. Would you feel as comfortable dropping serious dough on the same item if it came in a plastic bag?
Why Give Gifts?
We should call a timeout here to clarify something: The keywords from the above paragraphs include thoughtful, gratitude, special, and excitement. Gifts shouldn’t be a tool to manipulate. Gifts are an opportunity to express gratitude for a relationship. Gifts are an opportunity to share in someone’s joy.
Gifts should be used as a way to remind clients how much you appreciate them trusting you to capture one of the most important days in a relationship.
It should say, “Hey, I am so grateful to be working with you two. Here’s a little something to demonstrate exactly how excited I am to be a part of your big day, and for what’s to come in your relationship.”
When gifts can capture that spirit, they often become the kind of thing that hang on people’s walls or can be found in their living rooms. And they become the kind of thing people can’t help but share with their family and friends.
How to Choose a Gift for Your Clients
When choosing a gift for your client, try choosing something that is thoughtful, useful, and also a reflection of you. Chances are the couple who booked you because something about you resonated with them. This is an opportunity to strengthen that connection.
Our favorite wedding gift was a pizza kit with two personal pizza pans from our friends Steve and Sara. We both loved pizza (who doesn’t?), although at the time it wasn’t something that was super meaningful to our relationship. But it was something we could do together. We really enjoyed making those first pizzas, and it became something we’ve done almost every Friday night since we’ve got married. (As a fun side note, Steve and Sara’s wedding would become the first of our wedding photography career!)
We’ve started giving our clients a personal pizza kit as a booking gift largely because of this experience. It’s become a symbol of our relationship, and something that we frequently share about on social media or when we’re spending time with our clients. (For those of you who follow us on Instagram, you know we love pizza and wine.) We’re trying to share with our clients that excitement around building traditions together.
Here are a few things to think about when giving a gift:
- Is it useful? If someone was tidying up their house, would they hide it away or proudly put it on display?
- Does it share something about you in a meaningful way? Does it make sense coming from you? If you couldn’t keep a cactus alive in the desert, then maybe a plant isn’t the most meaningful gift… unless it’s with a note that says: I hope your marriage survives longer than the plants in my house. Just kidding, that’s a terrible idea.
- Will it resonate with your ideal client? And will it be appreciated by both the bride AND groom? Is it something that they will potentially bring up with friends or family?
Your gift doesn’t need to be expensive! It just needs to be meaningful. Something like a handwritten note can go a long way. If you’re one of those people who needs a “rule,” consider spending about 5% of the total cost of the wedding collection.
When to Give Gifts
We recommend giving a few gifts throughout the process instead of one big gift. It requires a bit more effort on your part, but it’s an opportunity to cultivate the relationship throughout the process. How much more trust will you build by being intentional throughout the process instead of just showing up for the consult and wedding?
Using your client experience “map” is a great way to figure out when to send gifts. We generally send something to our clients after they book, after their engagement session, about two months before their wedding (around sending their pre-wedding questionnaire), and then after the wedding. Show up when they’re not expecting it.
We’ll send an Artifact Uprising handcrafted wood calendar that features photos from the engagement session since we primarily shoot film, and the tactile experience of photography is important to us and our client. There are no watermarks on the photos, nor is our logo engraved anywhere on the calendar. But we know that people hear about us because family members will email about getting one for themselves, and friends will occasionally comment about it on the wedding day.
You know you’re onto something when you start hearing about it from the friends and family of the couple.
Gift Giving and Business
Whether you’re personally gifting or gifting from your business, the same concepts apply. You’re seeking to show gratitude and share in someone’s joy. And when you gift well from your business, you have the potential to cultivate something beyond a working relationship.
In The Little Red Book of Selling, Jeffrey Gitomer says, “If you can make a sale, you can earn a commission. If you make a friend, you can earn a fortune.”
Having couples who are satisfied with your work is good. But having clients-turned-friends who are ecstatic about the experience you provided, and who share that with everyone they know? They’re invaluable. And not only does it tend to lead to more referrals, but it leads to more ideal referrals. People who are already excited to work with you, and who already resonate with the ideals of your brand.
If you’re interested in this topic, consider checking out “Giftology” by John Ruhlin. It’s a quick, worthwhile read!
*Note: This post was originally a guest post for our friend Katelyn James.