Should I give gifts to clients or referral sources?

Sending reasonably-priced gifts to your clients – at least your ‘A’ clients – and referral sources, at any time of the year, creates a great connection. And it’s those connected clients who give referrals and repeat business.

If you’re wondering when to give business gifts and who to give them to, a general rule of thumb is to send gifts to the people who help make your company great. In general, this includes clients, referral sources, centers of influence, and certain service providers.

While a phone call or handwritten note would be a minimum and might suffice during the year, it is often a good idea to go the extra mile at the end of the year by sending a nice “thank you” gift or even a “thank you” social event where you only invite clients who have sent referrals your way over the course of the year.

I wouldn’t be a referral coach if I failed to reinforce that you should be making it a point to thank your referral sources whenever they make an introduction for you. Don’t wait for the prospect to turn into a client.  Just “reward” the giving of the referral or making of the introduction immediately.

Christmas is a wonderful time of the year, but it can be stressful and expensive. And having enough money to buy gifts is one thing, but finding the right thing is much harder.

The great new is you do not need a huge budget. The key is to target gifts that connect with the client at a personal level. It is your chance to show them that you get who they are at a level much deeper than just business.

Consider how many ‘A’ clients or COI, you actually have. And that may depend on the type of business you have. In a retail business, for example, it may not be possible to give individual gifts to each customer.

Once you create a list of each recipient by name, it becomes much easier to divide up your budget into “amount per recipient.” A budget is a guide only. Challenge yourself to create $30 gifts that connect – that is the value.

On your list of gift recipients, next to each name, start jotting down specific gift ideas.

Writing everything down makes it easier to review and make sure that you are keeping to budget and don’t miss anyone out.

Always keep in mind who you are giving the gift to? Is it for an individual or as an office gift for everyone to share. Although, I have found it more productive to concentrate on a pivotal individual as opposed to the entire office.

A point here to note: You should also cater the timing of the gift giving to particular clients. Some clients, for instance, might not celebrate Christmas. Perhaps a New Year’s greeting card would be more appreciated.

The more you personalize client gifts, the more impact they have

Personalized gifts can make your clients feel like they’re special and really important to your business.

Personalizing client gifts does not mean just slapping your logo onto something. It means that you take just a little bit of time and energy in selecting what to send to the client.

Avoid cheap promotional items like pens, calendars or notepads with your business logo. In my opinion, anything with your logo on screams “ promotion’ and erodes the idea it is a gift.

Even a handwritten card is more genuine than these purely promotional items.

My exception to this rule is if the item is likely to be truly used or enjoyed by the client or referral source.   For example, I had a sports company give me a high-quality rain jacket that I’ve used for years and in fact received many favourable comments on.

You should take the time and make an effort to know what their personal passions are. If you don’t – look them up on social media, think about what you see in their office or call someone where they work and ask.

Select client gifts relating to their favourite sports team, philanthropic choices or even where they went to school. You could take into account their children, pets, hobbies or any other special interests you have discovered whilst talking to them during the year. Be aware to select something that is specifically for them and not a family gift.

Let me say again…the key is to connect with them at the emotive or personal level in a way that says “I remember the things that are important to you as a person”.

My examples:

1.   I gave a client, that loved diving, a mug with a picture on the side. It featured a scuba diver with 2 sharks approaching from underneath. One shark was saying to the other “Don’t eat the thing on its back, it makes you fart”. It made a real connection with the client and resulted in thousands of dollars of extra work.

2.   One client was a phone enthusiast and I found an old mobile phone from the 1950’s for about $30 that made a great gift.


This is not meant to be an exhaustive list of gift resources; rather something to stimulate your thinking and get you rolling on anything you might want to do in this last quarter.

Other ideas could include:

A nice dinner out – including spouses ($$$-$$$$) – Resist the urge to go with them. Let them enjoy the moment. If you can add something like a bottle of wine when they sit down that was not expected or a small present on the table it really highlights the occasion.

A favourite activity ($$-$$$$) – Give them the gift of something that you know that they love to do – golf, a spa day, tickets to a game or concert or sightseeing dolphins.

A donation to a charity that they are passionate about ($$-$$$$) – This one is pretty self-explanatory. Show them that you care and appreciate their support by supporting something that they care about.

A favourite book ($) – If you’ve read a good book lately that you feel they would enjoy, share it! It’s an inexpensive gesture, but can be a way to highlight your common interests. Make sure to include a handwritten note on the inside cover. Maybe they have had a baby recently so a “How to get baby to sleep” or a “what do I do at 2am when they won’t stop crying” book might work well.

A bottle of their favourite wine – Don’t assume everyone drinks wine or beer – so only for those clients who you know are wine enthusiasts. You can even order personalized labels on websites like Etsy. And the key here is to send wine that they will actually like. It goes without saying that the gift will not be as well received if you send a dry red when they prefer a fruity white. If you’re can’t find out what wine they like, how about a fancy corkscrew, an outdoor wine glass/bottle holder or a wine thermometer.

A coffee gift card for that coffee lover who you’ve never seen without a latte in-hand? Or a bag of a very special blend.


Every attempt at giving thanks must be relevant and personalised, noticeable and sincere.

These simple requirements will ensure your show of gratitude hits home with clients.

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