Should I Buy My Client a Holiday Gift?(And Other Holiday Etiquette Questions)
During the Holidays, doing business changes. If you’re in the retail business, you are very busy. But if you work outside of retail, often the pace slows down as everyone gets ready for the Holidays. There are Holiday Parties, Greeting Cards and Gifts for Clients and Bosses. What is appropriate and what isn’t for your professional associates and clients?Let’s take a few minutes and look at some Holiday Business Etiquette and how you can keep your business interactions during the Holidays appropriate for the season and avoid the mistakes that can hurt relationships and business.
Holiday Greeting Cards
For many, sending greeting cards makes it easy to keep in touch with clients through the holidays. You might want to enhance your current business relationships, attract new customers, remind old clients that you exist or show appreciation to those who have faithfully supported you during the year.If not done properly, your well-meaning gesture can actually offend.According to Lydia Ramsey, business etiquette expert, professional speaker, corporate trainer and author of Manners That Sell – Adding The Polish That Builds Profits, ” Start with a good quality card to show that you value your clients and colleagues. Skimping on your selection can be interpreted in a number of ways. Your recipients might take it as a sign that business has not been good or that they aren’t worth a little extra investment on your part.”Here are her five hints for Holiday Greeting Cards that will build relationships with your clients and make the right impression.
- Make Sure You Keep Your List Up-To-Date: Don’t make this a big chore. Keep your mailing list up-to-date during the year and you won’t forget anyone when the time to send out your greeting cards comes around.
- Sign Each Card Personally: Ms. Ramsey says, ” Sign each card personally. Even if you have preprinted information on the card such as your name – which is an impressive detail – you need to add your handwritten signature. The most elegant cards should still have your personal signature and a short handwritten message or greeting. Sound like a lot of trouble? If the business or the relationship is worth it, so is the extra effort. This is your chance to connect on a personal level with your clients and colleagues.”
- Address the Envelopes by Hand Too: Don’t make this a difficult burden, you can have someone else do the hand addressing for you, but do not use computer generated labels. A label generated by computer will make your holiday greeting appear to be a mass mailing.
- If Your Clients are Also Personal Friends, Include the Spouses Name on the Card: If you send your greeting to your clients home, include the spouses name on the envelope as well. Unless the spouse works at the office too, feel free to leave it off.
- Choose Generic Holiday Greeting Cards: There are many different religious holidays celebrated from the months of October through December from Ramadan to Christmas. Choose greeting cards with a more generic “Happy Holiday” greeting rather than a religious greeting.
- Don’t Be Late: “If you find yourself addressing the envelopes on Super Bowl Sunday, keep the cards until next year and send out a high- quality note thanking people for their business during the previous year instead,” says Ms. Ramsey.
Be sensitive to the religious and cultural feelings of your clients, follow Ms. Ramsey’s advice and build personal relationships with your clients during the holiday season.
A Client’s Holiday Party, I’m Been Invited… Should I Attend?
Of course. Review the following list of things you should consider as you prepare for a night of Holiday Cheer with your clients and business associates. (Consider this advice for a company office party too.)Peter Hess, the 30-year- old founder and president of YAPA…a free Internet-based membership organization for young professionals seeking career and personal success, offers the following list of mistakes to avoid.
- Mistake No. 1: The Blow-off. The biggest error is not going to a [client’s] party that is a “must-attend” event. You’re invited, you should attend.
- Mistake No. 2: Forgetting [your client] is Watching. Your clients pay attention to how you handle yourself at special events.
- Mistake No. 3: T-shirts and Sandals. Inappropriate dress draws attention, but the wrong kind. Says Kennedy – “The goal is to display professional qualities, not show how funky or daring you are. Skip the plunging neckline and heavy cologne.”
- Mistake No. 4: The Business-talking Bore. Hess says – “Some young professionals let ambition drive them. They don’t know how to enjoy conversation unless it is only about business. They become bores whom [clients] avoid.”
- Mistake No. 5: Me, Me, Me. Kennedy says self-centered professionals will have trouble working in teams with others…and your clients will pick up on this.
- Mistake No. 6: Who’s the Boss? Make sure and introduce your client to your spouse.
- Mistake No. 7: About My Pay. Never bring up billing issues with your clients at a social function like a Holiday Party. Appearing like a bore who doesn’t understand what’s appropriate and where is never good for business.
- Mistake No. 8: The College Bash. Says Kennedy – “[Holiday] parties [with clients] are extensions of the workplace and not campus free-for-alls.”Using some of the speech and behavior allowed in college can show immaturity.
- Mistake No. 9: Set ’em up, Joe. “Drinking to excess will kill a relationship instantly”…says Kennedy…”Don’t have more than two alcoholic beverages and better yet, don’t drink at all.”
What About Gift Giving?
If giving a gift to a client, the details in business etiquette gift giving will make the gesture truly memorable.According to Dr. Richard Beltramini, co-author of Gift-Giving, A Research Anthology, suggests a direct link between corporate gift giving and increased business. Choosing an appropriate gift, offered with sincerity will help enhance your business relationship.Dr. Beltramini offers the following rules for giving gifts to your clients.
Rule #1 – To Gift or not to Gift
Before sending a gift, make certain that you are familiar with a company’s corporate policy on gift giving/receiving. Most corporations allow for gifts of recognition, appreciation, and to generally thank a person for their help. Some corporations may place restrictions on the value of a gift. Many companies will have a set of guidelines through their human resource department. Keeping the gift tasteful and generally less than $100.00 will make your gift an honorable one.Rule #2 – Let’s Get PersonalThe more you know about your recipient the better. Choose a gift that will compliment your employees or client’s hobbies, tastes or interests. While giving a gift with a company logo is certainly appropriate at times, gifts that are more subtly monogrammed with a person’s initials might be seen as more personal in nature. Try a picture frame with a calligraphied note on company letterhead slipped in where the photo goes. The note can be easily removed at a later date but the frame will make the same lasting impression. If you’re still stuck for ideas or don’t know enough about your client personally, consider a professional business gift like a leather note jotter or desk clock.Rule #3 – “Tis not just one Season”While most of us remember to send a gift during the holiday season (see Fred’s special HOLIDAY GIFT TIPS) giving a gift during other times of the year will help make you stand out from the rest of the crowd. Consider implementing a quarterly gift program or a gift on a client’s or employee’s birthday! It’s always appropriate to send a gift to mark a personal milestone, like the birth of a baby.While you never need a reason to send a gift to tell someone you’re thinking about them…here are a few other occasions that merit sending a present and help keep you in touch throughout the year:
|General Thank YouThanks for Thinking of MeThanks for the ReferralThanks for Taking the TimeThanks for Going to Bat For MeThanks for the business
|A Job Well Done!A PromotionJob RetirementProject CompletionCongratulations!
|Employee MotivationYou’re a shining star!You’re the core of our business!Thanks for being part of the team!
|Personal MilestonesBirthday!New BabyNew Home or OfficeAnniversary
Rule #4 – Where in the world is Carmen San Diego?
Taboos from around the world in international gift giving can range from not giving a sharp object such as a pocket knife or letter opener in Japan because it implies that you have “cut the bonds of friendship” to not giving a leather gift to a person in India where cows are sacred. And while you may not be sending the gift out of the United States, you may still offend the recipient of that particular culture or ethnic background. Make sure that you are familiar with the customs of your employee or client in choosing an appropriate gift item. If you’re not sure, any reputable on-line or brick and mortar department store should be able to provide that information through their customer service department.Rule #5 – Timing is everything!Make sure that your gift is timely and prompt. Don’t choose a gift that’s been backordered or out of stock. Sheila Berndt, the Vice President for Commotion Promotions, an advertising promotional company says that “Generally three weeks is the rule! – If you can’t get the gift out the door within three weeks of the event, you might as well not send it!” Think how tacky it would be to recognize with a gift for something that an employee achieved four months ago!Rule #6– It’s in the cards!Always, always, always include a card with your gift. While a business card is adequate it’s not too personal. Instead choose a card that expresses your sentiments, and write a brief message that shares the moment of the occasion. It will add wonders to the gift alone and add impact to the fact that you took the time to notice this accomplishment or milestone.You do not need to write a three-page letter, but you have the opportunity to share your thoughts and leave a lasting impression. Be creative and consider matching your gift to your thoughts.
The Holiday Season is an Important Time to Build and Solidify Relationships
Like any business, building personal relationships make a difference to the health of your business. Although the Holiday Season complicates doing business with many of your clients, make it a time to build relationships with your clients. Take advantage of the natural opportunity to express appreciation to your clients during this time of year and reap the rewards in the coming months.
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