Last Minute Tips for Client Gifts

Before the holidays hit, you need to pick a holiday gift -- one that's suitable for clients of all ages, genders, occupations, religions and special dietary needs; one thatís not cheap but wonít break your budget; one that travels well, can be used at home or in the office and wonít clash with their upholstery. If youíre frustrated trying to find a single gift to suit your hundreds of clients, prospects and business associates, stop trying. You donít give your spouse and your mechanic the same gift -- why should one-size-fits-all work for your clients? To simplify holiday gift-giving decisions, group clients by their interests or importance to your practice. Here are some tips to help with your holiday shopping. -- Chris Kirby

Read more:
6 Best Christmas Gifts Advisors Gave to Clients.
13 Gifts That Could Get You In Big Trouble With FINRA.

Chris Kirby is a senior business consultant for Securities America's Practice Management Group and serves as a consultant/coach for the firmís Business Consulting Service, helping advisors manage a more efficient, profitable and satisfying practice.

Images: Thinkstock

Prepare the List: Group Your Clients Prepare the List: Group Your Clients

Start by grouping your gift recipients by what you hope to achieve from the gift. With prospects, for example, you may be looking to increase their top-of-mind awareness of your name or company name. With existing clients, youíll be expressing your appreciation for their business and aiming to secure more future business. With business associates, you may want to strengthen a referral relationship.

Set Your Budget Set Your Budget

Decide how much youíll spend on each member within a group -- and keep regulatory considerations in mind. For instance, FINRA limits gifts to customer representatives at $100 per person per year -- not per gift. If youíve already given the customer representative theater tickets worth $100, youíll have to opt for a card for the holidays.

Shop Smart Shop Smart

Hereís where even the most seasoned shopper can lose her way. The options for gifts can be overwhelming. As a start, look at what youíve given recently as well as what youíve received recently. What stayed on your desk and what went to the thrift store?
Food baskets have become a popular option and probably work best with existing clients who will recognize your name on the card and remember the gift among others they are receiving from professionals this time of year. On the other hand, prospect gifts should probably bear your name or company logo, and be something recipients will keep in plain sight.
Consider what your competition might be sending -- does Joe Advisor down the street send a calendar every year to the other Rotary members? Then donít compete with another calendar.
While clients may appreciate more personal gifts, keep gifts for business associates professional. Donít forget that the secretary in the attorneyís office could be as valuable a referral source as the attorney herself -- so consider a gift the office can share, like baked goods. Assumptions can be dangerous when spouses are involved. If a couple has joint accounts with you, make sure a joint gift is appropriate for both spouses, or select a different gift for each spouse. A little extra research can avoid a major faux pas -- like sending cigars to a client whose wife would like to send the stogies packing.

Presentation Matters Presentation Matters

Tearing off the paper or untying the ribbon makes the gift experience memorable! If you havenít mastered the finer points of gift wrapping, hire a service. When possible, youíll want to deliver the gifts yourself, so make sure the wrapping will survive transport or, if you canít deliver it, shipping.
Baskets provide a great way to round up multiple small, related items into a single gift. Best of all, they can be tailored to almost any interest or hobby, general or specific. For example, a sports basket could focus on a particular sport, a particular team or sports in general. A basket is also a great way to mix items for a couple -- for example, travel mugs with an assortment of teas and coffees.
Top off your presentation with an enclosure card or a greeting card Ė not a business card. It doesnít have to be fancy, but make sure your signature is clear so you get the full benefit of sending it.

More Gift Ideas More Gift Ideas

Cumulative theme gifts can be a great way to recognize clients whose accounts are growing with you. One example: Give each new client a leather luggage tag as a welcome gift. Then, on account anniversaries or at predetermined asset levels, subsequently add pieces such as a toiletries kit, shoe bags, a one-suit garment bag, carry-on bag and suitcase.
And steer clear of giving your employees the same gift you gave clients. The holidays involve enough leftovers.

Read more:
6 Best Christmas Gifts Advisors Gave to Clients.
13 Gifts That Could Get You In Big Trouble With FINRA.