Books as giftI know what you are thinking. This lawyer is going to tell us that we can’t give gifts to clients because lawyers destroy everything fun and good in life.

Actually, giving gifts is completely acceptable in most circumstances. And its a great way to build relationships with your clients. So this email is about what makes a good gift. Don’t you feel silly!

Except for this Disclaimer: Don’t give gifts that can be seen as bribes, such as to government officials or when bidding for a contract subject to an RFP process. If you want to give to a politician, contact me so that I can help you avoid campaign finance violations — those are felonies.

Ideal Gifts to Give Clients

Finding a great gift can be challenging enough even under the best circumstances. But finding a great gift for a client can be particularly difficult. First, we may not know our clients well enough personally to know what they will really like. Worse, you do not want to give a gift that may offend or lessen your standing in the other person’s eyes. In short, giving gifts to people you know professionally can be tricky.

So most people resort to food. I usually get wine at Christmas from several vendors. Throughout the year, one of my vendors brings us baked good nearly weekly. The cookies are really good; but, honestly, everyone in the office is now complaining about gaining weight.

So how can you give gifts that help you stand out to your clients? Here are some ideas:

Make a List and Check it Twice

Sorry, I couldn’t help the Santa reference.

The first step is to review all the information you know about the individual.  You might even want to consider sitting down and writing out a list. For example, if the recipient is allergic to dairy, you might want to skip the milk chocolate or cheese sampler. Once you have your list of client information either in your mind or written down on paper, you are ready to go.  If you simply don’t know much about the person that will receive the gift, there are still surefire ways to succeed with your gift.

I use a CRM to make notes about clients so that I don’t forget. I don’t keep extensive dossiers (that would be creepy). But if I had a long conversation with my client about his love of African wild game hunting, I might make a short note for myself to job my memory later.

Experiences Last a Lifetime

Anyone who has ever moved can tell you that most of us have a lot of stuff. For that reason, the gift of an experience is often superior. Try giving tickets to an amazing event such as: Cirque du Soleil, a concert, a dog sled event or a performance. I have received really great reactions to admissions tor Mystery Dinner Theater, the opera and museum exhibitions. Most people like tickets to sporting events. Take a look at events in your area and do your best to match the event with the person. Part of achieving a winning gift is to make sure your gift is unexpected and shows a great deal of thought.

Another great gift are gifts that center upon relaxation. Most people do not book massages for themselves, but if they are given a gift certificate for a massage, they will go and truly enjoy themselves. A trip to a spa for special treatments and/or a massage is a gift that will not be forgotten!  If you want your gift to make a lasting impression, then a massage or another relaxing experience is sure to do the trick.

Pro Tip: Groupon is a really great resource for these types of gifts and can cut down on both cost and research time. I have found some unique and interesting things on Groupon that I never would have found otherwise. And you get to support local small businesses, too!

Consider Giving Lessons

A third category of experience-based gifts are lessons. Cooking lessons, rock climbing lessons and tennis lessons are only three possible lessons that you can give someone as a gift. Lessons can be fun ways to encourage someone to try something new. If you know your client fairly well, then you may already know what kind of lesson will work the best.

I have never had a bad reaction to a gift of lessons. Groupon is again a great resource for these.

Physical Gifts That Are Good

If you need to give a physical gift and you don’t know your client extremely well, then play it safe. Make sure that you stay away from personal hygiene products or products that might seem too familiar or personal. Remember that this is a business relationship, so don’t make it awkward.

Instead opt for safe picks like tea collections, coffee collections, chocolate treats or similar items. One of the gifts I like to give is a subscription to a coffee service called Three Avocados. All their profits go to building wells in Africa and schools in South America. And most offices need a regular supply of coffee.

In the end, the thought really does matter.  If your gift shows thought, effort, care and good taste, it will usually be appreciated even if it isn’t a perfect fit.

Alicia Dearn

Alicia Dearn

CEO + Trial Lawyer at Bellatrix PC
Ms. Dearn gives sharp and insightful legal counsel to entrepreneurs and employers so they can advance their businesses fearlessly. She fixes legal problems.
Alicia Dearn