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Business Observer Friday, Feb. 9, 2018 9 months ago

Thank your clients with a memorable gift

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How to make it a gift that will truly resonate.
by: Traci McMillan Correspondent

When it comes to the holidays, most companies like to thank clients with a gift — the most popular being wine and fruit baskets.

Yet in the legal industry, “you end up trading bottles of liquor or wine” with companies, says Anthony Martino, an attorney at Tampa's Clark and Martino. As the youngest partner, Martino took it upon himself to modernize year-end gift-giving. “I wanted to make a statement by sending something nice that is actually going to resonate with people,” Martino says.

The first year, the company sent iPad minis to people who provided quality referrals. The firm received personal phone calls from almost all of the recipients, which surprised Martino. “No one ever called to thank us for something we sent,” before that, he says.

Next the company tested Clark and Martino-branded Yeti tumblers. “That enabled us to stretch to a wider group from a financial commitment, but was nice enough that no one would throw away, and different enough that they would appreciate,” Martino says.

This year, the firm upgraded its gift game: Martino sent a Yeti cooler to the best referring individuals — up to a $400 value. When asked by others why they didn't get a cooler, Martino answers frankly: “It's a thank you for people who helped me business-wise this year. If you help me in the future, maybe you will get something.”

Eric Peters, a Sarasota area and co-founder of Premier Estate Sales of Florida, says he's tried to stand out from the crowd by doing something a little wacky for client gifts: personalized wine bottles. For his estate sale business, the company sends wine bottles with labels of the client's picture.

Peters says he's been giving personalized wine bottles for the last six years or so, starting at Bank of America. Not only is the gift within the limits of what some industries are allowed to receive, but it's also just a little bizarre, and helps the person remember you, Peters says. “You have to be different... have to be off the wall. Pens and paper are useless, and a bottle of wine is cheap enough.”

Another way to make your gift more memorable is to send it outside the typical gift-giving season, says Dan Connors, CEO of Charlotte-based ScentAir and a part-time Sarasota resident. “Do it at totally random times,” Connors says, and use it as an opportunity to demonstrate how appreciative you are to work with the client. The gesture will stand out more if it isn't tied to an event like a holiday or contract renewal.

For Realtors, a closing gift can be a real differentiator, says Gail Wittig, with Sarasota-based Michael Saunders & Co. Her business, 80% repeat and referral customers, depends on remaining memorable. “There are a lot of realtors to compete with,” she says. “We want our buyers to feel special and to remember us.”

Wittig hyper-personalizes closing gifts. After spending the day looking at properties with a client, she'll go back to the office and make notes about what they did that day — and she reviews those notes when it's time to give the closing gift.

One customer who bought a multimillion-dollar waterfront home talked a lot about how they wanted to find a room with a treadmill. Wittig's closing gift for the family? A treadmill.

For another family that purchased a vacation home with Jet Skis, she bought lifejackets and the Jimmy Buffett CD collection. And another customer mentioned they didn't know anything about roses despite buying a property with a rose garden. Wittig bought him books, rose clippers and other items to tend to his new garden. “It doesn't have to be the most expensive gift,” she says, “but it does have to be thoughtful.”

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