Tis Better to Give

As the holiday season approaches, law firm marketing departments begin to focus on what they can give, in the way of cards and gifts, to clients and friends-of-the-firm. But gift-giving isn’t just for December.

Should you do it?

A card can be the simplest yet most touching gift you can give someone. Mailing a card is an opportunity to renew relationships and for your firm to express how much it cares for its clients and contacts. A card can be one of those many touch points it takes to win a new client.

Similarly, sending a thoughtful personalized gift is a way to say thank you and show your appreciation for the relationship you have developed. It is a way to show that you are not always taking. Usually the amount spent is not as important as the fact that that your recipients feel remembered.

How can my firm stand out in the sea of cards and gifts?

There are 12 months a year to send a card or gift. Instead of sending something in December, send it in November for Thanksgiving: Thank you for being my client, or The 4th of July: A time to celebrate all of life’s successes. Seasonal personal gifts reflect personal insights such as seat cushions to a football fan before the season starts, peaches in the summer or apples in the fall.

Most importantly, when sending a card or gift make sure you include a personal note. The note says everything about the relationship and the thoughtfulness of the giver. A handwritten message can be the difference between a card that is thrown away and one that is kept and remembered.

Holiday pitfalls

Make sure your gift reflects the services you provide throughout the year. Expensive and extravagant gifts can feel like a bribe. Consider the firm’s relationship with the client. A current big client should not receive the same gift as a client who has not done business with your firm in the last few years. A large corporation should not receive the same gift as a small business. Do not gift prospects. Giving a gift too early in a business relationship could feel awkward to the recipient and may seem like your firm is desperate for their business.

Before sending gifts, check the recipients’ corporate gift policies to ensure gift receiving is ethical and legal. Many companies and the government have policies prohibiting gifts or limiting the dollar value. You do not want your kind gesture to create awkwardness between you and your recipient. Also keep in mind company and country culture, and the method of sending. Do not give cookies and chocolates to fitness facility or coffee to a tea company. Do not send a knife set to someone in China because it symbolizes the severance of a relationship. Do not UPS a gift to FedEx or send a gift with fancy wrapping to a sustainable company. Consider the distance something will be shipped and if the gift will hold up –fresh baked cookies sent abroad might arrive stale. Sending a Zagat’s USA guide to someone in Europe might not be useful.

Year round, make note of your client’s likes, dislikes and hobbies so you can give a personal (but professional) gift.  Perfume, red roses and sentimental cards may make a business contact feel awkward but sending golf balls to a golfer or chocolate to a chocoholic might be appreciated.

Keep your card secular in both wording and imagery. Keep in mind messages’ potential double meanings, and the politics, diversity and religious beliefs of the recipients.

Do not treat your cards and gifts as free advertising. Leave out press releases and other marketing materials. Do not ask for referrals in your card’s messages. It communicates that you do not care about the recipient; you only care about your bottom line.

For additional tips, see the Holiday Cards and Gifts Tip Sheet.

By: Helena M. Lawrence, Business Development Manager, Proskauer for the July/August 2013 Issue of the Capital Ideas Newsletter.

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