Giving a gift? Waiting for inspiration to hit means you could easily strike out with the recipient. That's why you need a methodology for selecting gifts that will help you grow your relationships consistently.
When giving a gift, one of the first things you need to consider is your recipient. Who are you giving to, really? There are numerous methods for gathering clues about your recipient, but one of the best is a systematic approach.
Having a system in place with a well-developed process – whether that be a marketing plan or a finance road map – is the only way to ensure success. The same goes for developing business relationships: Without a foolproof action plan, you're unlikely to develop deep, lasting relationships that propel you forward.
Researchers studying business relationships conducted a survey in which 71 percent of participants reported they thought using a "catering" technique, i.e., tailoring gifts toward the assumed preferences of the recipient, would be the best strategy. But the researchers found that catering can actually hinder a relationship's growth. Having a process in place for learning about your recipients before offering any gifts reduces the chances of damaging a relationship with a poorly thought out gift.
Inspiration doesn't cut it
You can't just wait for inspiration to hit. Without a gift-selection methodology in place, you'll be unable to achieve the consistent relationship growth that drives sales and referrals.
In my experience, if you don't know anything about the person you're gifting, it shows in the gift. You don't want your recipient to think, "Wow, this person doesn't know me at all." Everyone wants to be treated like an individual, in personal relationships or in business. Giving someone a personalized gift or handwritten note makes your client feel acknowledged, which can make you stand out from your competition.
Sending generic gifts can also end up being offensive. Doing your research can save you from a world of embarrassment, like if you were to send a Christmas ham to a Jewish acquaintance or a bottle of wine to a recovering alcoholic. Personalization can help you avoid any number of faux pas. Ninety-six percent of respondents to Evergage's 2017 Trends in Personalization report noted that personalization is the key to strengthening customer relationships, and 88 percent believe that prospects and customers expect personalized experiences in this day and age.
How to send gifts that wow
Using a systematic approach ensures that you have personalization on lock. To ensure that each gift you give is a hit with recipients, listen to your clients closely.
For example, I once wanted to send a thoughtful gift to two gentlemen who founded a big food company. While talking to the president of the company, I learned that the two founders were conservative Jewish men who, under kosher dietary rules, don't mix dairy and meat.
Knowing this, my team sent two sets of knives: a black-handled set for meat and a white-handled set for dairy. Each owner received two personalized sets of knives tailored to their specific beliefs and habits, which resonated on a deep level. Even though these men owned a $100 million business, the gifts blew them away because they took their faith into account.
Using this three-step approach below can help any person or team deliver a gift that is sure to wow recipients.
1. Listen carefully.
Active listening is the best way to learn more about the people that play an integral role in your business. One of my role models, leadership expert and entrepreneur Harvey Mackay, built a list called the Mackay 66 – 66 things you should know about your key relationships. The list includes items ranging from birthdays, hometowns and hobbies to political leanings, business objectives and self-centeredness.
Every little detail about the person you're building a relationship with is on the list, but don't send a form and say, "Hey, fill this out for me." You must learn these details by listening and asking follow-up questions, then you can document the answers.
2. Develop your team's attention to detail.
No matter a person's role on your team, he or she should always listen for key pieces of information. Whether it's your assistants, your marketing department or your salespeople, encourage your team to develop their interpersonal skills.
Every interaction with customers and prospects is an opportunity to learn about their preferences as well as what's happening in their lives – good or bad. All of these occasions are chances to acknowledge people as individuals with gifts that are personal, not generic.
3. Leverage social media.
Leveraging social media is crucial in today's culture. A few holdouts still aren't on social media, but most people are putting out information regularly. Don't let that wealth of information go to waste: Either comb through it or hire someone to do it for you. You'd be amazed by what you can learn from a few simple posts.
More personalized information about people exists now than ever before. Facebook, for instance, is a gold mine. One study shows that the information an individual shares on Facebook – from interests to pictures to relationship statuses – can help others accurately gauge how open that person is.
Gifts are a surefire way to impress business associates when done correctly. But you can't just choose gifts on the basis of what you think the recipient would enjoy. You need to craft a systematic approach that ensures you've collected enough information to know exactly what gift will be a hit. Use these three tips to perfect your strategy and wow all your recipients with thoughtful personalized gifts.