I love to send thank you cards. Most of my friends, family and colleagues have received numerous cards from me over the years thanking them for all sorts of things. I send them when the mood strikes me, unannounced and I write them out by hand. The written word allows me to convey my true appreciation in ways I can’t in person. Besides, who doesn’t like getting a note in the mail? I spend hours perusing the aisles of Hallmark and Papersource (mostly because I’m obsessed with stationery) to find the perfect cards. Sometimes I’ll create custom notes online or get crafty at the dining room table. It’s a hobby of mine that I’ve translated into a business resource and I enjoy it thoroughly.
In our "Above & Beyond" series we have discussed overdelivering products and undervaluing your time, both of which have obvious ramifications for your company’s profitability. Product and labor are the foundations of a business’ expenses; however, any good pricing structure will also include overhead. You know, those pesky little things like leases and office supplies, rentals and transportation. Thank you gifts fall into this category, too, but most businesses do not factor in this expense when creating their pricing. That means a simple "thank you" can easily become a problem that affects your business’ bottom line.
Creating a great client experience matters, but the cost needs to be covered. Your clients may feel like royalty when you reveal their wedding images with a champagne toast (or several), turn their floral selection process into a four-hour tea party or serve gourmet hors d’oeuvres while they choose their nuptial music, but how much did you spend on all of these private parties? Let’s see: 2-3 cases of champagne, regular trips to the charcuterie, hours of your time preparing for their arrival, even more hours spent casually selling your services or reminiscing about the event, then the time used for cleanup... I hope they wrote you a big check to pay for all that time and effort! It may feel great to give your clients a unique experience, just make sure you’ve factored in the cost. You still have a business to run.
Your gift to your clients is your talent and professionalism. You may thank your clients for hiring you, you may thank them for trusting you with their big day, you may even thank them for their payment - but you do not have to shower them with lavish gifts. There is no other profession that does this with regularity. When was the last time your plumber sent you a bouquet of flowers? Does the groomer give you an expensive doggie gift basket every time Fido gets a bath? Sure, some companies throw client appreciation parties or send holiday cards, but not every client needs gifts for every step of your business transaction to keep them satisfied. They chose you because they valued your services and trusted your expertise.
You are not a guest at the wedding. Sure, guests are expected to brings gifts or at least a card with some money. They know the couple in an intimate way and have been invited to celebrate with them. The couple has paid for their guests' meals and (hopefully) an open bar, and guests will be mingling, dancing and having fun. You, on the other hand, have been paid handsomely for your services and will be working that day. Sure, your job may be more fun than most, but it is probably physically difficult and will require you to be extremely alert for most of the day. You are not be required to thank your clients for letting you work really hard by adding a gift to their gift table.
Gifts are great, but nothing beats personalized service and delivering on your promises. Next time you feel the need to overdo the gifts, take a moment and concentrate on giving your clients the best customer service or perfecting your craft. Be the professional they hired and they will market your services for you. Offer them your gratitude, of course, but keep in mind you are already giving of yourself to help them create the event of their dreams.