John Ruhlin is perhaps the world’s foremost authority on corporate gift giving. After founding The Ruhlin Group at the age of 20. He's gone on to build a thriving business showing people how to give "practical luxury" items as a way to open doors, appreciate the people around them, and generate an amazing ROI.
Why Giftology Works
Giftology works for a number of reasons. The first and obvious reason is that gifting helps you fight through the proverbial clutter. Important people are busy, you have to stand out if you want a chance.
A second reason it works is that by going out of your way before you even meet an important client gives the impression that you'll be willing to go out of your way to impress them after you meet. Third, many of your gift recipients will end up becoming advocates for you. As Ruhlin points out, it can cost him $1,500 to take clients out to dinner, and they never mention it again. But when he sends someone a thoughtful, uniquely personalized gift that costs him $200, ten years later they still thank him for it.
What Not to Give
First, do NOT give gifts with your company logo on it. As Ruhlin points out, when you make the gift about you, it's not a gift anymore. If you are going to get something engraved on your gift, get the gift recipients' name engraved, not yours. Second, don’t send gifts when everybody else is sending gifts. For example, sending chocolates at Christmas is just going to get lost in the noise.
What To Give
Now that we've covered what not to give, let's move on to what we should give. Ruhlin advocates giving practical luxuries—the types of things that are useful to the gift recipient, nicer than what they would usually buy for themselves, and that they would be proud to be seen using. To make sure you are sending the right gifts, there are a number of questions you can ask yourself. Is your gift best in class? Is it truly unique? Is It practical? Will it be visible? Is it lasting? And finally, Is it universal? If you can answer yes to all of the above questions, you've found a gift that you can build a gifting strategy around. To help out, here are some gifts that Ruhlin relies on:
A Systematic Plan for Gifting
Ultimately, your goal is to generate a program that builds your business, so you'll need to think strategically about a number of things. You’re going to want to establish a budget. Ruhlin suggests that you use between 2 percent and 10 percent of your current net profits to devote towards the program, and that your gifts should fall within the $100 to $1,000 range. If your budget is tight at the moment, consider writing a classy note on nice paper instead of sending a $25 trinket or gift card. Next, you’ll be doing some "planned randomness." You'll know exactly what you'll be giving a client or prospect over a twelve-month period. The recipient will have no idea what's coming next or when, which is how you'll be able to surprise and delight them.
Additionally, how often should you give gifts? Ruhlin's advice is to give as frequently as you can afford, with the caveat that it's better to give on fewer occasions but with more extraordinary gifts. His rule of thumb is to send one gift every other month at most.
Ultimately, Strategic gifting is one of the most powerful sales and marketing strategies you can use to grow your business.