Give Gifts Your Clients Will Never Forget


Explode Your Book of Business

Giving Your Clients Gifts They’ll Never Forget


While gift giving as a company might seem like an easy catch-all, and by that I mean you might think all you have to do is slap your logo on a bunch of mugs or tote bags and call it a day, it really isn’t the best way to show appreciation, or increase clientele and revenue.  

Now, there’s a man who started his own business, to help YOUR business, with the concept of giving gifts to OTHER businesses.

His name is John Ruhlin, his company is The Ruhlin Group, and his book is “Giftology.” Which, by the way, is available in audiobook format too for those, “Its’ 2018, who has time to read?” people.

Would you believe it all started from his first sales job in college?


An Empire Built on Gift Giving

He was in his senior year of college, paying his way by selling for Cutco knives. He thought that the knives would make perfect gifts for business owners to give their clients.

The business owners thought so too.

So while his colleagues at Cutco were selling one or two knives per sales call, John was selling them by the hundreds. He then became the guy that people went to to learn how to build relationships through giving gifts. It grew from there.

Gift giving strengthens relationships, improves your reputation, increases referrals, and shows clients and potential clients how thoughtful, caring, and detail oriented your business and its staff really is.

“What we’re teaching is the exact opposite of what everyone else is doing. Everyone is going towards apps or digital, but if you send a Millennial an email or a text, you’re one of a thousand or ten thousand or more,” John told Forbes. “And when something shows up in the mail, with a handwritten note, and it’s personalized to them, then it stands out from all the other noise.”

What he’s saying is exactly how we all feel. What means more to you? Someone wishing you a quick Happy Birthday because Facebook reminded them it was today, or a card in the mail with a printed photo of the two of you from back in the college days when you drank together on the weekends? Give a thoughtful, personal gift that makes some sort of an impact. Whether is nostalgia, love, or motivation.

While Facebook and other social media sites might not be the best way to reach out to someone on their birthday, they do serve as a good source to find out when all of the birthdays are. So you can know ahead of time when to send out a gift or birthday card.

I mean, there’s enough positive impact to gift giving someone should write a book about it…oh wait.


Who Are The Best People to Give A Gift to?

  • Current Clients
  • Prospective Clients
  • Potential Referrals
  • Respected Business Owners


The Power of Personal Notes From Salespeople

Every sales leader knows that the most lucrative and powerful relationships take time to build. They are built over the course of many interactions. Not all of those interactions have to be huge, but they do have to be regular enough in frequency to be memorable.

Personal notes are an inexpensive way to let people know they matter. A good time to send out a note might be the holidays. Lots of companies send gifts around the holidays which makes it hard to stand out and diminishes the ROI of sending a gift yourself. A personalize note or card however, will stand out without breaking the bank.

Personal or handwritten notes are also very great on birthdays or graduations. Again these are times when people are flooded with gifts by other people. While you want to let them know you haven’t forgotten about them, the investment in a well thought out gift just wont go as far, and thus a personal note or card is probably a smarter option. 

Business Coach Kelli Snyder wrote about the power of writing personal notes for the Buffini and Company blog. In spite of the advocacy for note writing by Brian Buffini himself, even Kelli didn’t quite realize the impact personal notes could have until she was in the hospital and received dozens of notes from her work community.

According to Brian, personal notes are so powerful because it’s rare for people to receive personal mail. 0.7% of mail all mail sent is personal and the rest is just bills bills bills (or- junk). That divide makes receiving a personal note in the mail that much more special.  

Think Simple – Sometimes a simple “Thinking of You” note with a photo of your family on a birthday or near the holidays could be just the thing to close a deal, score a new referral, keep a good relationship going with a client, or show respect to someone who has inspired you.


The Sales Power of Hand Written Notes
According to 
Brian Buffini


Dos and Don’ts of Gift Giving – According to John Ruhlin

The Dos…

Be thoughtful – Try to care even a little bit about what the client might need or enjoy. That means no more Starbucks gift cards and cheap bottles of wine.

Do research – The more you know about the client, the easier it will be to find something useful for them. Ruhlin once had a client who was doing everything he could to get in touch with the president of Target’s electronic division. Despite his exhaustive attempts via phone calls, notes, and fliers, no one ever responded. After research, and a team up with The Ruhlin Group, they found out that this person is a massive fan of the University of Minnesota. They had the school’s fight song engraved in a huge piece of cherry wood, sent it over, and BOOM, two days later a meeting was scheduled.

Be spontaneous – You know how you get your wife flowers and chocolate on Valentine’s day? Stop. START giving flowers on a random Tuesday. Same effort, higher impact. You could stand out above the rest by sending hand-written cards on birthdays, anniversaries, or purchase anniversary dates. They’ll be expecting emails or quick social media messages, but not a card in the mail, except maybe from their grandmother.


The Don’ts…

Never give “tokens” – “This is a token of our appreciation” is written on every card and gift ever. Originality is appreciated. Make them feel like they are the only one on the list, not just another number.

Don’t gift during the holidays –  Sending gifts when so many other are makes it hard to stand-out. You could, however, send a personal card from you: Nothing business related. It’s a great way to let them know you’re thinking of them without sending a big expensive gift whose impact will be diluted by all the others that get received that time of year. Wait to spend on bigger gifts when the money spent can have the greatest amount of impact.

In an article for The Spruce, Debby Mayne says the best times to give a gift are: After the completion of a project, to celebrate a promotion, to celebrate a profitable year, wedding, birthday, or birth of a child.

Again, it’s all about being thoughtful and surprising. If someone is not expecting a note/card/gift, that’s the perfect time to give one!

No more logos! – Gift giving is NOT a marketing opportunity. Anything with your logo on it is going to end up in the trash (unless you’re Gucci, Michael Kors, or Louis Vuitton) And we’re trying to make and save you money, right?! Like Ruhlin said, “People like their own name on things, not yours.”

In an article for Forbes, Garrett Gunderson shares a story about an associate of his who attended a conference for Nationwide. Nationwide they gifted their audience members each a pair of $300 headphones. What a kind, thoughtful group gift. It was so clever of them to think of headphones, right? Everyone needs those…

Too bad they had the Nationwide logo on each ear.

It wasn’t long before someone realized the logo would scratch off with a fingernail. It’s pretty safe to say that word spread quickly, and by the time everyone left there were no more logos. So not only did they waste money branding each “gift,” but their ploy failed. No one wants to be a walking advertisement. So no new clients, no new referrals, just a room full of people about to walk out and share with the world that Nationwide ruined their gift.


How to Systematize Gift Giving in Your Company?

Our advice?

Take a play from Grandma Barrett’s playbook.

Brendan Alan Barrett likes to share the story of how his grandmother managed to never miss sending a birthday card.

Her secret? She kept a box stocked full of every type of birthday card she would ever need. Every time she passed the card isle at the grocery store she’d pick up cards to maintain her supply. When someone’s birthday came along, she was prepared and never had to make a special trip to the store. All she had to do was pick a card and drop it in the mail.

The lesson to be learned from Grandma Barrett is that you need to have a plan that makes gifting easy and effortless, even on short notice.

You might want to have you sales team plot out the card and gift worthy events in the lives of your potential clients, current customers, and referral sources on a calendar. Then at the beginning of each month they can batch your gifting and note writing.

Better yet – After your sales team has identified the gifting opportunities you could feed that intel to your marketing department to fulfill: Keep you salespeople selling by having your marketing department send notes and gifts on behalf of your individual sales professionals.

Remember, personalized gifts and notes have to be just that – personal – to be effective in strengthening rapport with customers, potential customers, and business allies. If you have your marketing department send gestures on behalf of the brand and not the individuals that comprise your team that personal touch is lost.

With that in mind you’ll also want your sales team to be noting in your CRM or gifting calendar details that will help your marketing/gifting personnel to customize all the gifts they send out.


Details to Track For The Sake of Personalization:

  • Are they married?
  • Do they have kids?
  • What hobbies do they enjoy?
  • Where are they from?
  • What’s they favorite treat (food or otherwise)?
  • What’s a personal goal they’re working towards outside of work?


Leverage Technology

Here’s 3 online resources that will help make sending personal notes a little bit easier, and more professional:

Handywrytten An app option for iOS and Android, Handwrytten offers a range of classy handwritten cards starting at $5. Just type your message in the app, check out, and let the machines write it for you! There are multiple shapes of each letter to create what Handwrytten describes as “a truly organic effect.”

BondStarting at $2.99, you can send an elegant handwritten note card. With a choice of five handwriting styles to be delivered to the recipient in a classy envelope.

Thankbot – What makes Thankbot different is that for $5, you can send them a typed note and they will carefully recreate your note by hand, with no machines.


Expand Your Business and Increase Revenue By Giving Gifts Your Clients Will Never Forget

Notes and gifts can really set you apart the crowd and prove that you care about the people you do business with. People like to work with people (salespeople, business owners, or otherwise) who they feel they can trust, who makes them feel like they’re in good hands. Gifting is a powerful way to show your character and thoughtfulness and that of your company.

So, dig up your finest pen, (or use one of the note creator websites linked to above) write out a thoughtful note, and watch the connections and relationships grow from there.

And here’s the really, really good news!

John Ruhlin said, “We view gifting as a very hard and fast return-on-investment. The universe is wired for reciprocity and if you do gifting well, then there can be a massive hundred-x return on investment.”


About the Author: Carly Trombley is a writer and social media strategist living in Vermont with big dreams of moving to a more metropolitan area. She is a recent college graduate who loves photography/videography and the impact that they have on society. Follow her on Instagram or connect on LinkedIn to learn more.

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3 thoughts on “Give Gifts Your Clients Will Never Forget

  • February 13, 2018 at 10:32 pm

    Great article. Being a Realtor I consider myself in the ‘customer service’ business rather than ‘sales’; but this article has been extremely helpful in giving me ideas to thank those that have and/or can help expand my business or at the very least, thank those people that assist me on a day to day basis. Thank you, Carly Trombley.

    • February 14, 2018 at 5:29 pm

      Hi Lisa – Thinking of it as customer service rather than sales is always a great approach. When you put service before commission checks the commission checks take care of themselves!

  • February 15, 2018 at 1:29 am

    Thank you so much Lisa!! It amazing to hear that the article has affected you in such a way! I think you’re right. These techniques apply perfectly for to a realtor and their clients. I wish you great success!


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