Client Gift Idea: Build the Relationship

Welcome to the AccountingWEB series "Michael Alter's Dollars and Sense" by Michael Alter, president of SurePayroll. You can see all of his articles here.

You know how it goes when gift-giving season rolls around  you don't know what to get and everything you come up with seems cliché. It's particularly difficult when shopping for clients, because you don't want to get something they might simply like, you want to get them something that will help them remember and refer your services. Unless you sell pretzels, a bag of gourmet pretzels isn't going to do it. 
 
That's why sometimes the best gift is to further build the relationship the old-fashioned way  in person. Buy them lunch or take them to a game or a live event (play, concert, motivational speaker). 
 
There are only so many knickknacks and coffee mugs anyone wants. But if you can take your clients to a restaurant they like or to see their favorite team, you're connecting with them on a personal level. They'll remember you for it. It's a little bit of a nod to the Mad Men way of doing things. Of course, we don't want to duplicate much of that behavior, but the idea of taking clients out on the town and hobnobbing with them still has value.  
 
For all the amazing technology we have today to help us run our businesses, it's still not a replacement for a face-to-face meeting when you're talking about building business relationships. What I'm suggesting this holiday season is to select some of your best clients and give them a chance to connect with you, not just your service.
 
Ask about their families, tell them about yours. Talk about your golf games or your pets  whatever common links you can find. When you pick up the tab and clients realize they've had a good time, they're more likely to think of you when they're in need of the services your firm offers.
 
About the author:
Michael Alter, payroll expert with an MBA from Harvard Business School, is a nationally recognized spokesperson providing thought leadership and sensible advice to help accounting and payroll professionals build deeper more profitable relationships with clients. Alter, president of SurePayroll, writes the Trade Secrets column on INC.com and is frequently published in Bloomberg TV, Wall Street Journal, and Entrepreneur Magazine.

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