John Ruhlin, gift-giving expert, professional speaker, author of Giftology and EO St. Louis member, was a recent guest on EO 360°, a podcast by Entrepreneurs' Organization (EO). We asked Levi Pruss, EO South Florida member, CEO of Yzag and co-founder of MindOS, to review the episode and provide his biggest takeaways. Here's what he had to say.
As business owners, we're responsible for critical decisions including hiring, salaries, core strategy, branding, marketing and product scope―among others. But what if we're neglecting an area that could be a deciding factor in cutting through the noise, increasing referrals and enhancing client loyalty?
While listening to the EO 360°podcast featuring John Ruhlin where he discusses the process and strategy behind the often-overlooked art of giftology, I realized there's an important aspect of client care that I haven't been aware of. Ruhlin provided a fascinating introduction to the significant impact gift-giving can make on a business. His message led me to consider the strategy behind the way I gift, whom I gift and what I gift.
Like many entrepreneurs, I delegate many aspects of our company's operations, including gifting, but I now feel enlightened about the psychology behind it and how much we and our companies can stand out through the gifts we choose and bestow.
Ruhlin wisely points out, "In business, we typically make it all about us―we put our logo on stuff and give it to people because that's what we want to give, not because that's what our customer wants to receive."
However, switching it up and investing the proper time and thought into a gift represents a huge opportunity for a business owner to stand out.
Ruhlin continues, "Most leaders stink at showing people that they truly care about them as human beings."
A thoughtful, appropriate, unique gift demonstrates to customers that we pay attention to every detail and that we care about them as individuals. That's so important in business.
My Aha! moment during the podcast stemmed from the realization that despite being successful entrepreneurs and trying to cover all bases, there are still important aspects of business that we overlook or relegate to generic methodology.
However―and here's the Aha!―one of the eye-opening realizations I've experienced through my membership in EO is that not going with the flow is likely what made us entrepreneurs in the first place. If other companies are giving $19 boxes of candy to their clients, I want to go against that flow and identify unique, personalized gifts that tap into my clients' emotions and values. This podcast heightened my awareness of the value of giftology to help my company stand out in a positive, unforgettable light.
My four top takeaways from the podcast are:
- Gifting is something most of us do, but we don't necessarily do it well. Little things matter and that includes putting in the time it takes to come up with an appropriate gift for a valued customer, partner or vendor. Especially because it's almost a guarantee that they will recognize the extra thought you invested. That demonstrates that you're the type of person and company that pays attention and cares.
- Determine what you want to reinvest in your top clients. Ruhlin suggests a gift budget of at least 5% of net profit. The tendency is to divide that equally among all customers. But, if a handful of top clients are responsible for a large percentage of your revenue, don't they deserve more than a $25 or $50 gift? Establishing different tiers of gifts―all of them something that clients will truly value―is the solution.
- Timing is everything. Don't limit gifting to just the holidays or year-end. Gifts given at a different time of year can have greater impact, further enhancing the uniqueness of your gift.
- Extend gifting to the family and inner circle of a valued customer. Ruhlin reasons that it's the spouse, children, pets or personal assistants who pay the price when your customer travels to meet with you. Sending a thoughtful gift to a customer's spouse or inner circle while the customer is with you conveys that you realize they're key players in his or her life. That's a powerful message. It shows that your values are family-oriented and that you "get" your customer. Once the family and inner circle are on board, customer loyalty shouldn't be far behind.
The idea that resonated most with me is that gift-giving has the potential impact of making you and your company not only memorable but unforgettable. An example Ruhlin gave was of a client who loves wine. Rather than a bottle of rare, expensive wine―which is likely what other business associates choose―Ruhlin sent a beautifully hand-crafted, personally engraved wine kit. The result: Every time that client uses his wine kit to open other bottles that competitors give him, he thinks of Ruhlin first.
If I could ask one follow-up question, I would ask Ruhlin what he considers the KPI of giftology. You can't exactly ask the client for direct feedback, but I'd like to know how to tell which gifts are working best, bringing value and achieving the intention.
The podcast spurred me to action: After listening, I realized that one of my employees and his wife just had their first baby and I hadn't yet acknowledged it. Using my newfound knowledge and strategy, I spent time thinking of exactly the right gift for them―something unique and pragmatic that, having a son myself, I knew they'd need, though as new parents they didn't realize it yet.
I'm now committed to making giftology part of my business practice and giving it the proper attention it merits. Ruhlin has totally changed the way I approach gifting.