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Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The "Wow" gift

Ned Overton of FW&D LLC in Arlington, Virginia gives out his own private label wines to clients and key referral sources. He says he makes sure the wine is of the highest quality.

Can simple gifts be helpful both in attracting and retaining clients? Absolutely. Thoughtful remembrances really work, partly because of the reciprocity principal. Under this business guideline, simple and small acts of generosity are often rewarded many times over. The challenge is to get it right and match the generosity and spirit of your gift with the values of your clients. And don't forget the packaging!

For example, consider these two gifts suggested and used by forum members.

The first is the private label wine provided to clients and key referral sources by Ned Overton of FW&D LLC in Arlington, Virginia. Overton says he is careful to ensure the wine in the bottles is of the highest quality because he knows the people consuming it often know as much if not more about wine than he does. It leaves a lasting and memorable impression, and the well-designed label on the bottle seres as a great reminder any time he or his clients serve it to themselves or friends.

Does this "WOW coffee" Wow you? Just a little care in packaging will turn this concept into a great idea.

My second example shows the dangers of raising expectations and suggests how just little improvements may help the cause. The contractor (I won't name him here, as I never name anyone when I don't speak positively about them in this blog), promised that he would be soon sending me a package of his "WOW" coffee.

A week or so later, I eagerly opened the package. Alas, the home-roasted coffee had been sent in a store-bought zip-lock bag and I could barely read the "WOW" on the label (you will have trouble reading it too, on this photo, but that is more a reflection of my lack of skill as a photographer than the label's actual quality.)

In a follow up email to me, the contractor wrote:

The real reason I'm writing you is I sent a bag of coffee to (name deleted), he gave it to his wife who was very negative about the coffee, she said it tasted like sh*t. And then said I shouldn't give out coffee that I roasted myself?

It's Colombian and not great, but I've been drinking it and thought is was OK and better than supermarket beans. I won't buy it again but let me know what you think. It would be terrible if I'm giving out bad coffee."
This is of course not the "WOW" you are seeking.

I haven't tried the coffee yet, but I fear the packaging does more harm than the coffee itself.

Perceptions and habits shape the value of gifts. For example, for some reason I have a preference for a blue coffee mug which I've been using for years. In fact, about 12 years. The mug had been in the gift basket provided by the builder of our new home on closing. The builder's logo has long disappeared from the cup, but for some reason I find my coffee "tastes better" with the cup than without.

(The builder in Ottawa, while successful and reputable, is not perfect --but I still like and use their cup.)

My sense is the contractor who sent me the WOW coffee is close to being onto a brilliant idea.

Coffee, especially self-roasted coffee, is much less expensive than wine, and it is probably harder to go wrong on it. You also have a story to share. Just a little packaging will go a long way -- get coffee bags of the durability and quality of places like Starbucks, and prepare a much larger WOW label (when you get really successful, you can print it on the package itself).

Then, have your designer prepare the overall package label with your logo and some thoughtful imagery. You can then give half-or quarter pound bags out as samples, and perhaps full pound bags with a couple of custom mugs on closing.

(Even better, if you know your clients' particular tastes, go to Starbucks, buy a pound, and replace it with your packaging! And if you know the clients and they are sources of referral business, this gift can continue year after year, since coffee (and wine) are consumed and need to be replaced.)

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