Planning Your Law Firm Holiday Client Gifts

How much thought do you put into holiday gifts for clients? Be honest now. Do you schedule a partners' meeting and brainstorm for a couple of hours? Probably not. What about a quick peruse through a gift catalog? Perhaps. Or do you ask your executive assistant to order some holiday cards and a fruit basket?

It's amazing how little time many law firms and businesses spend thinking about their holiday cards and gifts. And it's amazing how such a little thing can work so strongly for or against a law firm when a client must decide whether to renew its retainer.

While every firm is different, here are ten tips for marketing this holiday season:

1. Develop a year-long marketing strategy.
Your holiday gifts and cards are but one part of your campaign to maintain good relationships with your clients. Don't wait until December to try to salvage a dying relationship.

2. Send a thank you card - in July!
Your clients are receiving tens, if not hundreds, of cards from vendors and partners in December, so why not send a thank you card in a non-holiday month, when the spotlight is entirely on you?

3. Consider the 'half-life' of your gift.
If you buy food or flowers, you can expect your gift to remain around the office for about two weeks. Buying logo clothing, a "gift of the month club," or office supplies (logo paper weights, etc) can last for months or years.

4. Give different gifts to different clients.
It's OK to send fruit baskets to most of your clients, but do you really want to give the client that generates 60% of your revenue a $49 assortment of oranges, apples and dried dates?

5. Give the gift that keeps on giving.
Some firms have shied away from giving gifts to clients, and now give gifts to charities in their clients' names. Consider this: make a donation to tax-deductible donation to an organization that seems to be "in synch" with your particular client. Did Mr. and Mrs. Smith hire you to handle an adoption? Make a donation to a local non-profit children's services organization that helps kids. For an added bonus, you'll also get a write-off at tax-time.

6. Give gifts that will make a (good) impression.
This is the problem I have with fruit baskets and cheese assortments - everyone gets five or ten of these every year, and everyone knows that they are cheap and require virtually no thought on behalf of the giver. Try to be a little creative and come up with something tasteful, useful, and unique. For a list of interesting ideas, check out www.branders.com.

7. Know what you gave your clients!
Even if your executive assistant orders the gift, make sure he or she tells you what it was. The last thing you want is a client calling you up to thank you for a gift that you didn't know you sent!

8. Personalize.
When sending a holiday card, make sure that the attorney who signs it is the one who spends the most time working with the client. Senior partners and other attorneys can sign, time permitting, as long as this doesn't take away from the real work that needs to get done.

9. Send your holiday cards out early.
Aim for December 7th at the latest.

10. No fruitcake.