The Timing of Client Gifting
Client gifting is one of those rabbit holes that I perpetually fall into "researching" on Pinterest and Google. Those gorgeous silk-ribbon-styled boxes keep me scrolling and clicking long after I should have fallen asleep. Companies like Marigold & Grey and Box Fox, specialize in color-coordinated gift boxes that package small-batch caramels, fancy bath salts, logo customized cookies, and other luxury items. Part of me always wants to create these kind of welcome packages for my clients, they are seriously drool-worthy, but when I consider the purpose of my gifting and current budget, I hold off on the curated kits... for now. With my limited budget, my rule for client gifting is that it has to serve at least two purposes and make an impact for more than one day.
Regardless of what actual gift you settle on, you'll get the most out of your efforts if you first consider giving's purpose. Gifts should always spark joy, but if you put on your business cap, giving can do more. Depending upon what point in your workflow you offer a gift, you will serve different parts of your client experience.
Let's say you need a little boost to convert your leads into clients. If you are taking the time to speak with each lead and walk them through your pricing, you can end your conversation by offering a canvas as a booking incentive. It's something you would budget into your collection price, but only offer it as a gift after setting some anchoring points. After you show them that a heirloom 16x20 canvas costs $300 a la carte, at the end of the meeting, you might say, "and if you let me know by Wednesday, I'd love to gift you a really nice 16x20 canvas for your wall." And if you're meeting in person, even better, because then you can point to a canvas on the wall so that you are really driving home the value of your gift.
This also has the benefit of setting expectations about print sizes. Too often, people think an 8x10 print is an enlargement and that anything bigger is gargantuan. By setting them up for a larger canvas, hopefully, they will shift their perspective about what an enlargement is and order larger sizes once they receive their gallery. You can even show canvas groupings to try and convert a single canvas gift into a starter image to which the client can add.
Another tip about booking-incentive gifting: make sure you add the item's a la carte price to the invoice and contract but then add a gift credit so that your client is reminded about your generosity. Then when it's time to fulfill your obligation, make sure you remember the gift first. I like to digitally deliver the gallery and within that email remind them of the present they have coming. "Hey Bride and Groom, your wedding was spectacular and I hope you love your gallery half as much as me. Once you've had a chance to look through all the images, choose your favorite so I can get you that big wall canvas gift we talked about!" If you don't remind clients that you re giving a gift, the canvas will seem like a deal they scored instead of a present.
If you don't need that extra push to book clients, you can put your gifting budget towards other aims. You can send a welcome package to create a brand approppriate customer experience that creates excitement about working with your company. So often, clients book their photographer and then don't hear from them until the shoot date. Especially with wedding photography, where the client is investing thousands, this can lead to buyer's trepidation- not quite buyer's remorse, but still not something you want your client to experience. Checking in now and then, even just with a comment on social media can ease any worries about their investment, but some photographers go the extra mile with welcome boxes. Maybe in a couple of years I'll use Box Fox or Marigold & Gray- those gals know what they are doing and I know I'd be ecstatic to receive one of their instagramable packages. One of the other founders of Collective Pursuit uses Box Fox when a client books her top package, which has worked out beautifully. Box Fox allows the user to choose items for each order and this photographer tries to personalize it to that particular wedding. It really solidifies to the couple that the photographer was listening to their story.
I personally send out a small but very purpose-driven envelope that contains a handwritten thank you note on my own stationary, sealed with a wax seal of my logo, a printed magazine of wedding tips filled with my best images, and a high end chocolate bar. This is a flat package that ships for under $7 and costs about $20 to pull together. By my calculation, this gift creates brand cohesiveness, and serves my mission to make wedding photography a priority for clients before they start planning their timeline. This magazine took a lot of investment of time, but it holds my clients' hands though the process answering frequently asked questions, all with beautiful imagery and personal stories sprinkled throughout. It's personal but polished. AND it has the benefit of being passed on to future brides that might just turn into a referral.
This is where CG Pro Prints really shines. If I have room in my budget, I love sending an unexpected 16x24 canvas of my favorite image from a wedding. I find that a big landscape image with the couple as a smaller feature of the image works best. These images are one of my signature shots for each wedding and, while people love them, they don't usually print them- so it's not taking away from print sales. If you're budget for client gifting is smaller, the bookcase friendly easel-backed canvases are perfect. Regardless of the size of a present, clients always LOVE surprises and if you can get their present to them prior to their gallery going live, even better. A collateral benefit is that it sets the power of print. So often, clients don't print our work, letting it sit on a hard drive or gallery page because they are so used to consuming images online- quickly and without return. It's our job as photographers to remind clients that photographs are dormant until viewed and susceptible to loss. Gifting can reignite an appreciation for the tangible- be it a simple framed 4x6 or a large canvas. Further, a visible image centric gift might even serve as a referral tool. When a friend comes over, they'll compliment the canvas or print and the client will say, "My photographer just sent that to us out of the blue!"
DURING THE HOLIDAYS/ANNIVERSARY
CG Pro Prints has very inexpensive but cute ornaments that would be a great client gift for photographers that want to stay in the front of client's minds for updated family sessions or referral programs. These could be stand alone gifts or a segue for reminding clients about any incentives you have for referrals. The ornaments come with a little springy red hanging thread, but you can up the presentation by swapping it out for a pretty ribbon and placing it in a nice envelope that matches your brand- Kraft for earthy or whimsy businesses, gold debossed returned addressed envelopes for luxury brands.
Regardless of where you choose to spend your gifting budget, you'll get more bang for your buck if you preplan when to gift, how to communicate it's arrival, and how to keep it inline with your overall brand. Happy gifting!
other notes and links:
This was my first time using Imovie trying to make a video! I tried really hard! lol. And I saw that I made two mistakes, calling a square a rectangle and saying 2019 instead of 2018- but I figured you guys would give me some grace! Now I do want to say, CGPro Prints gave me a print credit to review some of their items, but I’d tell you the same thing even if they didn’t give me some freebies. I would LOVE it if you shared your client gifting strategy in the comments or on our social media. I still have so much to learn!