The power of presents

Shower your clients with smart holiday gifts

First Published November 2007

Holiday gift-giving to your best clients may not be an overt marketing tactic, but it can have long-range benefits for your studio.

The Christmas season has got to be the most emotionally charged time of year. Child and family portraits are especially emotive during these weeks of celebrating our loved ones. The holidays present a wonderful opportunity to strengthen the relationships between you and your clients by giving personalized gifts to your most influential patrons. People are aggressively pursued by marketers all year with trial offers, coupons, rebates and gifts with purchase. How nice to receive something from a company with no strings attached—not an attempt to solicit business or get your phone ringing or book special sessions, just a thank you for your clients’ business and an opportunity to spread a little joy.

While holiday gift-giving to your best clients isn’t an overt marketing tactic, it can have long-range benefits for your studio. Calculate how much you invested in the last year to acquire one new client. Divide the total amount of money you spent on marketing by the number of new clients it brought in. Let’s say your marketing costs were $10,000, which resulted in 50 new clients. You spent $200 to acquire each one those clients! Successful businesspeople understand the Pareto Principle, a.k.a. the 80-20 rule: In general, 80 percent of a company’s sales come from 20 percent of its customers. So nurture the clients who invest the most with you. Bonus benefit: They are also the ones who give you the most referrals. Convinced? Now what will you present to your clients?

LEADED GLASS PHOTO CHARMS AND ORNAMENTS. ’We don’t sell these items, so they make extra-special personalized gifts. The only way to acquire one is to be one of our best clients, giving these trinkets much more value. Choose an exceptional image to insert into the charm or ornament, and gift package it beautifully.

SIGNED ARTIST NOTE CARDS. I love making gifts of anything that showcases our custom photographic artwork. Everyone can use extra note cards, and because ours are hand-signed, they’re extra special, and our clients adore them. We package the cards in a gift box with a glassine window and a beautiful ribbon. Half the fun of this gift is opening it. Because we’re in the hub of a shopping district, we called our special clients and invited them to drop in when next they were in the area, and pick up a gift (we offered to mail them as well). Clients would come in thinking we had a fridge magnet or the like, and be delighted to receive such a heartfelt expression so beautifully packaged. Several clients called to thank us again. It was exhilarating for us to get such phenomenal response.

HOLIDAY GIFT TAGS. We do a lot of offset printing in creating our custom marketing and promotional pieces. While we’re in production, we often add little client gift tags to the print run. These make fine client gifts that also become part of their holiday gift-giving. We sometimes even hand-embellish the tags with little jewels or sequins. With the fantastic quality of digital processes, creating this gift is even easier and more cost effective.

SHRINKY DINKS. We just found inkjet paper that lets you turn photos into plastic Shrinky Dink art. How fun to create some personal pieces for your clients, especially those in the 30-50 age range who probably grew up making their own Shrinky Dinks. It’s a nostalgic gift that encourages people to become attached to your brand. You could “shrink” their child for a bracelet, keychain, good luck charm, or even add it to the packaging of the gift you are giving.

CHRISTMAS MUSIC. Last year, we helped a client work with a local singer-songwriter to produce a royalty-free CD of holiday music. A real estate agent, she wanted her clients to think of her every year when they brought out their holiday music. Of course, the card and CD were filled with images we created for her. She reports securing several home listings specifically because of this gift, which could work for your studio as well. Print an image of your family or your team of employees on the CD, add a well-designed card, package it creatively and you’re set. The musician gave me a stack of CDs for my own use, and I too, experienced an incredible response. On behalf of my own family, I printed a little card with a thoughtful note for all of the people in our lives who work hard for us all year long—my kids’ teachers, bus drivers, letter carrier, doctors and so forth. They all appreciated being remembered.

Who gets a gift? You can segment your database by investment level. You could give clients who purchased $500 to $1,000 in the last year a small gift, those who purchased over $1,000 a more expensive gift, and your very top clients the most expensive, personalized gift. You want them to share with their friends and generate referrals.

Use extravagant packaging, paying attention to the details. Tissue, ribbon, and hand-written cards amplify the impact of the most simple gift. We often invest as much on the packaging as the contents. Use beautiful graphic design. We always commission a professional graphic designer to create our promotional pieces. When our image is involved, we want to make a dynamic, up-to-date, top-notch impression.

Select your favorite image from your clients’ sessions to make into a gift. If you want to be known for spontaneous portraits, choose your most spontaneous and creative images. You want to attract customers who are drawn to what you love to shoot. Include vendors on your gift list. For example, if you are co-marketing with other businesses, strengthen that relationship with one of these personal gifts. If you haven’t photographed their children or family, do! Be an investigator of all things wonderful to get packaging ideas. Visit Web sites that specialize in beautiful things, such as, and go to shops that carry scrapbooking accessories. Keep in mind that the more time it takes a client to open and interact with the gift, the greater the impact it will make.

Buzz is hard to quantify, but you can strive to create it by sending the coolest cards and gifts your clients will receive this year. Buzz creates excitement, and that can keep the momentum going into your slow season. It’s another way to secure your relationship and to reinforce the value of your brand. In January, make a folder on your computer desktop called Christmas Gifts. Select your favorite images from sessions all year long and save a retouched copy in the folder so it’s ready to go. You’ll be armed with gift-giving ammunition. Doesn’t it just make you feel wonderful to give gifts during the holidays?

Sarah Petty Photography is in Springfield, Ill. (

Professional Photographer Magazine - Business Professional Photographer Magazine - Marketing Professional Photographer Magazine - Sales