Small business: Xmas experiences - not gifts

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Creating an experience means a Christmas thanks can last much longer than a gift. Photo / Thinkstock
Creating an experience means a Christmas thanks can last much longer than a gift. Photo / Thinkstock

Rebecca Purdy, owner of talks to Gill South about creating an experience rather than sending a corporate gift at Christmas to important clients.

At my company;, we used to give Christmas gifts which we personalised to our individual clients. While thoughtful, this was a time consuming and expensive process, so a few years ago, we decided to not offer client gifts, but instead to create experiences that will be remembered.

For our first 'experience we threw a Spanish Christmas; staff dressed in Spanish costumes, SPQR put on the paella, sangria was served by Spanish waitresses and the whole garden was dressed up in a Spanish theme. The following year we went Hollywood style. Kate Rodger greeted people on the red carpet with our camera man taking photos as everyone arrived. Clients arrived throughout the night and partied onto the wee hours, the following morning everyone was sent a CD with a photo montage from the night before.

Timing your event

Over recent years, it's become apparent to me that people can get over the silly season, so our most recent experience was held after Christmas when most people were glum about getting back to reality.

We teamed up with Market Place Media to have a relaxing day on the water. We told all our clients prior to Christmas that we had moved our Christmas party to a more relaxing time of year - February. Everyone joined us on board the American Eagle for the afternoon, cruising around the harbour and soaking up the sun. We couldn't have picked a better day for it.

I believe that offering an experience is a lot more memorable than a pot plant or a bottle of wine. Every year clients ask us if what we are doing and will they be on the invite list. And by creating events, we have the opportunity to enjoy clients outside of traditional meetings. The only rule for these events - NO SHOP TALK ALLOWED!

It costs more but...

Providing an experience does cost a bit more but the results are a lot better. I can't remember ever getting more than a quick email after receiving a gift saying thanks (if I even got that) but with our parties we always get a great response and people talk about it right throughout the year.

Some of our clients are based out of town but they still fly up to come to the party. Give everyone enough notice and there is no reason why they wouldn't come.

I don't imagine that people would move their business over a Christmas present but I do know that if you offer an experience or a fun day out with them they will remember that a lot more than a bottle of wine along with the other 45 that they have received.

Next week we're looking at how small businesses go about hiring their staff? Do you use recruitment agencies or local networks? What have your best (and worse) experiences been? Email me, Gill South at the link below:

- NZ Herald

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