Who doesn’t like presents? If you’re saying to yourself right now that you don’t like presents…I don’t believe you. We all love something special at Christmas, our birthday or on Valentine’s Day. Even better are those surprise gifts that come on some random Tuesday — in fact, those may be the best gifts. They show that someone values us for no other reason than they enjoy spending time with us.

Knowing how awesome gifts make us feel, why don’t we transfer this into our business life? Not just that silly gift basket you send to clients at Christmas, or some set of terrible Jones soda in turkey flavour, but a gift that your client can truly use.

This idea of intentionally giving gifts to clients, and prospects, is what Giftology by John Ruhlin is all about.

Gift giving and those “little touches” commemorate not just certain events, but people, places, and things that are important to us. In essence, they become the symbols of the value you place on the relationship.

Of course anything we do in business should have some net positive effect on our bottom line and author John Ruhlin has personally seen how giving gifts to his prospects and clients can positively affect his business financially.

There’s a life-changing advantage to treating people well and developing an attitude of gratitude — the added bonus comes from seeing it positively impact your business’s bottom line.

Ruhlin splits the book up into three sections written in the form of short essays. The three sections are:

  1. The Power of Giving
  2. The Relationship Road Map
  3. Gifting Guidelines

Let’s take a look at the core ideas in each of these sections.

Part 1: The Power of Giving

Giftology is rooted in the acknowledgement of someone’s time being the most precious commodity he ore she has to share. We’ve all been given a ridiculously limited amount of it. So when someone shares it with you, let him or her know unequivocally how honored you were to receive it.

Every coffee I have or meet-up I go to outside of my standard office hours is time I’m not spending with my children. Depending on my current client schedule, meetings during the day can even fall into that as I still have deadlines to hit regardless of what other meeting commitments may come up. According to Ruhlin, strategic giving recognizes the value of this time.

I think it extends a bit further than this though, to your friends. I’ve been known to hear that a friend at my Crossfit box frequently loses their keys. I purchase them a Trackr so that they can keep track of their keys. While I’m not ‘using’ their time at the gym, extending a gift this way still means that I’m showing them I value the relationship and that I’m paying attention to the needs they express.

Do you pay that type of attention to the relationships you value?

In the midst of showing us the power of gifts, Ruhlin deals with a few of the fears that people have if they’re going to start a strategic giving program in their business.

Remember this: the people who will react negatively to your gifting efforts are most likely the same people who would react negatively in any circumstance.

From my perspective, if someone’s going to be upset about a gift it’s probably a great indicator that you don’t really want to work with them because they’re going to be a pain in the ass. In the midst of the project they’re going to find issues with lots of stuff and you’re going to wish that you never took on their wok.

So if that’s your hang-up, don’t let it be. Send a gift, and if the reaction is bad, consider it a small price to pay to not have a bad client in your schedule.

Giftology also addresses budget, because not all of us have some huge five-figure budget for gifting clients and prospects. Many of us don’t even have a three-figure budget for this. A guideline offered is 2%-5% of the revenue from your client should be allotted to gifting things to them.

Gifts don’t have to be expensive, but should be practical and usable. Have you heard your podcasting client complain about their headphones? Spend a bit on a decent set of headphones and send them over.

At a conference a few years ago I talked Lego with someone I wanted to remember me so I spent $20 on a custom Lego figure and sent it to them. They build Lego as a family so it was a great gift they’ll see regularly that will remind them of me.

If you really can’t afford to spend anything, then start sending handwritten notes. I send them at the beginning and end of projects, but why can’t they be sent on March 12, just because it’s March 12? If you can’t even afford note cards and the time to write on them, you’re not running a business, so I’d advise you to look at getting a job.

Part II: The Relationship Road Map

The second section works to impress upon us that our gift strategy shouldn’t be limited to the ‘big fish’ CEO we want to land. In fact, they get gifts all the time and often they don’t control their time. Sending them a nice kitchen knife for home with their spouse’s name on it may be a better way to build that relationship. How about sending their administrative assistant a gift, just because? In fact, doing that may mean the assistant can get you time with the one person you want to see, and a number of other departments in the organization.

[Tweet “You’re out there to build a relationship not just win a bit of work.”]

The point is, you’re out there to build a relationship not just win a bit of work. Send gifts to those around them so that they can see those they rely on cared for.

Part III: Gifting Guidelines

The book ends with a number of guidelines for giving gifts, which all seem entirely obvious. However, in reality, many desks are littered with terrible gifts. Maybe it’s that pen with the company logo on it (not your company logo) or the t-shirt that you could never wear in the office (again with some other company’s logo on it). They’re terrible gifts. I have stacks of t-shirts made of cotton which I pass right on to my daughters to use to sleep in, or I donate them. I don’t wear cotton shirts and I only let myself have 10 t-shirts for everything, which means every shirt I have needs to be okay for hiking and for wearing around.

If you’re going to give a gift, put your client’s name or logo on it. Make sure it’s something they will actually use. While I love hiking, many of my clients don’t like it as I do, so a nice set of hiking poles would be a waste of money. That’s a gift for me, not my client. Just like Homer Simpson and his ill-fated gift of a bowling ball to Marge.

Really that’s it. When you start a strategic giving program make sure to give something the person will use and make it all about them. Don’t sneak in sly references to yourself and your company. If you do the job right, they’ll never forget you anyway.


Yes, I 100% recommend this book. It’s short and has a bunch of practical tips on how to implement a strategic giving program. While I’ve always given gifts I’ve never been intentional about it. After reading this, I’m going to be more intentional about budgeting for gifts.

Get Giftology on Amazon

photo credit: billward cc