Suddenly Marketing

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Finding Personal Business Gifts They’ll Remember

The holiday season is a time to hold friends and family dear, to tell them how much you love them and how lucky you feel to have them in your life. It is a time to celebrate the past twelve months, and share your hopes for the bright New Year ahead. This is the season of gratitude as much as it is the season of giving.

This is also traditionally the time to say “thank you” to your customers.

Before I had my own business, I worked for companies that routinely gave generic corporate gifts. Each year, some unlucky intern or admin would be drafted to make the rounds through the office, collecting the names and addresses of clients from various account teams. After sorting the list by “appropriate gift value,” a massive bulk order would be placed with one of the same old-same old corporate gift companies … Harry & David or some similar outfit. (You know the kind of thing.) Nothing against Harry & David, but I always found the mass production approach a bit depressing. Where was the imagination, the personal touches, the element of delight?

How can a generic gift accurately express your gratitude for your customers’ patronage? (Hint: It can’t.)


My first few years as a freelancer, I wasn’t able to send actual gifts, but I sent handwritten and heartfelt cards to each of my clients, thanking them for their business and for being great human beings. (I only work with great human beings.) When I finally found myself in a position to send gifts, I felt like one of Santa’s elves. Even though this is unquestionably one of the busiest times of the year, I really enjoyed creating special packages for each client.

Some of my packages did include yummy treats from Harry & David, but those holiday snacks were bundled along with other treasures like ornaments, funky notebooks, and beeswax candles. I filled each gift box with a unique collection of gifts that I hoped would inspire smiles during the holidays and beyond.

With this year’s holidays just around the corner, I’m once again preparing for my role as Santa’s Helper and would like to share some thoughts and suggestions that might provide a spark of inspiration for your business gift giving:


  • Give gifts that have nothing to do with your business. Just because you’re a baker doesn’t mean you have to give cookies. The gifts you give should be about the people receiving them, not about you. You don’t give your family gifts that reflect who you are (at least, I hope you don’t); you give them gifts that reflect their interests and style. Do the same for your customers.
  • Give a variety of gifts. It’s absolutely okay to give multiple people the same gift if it’s a good fit; BUT if you’re inspired to give different things to different people, that’s great, too. People appreciate unique presents.
  • Consider virtual gifts. I love putting together packages and traipsing down to the post office. (I know, I know – I’m a little weird that way.) However, virtual gifts can be really fun, too. A year of PandoraONE makes a great gift. (I actually gave that to my Dad and he loved it.) Online classes and programs can also be really thoughtful. I’ve gifted people with writing classes and meditation programs. Lumosity is a fun brain training tool that I have given several times. Think about the products and tools you love. Is there someone on your list who would enjoy them as much as you do?
  • Make gift cards personal. I’m not a huge fan of gift cards, but adding a special note explaining why you chose a particular one makes all the difference. You can also make a gift card personal by purchasing one from a small business that’s local to your customer – an indie bookstore or coffee shop, for instance.
  • Skip the usual suspects and explore renegade gift sources. I love Amazon as much as the next gal, but I love discovering cool products (especially handmade things) via “indie” sources even more. Check out smallish operations like Uncommon Goods, The Grommet, and Etsy, to find unusual and even one-of-a-kind gifts.
  • Think like a kid. Just because these are “business gifts” doesn’t mean they have to be serious. I love giving toys and picture books to grown ups. Inspire someone to let her inner child out to play with a funky and fun gift that’s just a little left of center.
  • Think small. Some of my favorite gifts to give and receive are collections of “small pleasures” – little things that make people smile and deliver just-right doses of TLC. The types of things that fall into this category include miniature notebooks, special teas, beautifully packaged skin care products, letterpress cards, and so on. These are the kinds of things people don’t usually buy for themselves, but will appreciate as a gift.


I hope these suggestions give you some ideas for how to make your business gifts more fun to give and receive. Go ahead and let your personality and feelings shine through. Choose gifts that let people know you not only appreciate their business, but you appreciate them for who they are.


Merry-Merry & Happy-Happy and may your holiday season be warm & bright.
Photo Credit: Chris_J via Compfight cc

The (magical) power of delight

An unexpected gift from Mother Nature – a heart in the mud. Delightful.

Yesterday was a gift of a day.

Despite being only a week away from Thanksgiving, the temperature soared to sixty-five degrees under nearly cloudless, bright blue skies. The unseasonably beautiful weather lifted spirits, dissolved the Monday Blues, and incited several spontaneous acts of truancy.

The day was truly delightful.


Delightful (n): great pleasure; joy … [Middle English delit, from Old French, a pleasure, from delitier, to please, charm …]1


Delightful is not a word we use very often. It seems, perhaps, slightly antiquated for our times – a little too naive, a little too simple.

Such a shame.

To me, delight is more than just pleasure or even joy. Delight embodies a more complex feeling that is layered with the sense of having been given a gift (as in when we say, “Delighted to meet you”) and a sense of surprise – of happily coming upon some unexpected goodness, beauty, or kindness.


So, to be delighted is to be gently jolted out of your everyday existence by someone or something presenting you with an unexpected gift.


As I strolled down the sunny side of the street on my way to the deli, I thought about things that bring delight: receiving a smile from a stranger, watching a dog’s exuberant play, or hearing a favorite song. I remembered the way an unexpected note from a friend (written by hand and sent via old-fashioned snail mail) warmed my heart with its unanticipated arrival and generosity of time and emotion.

The things that bring delight are usually small and simple. They are unasked for treasures that brighten our day and restore our faith in the virtue of humanity. They are the unassuming tokens, words, and experiences that pull us, for a moment, outside the daily grind and into a new, more positive perspective.


Delight opens us up.


Without requiring vulnerability or confession, delight invites us to be in a space where good things happen. It invites us to see the best in people and situations. It reminds us that, as savvy and cynical as we might be sometimes, we never really lost our capacity for joy and wonder.

Delight can come from many quarters, but it rarely turns up in a business context. When it does, it is so unexpected and feels so much like a gift that its presence creates a dramatic shift in how customers perceive your brand and your brand’s value. It can transform your relationship and open up new opportunities to interact on an entirely different level.

So, I’m wondering, is delight a part of your brand? 




1 The American Heritage Dictionary of The English Language, Fourth Edition, Houghton Mifflin Company, 2000


Exclusive vs. Inclusive – A cautionary branding tale

The concert hall was set up something like a wedding – fifty or sixty small round tables arranged in front of the stage, a bar off to the left, and open “mingling space” at the back of the room behind a short divider wall. It was dark and noisy. A handful of waitresses shuttled from table to table, taking orders for domestic beers and canned-cheese nachos.

My beau and I had come to see The Waterboys, a band that neither of us knew much about. We were there because I’d been at a loss for a Valentine’s Day gift. Waking Ned Devine, one of our all-time favorite movies, features The Waterboy’s song, Fisherman’s Blues, so I bought the tickets. It seemed like a romantic idea at the time.

A warm smile, a shared joke – Freddie Stevenson knows how to make an audience feel loved.

Before the headliner came on, a pair of New York musicians took the stage: Freddie Stevenson and Teddy Kumpel. They played their opening set with a street musician vibe that invited the audience into their world. Though they were up on the stage, they gave the impression of being in the crowd –of experiencing the evening alongside us. We became collaborators and co-conspirators. We were in on the joke, nodding in agreement with Stevenson’s quirky banter.

Both musicians interacted with those of us sitting at the tables closest to the stage. They acknowledged our presence and participation with nods and eye contact. Their demeanor and presentation created an inclusive space that embraced the entire audience, drawing us in and making us feel welcome and appreciated.

After their set, the two performers signed CDs and posed for fan photos. As we waited for our turn to meet them, my beau and I talked enthusiastically about the musicians’ skills and the wonderful worlds and stories of Stevenson’s songs. When I reached the head of the queue, Stevenson shook my hand warmly and seemed genuinely grateful that I was there and had enjoyed his music.


My beau and I returned to our seats, still talking about the music we’d just heard, and a few minutes later, the headliner took the stage.

The Waterboys: Looking down on you

The Waterboys launched into their first number without any greeting or introduction. Unlike Stevenson and Kumpel, they assumed you knew who they were and what they were all about. (I did not.) The band members did not make eye contact, except with each other. They often appeared to be sharing a private joke; I had the impression they were rolling their eyes.

The set continued with a series of songs that featured long, indulgent guitar solos and predictable crescendos. The lead singer (who appeared to fancy himself an amalgam of Bob Dylan, Mick Jagger, and Jim Morrison) provided intermittent commentary on the origin of and creative process around certain songs.

The entire band seemed turned inward – playing to each other, or to themselves. It was almost as if the audience was an afterthought – I felt like we might as well have been watching them on TV.


Finally, my beau (who had been enduring this ego-show because he didn’t want to hurt my feelings) turned to me and said, “Whenever you’re ready…”

I laughed and said, “Let’s get outta here.” We hadn’t even made it to the first intermission.

As we bolted for the parking lot, we agreed that The Waterboys’ performance could be summed up in one word: pretentious. Instead of making us feel like part of something special, they just made us feel like they were something special and we were lucky to be there to witness their genius.


Stevenson and Kumpel, on the other hand, made us feel like part of an inner circle. We felt like we were having a conversation with these two musicians, like our presence added something to the music. There was an energy between the performers and the audience.


Walking away from that evening, I am now a Freddie Stevenson fan. I am actively seeking ways to support his work. I liked his Facebook page, followed him on Twitter, learned about a great crowd-sourcing project he did (which, sadly, is closed, but which happily clocked in at 194% of his original goal), and I’m going to download more of his music to my iTunes collection.

The Waterboys? Meh.

Exclusive vs. Inclusive – which one is your brand? 

PS – Here’s a fun song from Freddie for your listening enjoyment:

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