“Thank you” is often seen as a one-way street. Someone says it, and someone else receives it.

But as marketing professionals, we know that there is no such thing as a one-way street when it comes to developing strong, meaningful, lasting business relationships. As with every kind of relationship, it’s important for communication and sentiments to flow openly in both directions.

This “Giving Season” and “Gifting Season,” as businesses express their gratitude and share end-of-year presents with those they’ve appreciated throughout the year, it’s important to consider why we’re showing our thanks and the most appropriate way to do it. 

Consider: How can this gesture resonate with the recipient? How will it contribute to the further development of this relationship in the year ahead?

Here are a few of the tips we’ve compiled that can help you make the most of every expression of genuine gratitude and every gift you give this coming season:

  1. Personalize it. Adding “Dear First Name” is not quite personal enough when it comes to making someone feel appreciated and valued. To be sure someone feels special, make sure that your gift is specific to your relationship with them. (We once received a stunning set of customized chopsticks after a sushi luncheon, which was a lovely touch and a reminder of the nice time we’d had together.) This can be as simple as a note that references specific things you’re grateful for, instead of merely touching on their business, their friendship, their support, or other vague references on the “why.” 
  1. Spending doesn’t equal sincerity. Your “thanks” can be anything from a genuine phone call to a thoughtful gift—but whatever you choose, know that it’s the sincerity that matters, rather than what you spend. In fact, when it comes to business relationships, adding a price tag into the mix can make things feel a bit transactional. For example, a $300 bottle of Champagne is nice, but it’s also generic; getting a $40 bottle from a vineyard they mentioned enjoying on their last trip is much more thoughtful. You can also consider making a donation to a charity they care about to show that you pay attention and care about their personal or professional values. You can refrain from disclosing the exact amount or you can even donate your time and services in their honor.
  1. Envision next steps. As marketers, we’re very familiar with the classic “call to action.” But having an action in mind is useful when sending cards, gifts, and thank-you notes, too. That’s not because you’re trying to get something out of the gift. It’s to ensure you’re giving the best gift possible, not something too generic or something that might miss the mark. For example: How do you hope this gesture is received? Will they reach out and call you? Will it lead to connecting in the new year? Should your contact information be available? Anticipating how someone will receive your thanks and helping to facilitate that response is a great way to ensure it’s the right expression for the right person (without putting the burden of the next move onto your recipient). 
  1. Facilitate relationship-building. Instead of saying “thank you” and receiving “you’re welcome,” consider how a more robust and meaningful conversation might emerge from this. If you send a gift that is intended as a “thank you” and then your recipient calls to say “thank you,” do you have a follow up? Or will you be stuck in an endless “thank you” loop? Will they feel compelled to now send you a gift? We prefer scripting a few potential lines that are specific to the occasion, such as following up about their family or holiday plans, or extending an invitation to meet up soon or work together again. This is an opportunity, so keep the conversation going!

Of course, we’d also like to take this time to thank all of our clients, colleagues, vendors, contractors, and our loved ones who support our tireless efforts for making the work we do all year possible. We’re better because of you. We look forward to showing you our gratitude and celebrating the season with you in the coming weeks!