As Americans begin gearing up for the holiday season, I hope you’ve been thinking about your own client appreciation gifts or events.

The holidays are always a great time to remind your best clients how much you appreciate their business. And while executing a great client appreciation event or coming up with the perfect gift that will really resonate with your key people can do your practice a world of good, remember that doing nothing  — or doing something that falls short of what your clients might expect from you — can do more harm than you might think.

For one, your reputation can be damaged in the minds of your clients. For two, doing nothing (or the wrong thing) prevents you from receiving a stream of high-quality referrals that a good client appreciation event or gift should generate.

Many top producers organize extravagant junkets to special events (dinner at a four-star restaurant before attending an exclusive holiday concert) or destinations (a ski weekend in Aspen). Sometimes the price of admission for clients to “qualify” is to provide the producer with a specified number of referrals. Other times, the producer just picks up the tab entirely, counting on that time together to solidify their relationships with top clients. Occasionally the clients pay for the trip, but receive a substantial discount or gain access to something they may not have had a chance to attend otherwise. The idea here is to create a memorable experience.

But you don’t always have to think five-figures to have a successful and productive holiday client appreciation event. There are plenty of ways to accomplish this goal without a huge budget allocation. Here’s a quick list of ideas for client appreciation event themes:

  • Host a wine tasting in a private room at an upscale restaurant
  • Rent a private box suite or secure front-row seats at a pro or college sporting event
  • Golf and/or spa day at an exclusive club or resort in your area
  • Rent an IMAX theater for a private showing

If your best clients are spread out geographically, making it tough to get them together in one place, you might consider having a personalized gift delivered to each of them. Think of something that they might not normally buy for themselves, but would nevertheless enjoy based on what you know of their interests. A high-end box of cigars or a case of fine wine? VIP passes to the PGA golf tournament coming to town next summer? Certainly include a personalized (preferably hand-written) note wishing them well this holiday season and thanking them for their business — and don’t be afraid to ask for referrals at this point, either.

Or you could go with the same nice gift for all your “A” clients, and perhaps something a little less expensive for your “B” clients. Your local promotional products distributor can get you volume pricing on an enormous selection of brand-name products (imprinted with a logo or not), from luxury writing instruments to leather jackets or watches — or any of a million items in between.

The important thing is to make sure you take advantage of the opportunity the holiday season presents to let your clients know how much you appreciate your business relationship, and remember that letting it slide will inevitably damage your image in the minds of your best customers.

More producer-centered articles on this topic:

The Client-Appreciation Event: Your New Prospecting Strategy

Successful client appreciation events

10 Great Holiday Gift Ideas to Thank Clients, and Strengthen Your Ties to Them