Close Close

Regulation and Compliance > Federal Regulation

3 Keys to Giving Client Gifts With Maximum Impact

Your article was successfully shared with the contacts you provided.

Would you like to know how John Ruhlin, the undisputed king of professional giving, used just one gift to win millions in business?

John shared a story that sums it all up during our recent conversation; it all starts with John waiting over an hour to meet Cameron Herold, COO of 1-800-GOT-JUNK and renowned business coach.

When he finally got to talk with him, John discovered Cameron would be coming to his neck of the woods in Cleveland and hoped to do some clothes shopping on the trip.

Thinking on his feet, John asked Cameron for his shirt size so he could send him one of his favorite shirts, and then offered to take him to dinner and a Cavs game.

Cameron said yes, and John was thrilled. But a little problem came up on the day Cameron was set to arrive: his flight got delayed and it was going to throw off their whole evening together.

Since he knew the delay would keep Cameron from doing his shopping, he went to Brooks Brothers, and bought one of everything – about $7,000 worth of clothing. Then he went to the Ritz and had his suite outfitted like a mini Brooks Brothers!

Cameron was blown away. “Whatever you want to talk about for as long as you want to talk about it, I’m all in,” John recounts Cameron’s response. “I’ve never had anybody treat me this way.”

“Fast forward nine years, I’ve been invited to his 50th birthday party and his wedding,” John says. “He’s mentioned me from stages all over the world. He’s opened up doors with the president of Starbucks and some of the biggest companies in the world. He’s done things for me that I couldn’t have done with 10 million dollars of advertising.”

This story shows that the power of a properly executed gift can never be underestimated. Thankfully, John was gracious enough to sit down with me to discuss where most professional gifts go wrong and what people like you and me should be doing to fix it.

1. Never Use This Word to Describe Your Gifts Again

You’ve heard the expression token of my appreciation a million times. But there’s a big problem with it. If you’ve been using it in your communications, John wants you to stop immediately.

Describing your gift as a “token” implies that it’s petty, obligatory and routine. It deflates the impact of your gift before your recipient even uses it!

More on this topic

Be genuine with your language; focus on what your recipient did to warrant the gift; and avoiding the “T-word” will come naturally.

2. Rethink the Logo

Swing open the closet door of any financial professional and you’ll see the evidence of branding abuse. All those logo-laden golf polos collecting dust in there might be ok on the course, but would you find yourself wearing them at a social function with your high-net-worth friends?

Doubtful! More likely than not, they pile up in your closet until your wife hauls them off to Goodwill. According to John, heavy branding on gifts makes them destined for failure, because it makes them feel nothing like gifts at all, more like marketing tools that end up as car-washing attire at best.

3 Gifts That Never Get Thrown Away

Struggling to find gifts people actually want to keep?

John says it’s best to target an area of your recipient’s life where they spend a lot of personal time and where they’ll find themselves using your gift frequently. The kitchen meets both requirements.

Wine decanters, fine cutlery and cutting boards are all great examples.

The best part about gifts like these is that they’re more likely to become John’s favorite thing: “artifacts.” This kind of gift turns into a permanent home fixture, and the recipient thinks of you every time they use it!

More Gift Giving Tips

Only 3 of John’s 10 crucial points on successful gifting could fit into this post. So if you want to hear the rest of what John shared with me, head over to for the entire conversation.

Disclaimer: All financial professionals should be aware of any gifting limitations imposed by federal regulation, state regulation, insurance carriers, broker-dealers and RIAs, as applicable. Investment advisors are strongly encouraged to obtain pre-approval from the broker-dealer and/or RIA with which they may be affiliated.