Gifts are important, but most trainers suck at giving gifts - By Jon Goodman

Mar 1, 2017

By Tim Saye

In our recent webinar Jon talked about gifting and how to do it right for maximum impact with your clients. I wanted him to expand on this so he sent this article over to give you some brilliant insights in to giving amazing gifts that will have a lasting impact with your clients and friends.

An important, underrated element of building a solid relationship with clients have to do with giving them gifts or sending well-wishes. Unfortunately, people often botch these. Here are a few examples of terrible gifts (with good intentions):

Exhibit A: Christmas cards and birthday cards

It’s nice to send someone a Christmas or birthday card, but those times may just about be the worst time of the year to send them. Not only are you much less likely to stand out, you create a dangerous sense of expectation. Year after year, you send a card that is maybe appreciated a little bit, but you forget just one time–and whoops–they notice and aren’t too happy.

However, if you were to, say, send them a note or a card on some completely random day, your same level of effort for a different “occasion” can be the difference maker. It’s just like Valentine’s Day, for example. You decide to give a dozen roses to your wife, which is a nice gesture. She’ll appreciate it. On the other hand, if you were to come home with a dozen roses for her on–oh, I don’t know–Tuesday, March 28th, for no reason other than you love her the resulting effect is disproportionately larger.

See what I’m getting at here?

Wish your clients well on their birthday and over the holidays, if you want to. But if you really want to stand out, send them a handwritten card in the mail after they nail an exercise they have been working on. Or send them a postcard from a trip you took. Or get all of the trainers in your gym to sign a card for them, saying how much you all enjoy their being a part of your community.

Those have a more profound impact on your client than one that simply says Happy Birthday! on their birthday.

Try this idea: Wherever I am in the world, I buy five to 10 postcards, choose a few customers of mine who are doing great work in their gyms and communities, write a postcard, and put it in the mail for them. If you do this, you should send thank you cards or postcards in the mail, even for those clients whom you see multiple times each week. It’s more special that way. You can afford the stamp.

Want to go the extra mile and have some fun with it?

Get custom stamps printed with your face on them. It’s cheap, easy to do, and definitely stands out (in more ways than one). Almost any post office in the world offers this option. Simply Google, “Custom stamps in {your country}” and you’ll find a service to do it.

Hilarious, but also different and interesting and is a talking point.

Exhibit B: Bottle of wine, tickets to sports events, and restaurant meals

If your client loves wine, then your bottle is probably not going to be a special one. Even then, it’ll probably be emptied and forgotten about soon after. If your client doesn’t care about wine, you can bet that it’ll be re-gifted. In fact, pretty much any kind of consumables, including food baskets, wine, liquor, and so on, or “experiences” (e.g., tickets to sporting events and restaurant meals) are just as bad.

The best gifts for clients are those that can be used over and over again

To stop giving terrible gifts, first consider gifts as a marketing expense. That way, when you think about gifts, you think about it in marketing terms. Typically, you might measure something called Cost Per Impression (CPI), and if you think of your gift in terms of CPI, your goal would be to maximize the number of impressions per dollar spent on marketing. Let’s use a consumable or “experience” as an example.

Let’s say you got your client tickets to a baseball game and they cost you $50. They go to the game and have a ball, great; your $50 was spent on a single impression. Not really worth it in those terms.

Compare that to gifts that can be appreciated and used over and over again. To illustrate what I mean, I love to use this example from Benjamin Pickard, the owner of Lean Strong Fitness in Canada.

Instead of buying coffee for his clients who love the sweet nectar, he got his clients–a husband and wife team–a pair of matching, customized espresso cups that say: Fuelling Karen’s Deadlift and Fuelling Steve’s Deadlift.

The perfect client gift – Keep on fuelling those deadlifts, Ben!

These were perfect gifts because a great gift has a few elements:

1. It’s personal and meaningful. Don’t give somebody something with your company’s logo on it. Put their name on it.

2. It maximizes impressions. A coffee mug from Benjamin’s example is used every day, meaning you’re thought of every day.

3. It relates somehow to the service that you provide. This part is optional, but if you can do it, even better. Again, Ben nailed it with the espresso mugs. Water bottles are great, too.

4. It’s “best in class”. Generally, we value “best in class” over cost. Favor items that cost comparatively low amounts of money and that most people don’t have a really great quality version of. A water bottle, for example, is an item that almost everybody has, but almost nobody has a really high-quality one. You can get a crappy plastic bottle for a few bucks, or a beautiful, sturdy, triple-insulated, customized one for $50-$60. A $50 water bottle is going to immediately replace your client’s crappy plastic one and be used every day. Knives, mugs, and welcome doormats are a few more examples of things that most people have but probably aren’t very high-quality.

Additionally, here are a few more examples of stuff that I’ve sent out:

Marc-Jason Locquiao, owner of Redline Conditioning in Vancouver, and a student of the Online Trainer Academy, a certification course for online personal trainers. I sent these top-of-the-line, triple-insulated flasks as a surprise to all students of the Academy a few weeks after purchase.

I recognize that I put the course name on the bottle and not each person’s name, thereby not following my own rules. But I sent out 1,000 bottles all around the world and it would have been cost-prohibitive to individualize each one.


A welcome mat I sent to my art director, Grace, and her husband, Austin, because it’s hilarious and I knew that they would love it. Welcome mats are great because you step on it every time that you enter or leave your house. This one is custom on Etsy.

A custom knife I had sent to a Facebook friend of mine randomly because she posted that she had had a rough string of luck. The note reads, “Sorry about the break-in, but hope that this helps you cut away the negative thoughts. Keep being awesome and “carving out” your little slice of heaven.” And the engraving on the knife says, “Handcrafted exclusively for Melissa and Andrew Wilson.”


It’s the small details that make a big difference.

Do things for the long haul. If you want to keep your clients longer, you need to build a strong relationship with them. This doesn’t happen overnight.

Clients may come for the training, but they’ll stay for you, their coach, and the strength of your bond.

Build this bond by respecting the small details: how you become a part of your clients’ life, how you stand, how you empathize, how you make them laugh, and how you give meaningful gifts– it’s the small details that count.

Note: A big thank you to John Ruhlin who, through conversations and his book Giftology, helped me better understand what it really means to give a great gift. Many of the ideas in this article stem from his teachings.

To learn more from Jon and you can sign up for The Online Trainer Academy, a certification course for online personal trainers.

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