Creative Gift Ideas: Giving Memories Rather Than Things

From the time I was a little kid, I’ve always loved to give people gifts. The fun part is thinking of something that will speak to the individual person and make them feel special.

As a passionate gift giver, I’ve noticed some not-so-subtle changes in our society in the realm of giving and receiving gifts.

  • Many people just buy what they want when they want it, so they don’t have a list of gift suggestions for themselves when their birthday or Christmas comes around.
  • Lots of folks are so busy attending to the needs of others (kids, spouses, work, family activities) that they have gotten out of the habit of considering what they would enjoy for themselves.
  • Many kids and families already have an overabundance of games and toys and adding a new one to the mix can be anti-climactic.
  • People are relying a lot on gift cards nowadays. There’s nothing wrong with a gift card to a person’s favorite store, but it’s not the most personal of gifts, especially for those who you’re really close to.

I’ve done a shift in my own gift giving in recent years steering away from buying products and more towards giving gifts that create memories. Here are some of my favorite ideas…

 

For a friend or family member (either a kid or an adult) in the same city as you:

1 – Give a “free babysitting” coupon.

You can make this yourself with some cute paper. There are lots of paper and cardstock options at crafts stores, or you could simply do a printout from your computer. Be sure to put your email address and your phone number on the card, as an easy reference for the recipient of this valuable gift.

The photo above is a “free babysitting for a year” coupon I gave to a friend. I had the homemade coupon laminated and put magnets on the back so that she could put it on her refrigerator and be reminded that she had some free babysitting coming to her.

2 – Take them out to their favorite restaurant–let them choose.

Gabi-bday-letter1 Especially with kids, getting to go out to a restaurant with someone who is not their parent is a big deal. It makes them feel special.

Adults love this too–how many times does someone tell you how much they want to spend time with you and share a meal with you? It means a lot!

Something interesting–when a person feels like they have your undivided attention and that you truly enjoy their company, they loosen up. Even if you’ve known this person for years, you will likely end up learning more about them, what they love, what’s happening in their life, what their secret hopes and dreams are.

3 – Give her a “day of beauty”. 

Rosie-birthday-letter This is especially good for anyone who is a mother, as mom’s can sometimes forget about pampering themselves and they need someone else to do it for them.

It can be as simple as the two of you going to get pedicures and then out to lunch.

4 – For a kid, take them out to the movies and for ice cream. 

Especially if a kid is part of a big family, it can be a really special experience to get to spend time as the center of attention with no parents or siblings in sight.

5 – Give them a homemade dinner. 

My sister-in-law has 4 kids and is super busy. I know that it would mean a lot to her to have one day when she could put a homemade meal on the table that she didn’t have to cook.

So, that is what I’m giving her for Christmas–she’ll receive a certificate that is good for one meal for 6. She gets to choose the date. On the special day, I’ll make them dinner and dessert, deliver it to them, and then leave them to enjoy it.

For friends, family, and clients who live far away from you…

1 – Make a care package.

Fotolia_29653252_Subscription_XL Remember when people used to send these? You’ve got someone who is far away from you and is perhaps missing you or just having a challenging time where they are.

You put some comforting items together in a box and send it to the person.

They receive the package, open it up and they experience an instant virtual hug!

A few days ago I made one of these for my sister who lives across the country from me. She’s pregnant with her first child, and she’s going through all the discomforts that pregnant women go through.

I knew that a care package would immediately lift her spirits and encourage her from afar. Here’s what I included in the box:

  • Homemade Orange Almond Biscotti
  • Homemade Chocolate Chip Cookies (just the recipe on the Toll House Chocolate Chips bag–delish!)
  • Some mini boxes of Fruit Loops cereal (I’ve heard they’re good for those times when you need to eat but don’t feel like it)
  • Some aloe infused socks–the softest socks I’ve ever felt in my life! (Found those in Walmart, in the Pharmacy dept)
  • This baby food cookbook–she had mentioned that she was thinking of making her own baby food, so I thought the cookbook would be fun for her.

2 – Give them tickets to something that they would enjoy.

These could be tickets to a sporting event, a play or concert, Cirque du Soleil (always interesting!), or anything that is in their general vicinity that would be a treat for them.

3 – Send them luxury food.

I’ve noticed that the men I know love to receive steaks and knives. I use Omaha Steaks. You pick the cut and the amount.

Williams Sonoma also has great food gift items. Their chocolate croissants are yummmm! I’ve given them to several people. This is truly a luxury gift that the foodie in your life will appreciate for many months.

Edible Arrangements is also great–even if a person is not all into fruit, they will be when they receive one of these gorgeous fruit bouquets.

For all food gifts, check that your recipient will be in town when the gift arrives and be sure to alert them to  the date when the goods will be arriving.

These are food distributors in the US, but you can probably find similar ones in your country by searching online.

4 – Give a living gift (tree, shrub, rose bush, etc).

Fotolia_22198451_XS This is great for gardeners. They plant the tree or shrub, and they get to enjoy it year after year. Whenever they see the beautiful blooms or leaves, they will remember how much you care for them.

You can order trees and shrubs online and have them sent pretty much anywhere.

5 – Visit the person or go on a trip together. 

What gift is more special than your time and undivided attention? It may seem extravagant, but it’s worth it. There are people in our lives that we really want to spend more time with, but unless we arrange to spend time with them another year will go by. A personal visit to a far away friend or family member is really the best gift of all.

I hope these gift ideas were helpful to you! The next time you need to give a gift, think about giving one that will create a cherished memory.

Can you think of any other creative gift ideas?

What is the most memorable gift you’ve ever received?

Great Testimonials: 5 Easy Way To Get Heartfelt Feedback From Clients & Customers

When you offer a product or service online, testimonials are crucial to winning the trust of potential customers and clients.

You may wonder, how can I get some great testimonials for my website?

Obviousy, the first thing you need to do is provide excellent services that your clients/customers are happy with. You need to have been working with them long enough that they’re qualified to speak about you and your work.

After that, it’s pretty simple. Here are a few things you can do to get a great testimonial:

1 – Any time a client or customer gives you a glowing compliment on something, ask if you can use it as a testimonial.

These are the best types of testimonials–someone decides on their own to tell you how much they appreciate you. When you get one of these, express your thanks and ask if they would mind if you used their kind comments as a testimonial.

2 – Ask your clients if they’re satisfied with your services.

I do this in the form of a 6 month check-in that I send to the client. I give a reminder of the things that the client initially told me were his top goals to be accomplished as the result of us working together, and I ask how we’re doing on those. I also ask the client if he has any new goals that have come up.

This gives the opportunity for my client to address those specific issues and give natural feedback. The response is usually testimonial-worthy.

3 – Give your client or customer a testimonial. What?!

I know, this one is weird–usually the service provider is the one who requests feedback and receives testimonials.

If you are working in a one-on-one relationship with your client/customer (if you know them well and have a lot of contact with them), then why not send your client a message telling him or her how much you enjoy working with them, how you have benefited from working with them, the things you’ve learned from them, and whatever you’ve noticed about the client or the business that makes working with them an excellent experience?

All of this is heartfelt–you’re doing this because you are truly grateful to be working with them, and you want to show your appreciation.

I’ve only done this one time–one evening when I was contemplating how much I enjoy the work I do with a particular client, I felt compelled to write and tell him. I thought, “Why should I always soak up the praise and not give it back in equal dose?”

I honestly didn’t know what to expect–I had hoped that the message would be encouraging and make him feel good. After all, when you’re a small business owner, there are few people who really know the progress that you’re making in your business, or the behind-the-scenes victories that no one from the outside would ever find out about. I really just wanted to give back some of what had been given to me and express appreciation and encouragement.

I was thrilled to see the response–I was really touched by the appreciative reply.

Is there anything better than making someone feel good about something that means a lot ot them?

It’s really priceless–whether you’re working virtually or in a traditional setting, people at all levels of the business (business owners, support people, etc), like to know that what they’re doing is making a difference, that it’s noticed and appreciated, and that each day is more than just “business as usual”.

I noticed in that heartfelt reply from my client some spontaneous comments that would be excellent as part of a testimonial. It wasn’t the goal of the encouraging note I sent, but it turned out to be a natural side effect.

4 – Create an online place where your customers/clients can gush over you.

A lot of these ideas here I’ve stumbled across by accident, including this one.

We had made a Squidoo lens providing educational info about my client’s niche. This lens (a “lens” is basically a web page) was really thorough, thoughtful, colorful and interative. We thought it was amazing–it’s one of the best I’ve ever seen.

My client sent an email to his newsletter list asking them to leave a comment on the Squidoo lens saying what they thought of it.

The result was astounding–people left comments, but not about the lens. They gushed over how they loved my client’s service, and how happy they were with the results. Suddenly that informational Squidoo lens became a main testimonial page of spontaneous comments left by happy customers!

5 – Directly ask for a testimonial.

This the least natural way to get a testimonial, but it still works. Be sure to ask specific questions that you’d like your client/customer to address. Keep the list of questions short–maybe 3 or so.

Giving Naturally Leads To Getting

Here’s one thing I’ve noticed:

The best testimonials are not the ones you ask for. They’re the ones that are given naturally, someone just telling you how pleased and impressed they are with you or your service.

So, one thing to think about is that it’s not really about trying to get a testimonial out of someone–if they’re happy with your service, then they’ll likely want to talk about it.

  1. Your job is to do excellent work, going above and beyond what is expected.
  2. Then, keep an eye out for any compliments that naturally flow your way. Thank the giver, and ask if you can use their feedback as a testimonial.
  3. Be a giver, and you’ll likely get a lot back. Give excellent work and service, give educational info or any type of info that will help your clients/customers, show your appreciation to clients and customers, and they will probably reciprocate naturally.

What about you:

How have you collected testimonials?

Do you have any special tips to add?