A few days ago I talked a little bit about rewarding referrals with gifts or some other sort of acknowledgment. Of course, the point I wanted to make was that these were gifts only if they weren’t required or expected. That being said, what sort of things could we use for gifts or rewards and how much should we spend? Let’s tackle that second question first.

Thinking back, it’s been my experience that on those occasions where I’ve felt truly thanked, the value of the gift was around one percent of the monetary value of the referral — more or less.Of course, it’s often the case that the more time and effort we put into selecting a gift especially appropriate for the recipient, the less actual money we need to spend. We can see this in our personal lives as well. If we find that signed first edition of the book that Aunt Sally has been looking for, it doesn’t matter if it only costs $10. If we end up buying her a gift card for the local bookstore, we feel cheap if it’s for less than $50.

Same rule applies in networking.

Now as to some ideas for actual items, these are some that I’ve seen given, I’ve received, or I’ve given myself.

  • Food. OK, let’s face it. Food almost always works, provided you know what the other person likes. It also has the benefit of not cluttering up their office and depending on your food purveyor, you can usually find gifts that range from $10 to $1000.
  • Books. Especially if you’ve discussed a particular one or recommended it to them. Of course, business book are always nice, but if you discover that they have a particular passion (especially one that you share) finding a book on that subject will tell them that you really were thinking about them.
  • Tickets. Concerts, movies, plays, etc. Again, especially if you have a mutual interest in some area, that’s a perfect gift to reward and thank them for their help.
  • Travel. Depending on the size of the referral, this might be an appropriate level of appreciation. I’ve actually been on the receiving end of this one. Very nice!
  • Clothing. Jackets, shirts, scarves. Do be careful with this one. If you don’t know what size they are, this gift can end up backfiring if you have to guess. Unless you know them well, stick to items that don’t have sizes.
  • Time. Sometimes the best way to say thank you is just to spend time with them. Treat them to coffee or lunch. Catch up on what’s going on in their life.

Whatever gift you do decide to give, no matter how much you actually spend, don’t go cheap. Pay attention to presentation and quality. Nice wrapping paper can make even a plain gift into something special. Remember, you want them to think of you every time they see or think about your gift. If you go cheap, that’s how you’ll be remembered.

Photo credit: Nataly Aks