Are closing gifts an accepted part of the loan transaction or an unnecessary expense? Many loan originators devote a great deal of attention to the type of appreciation gifts they give to new customers after their loan has closed. They believe that it is another step in establishing a long-term relationship with borrowers.
Examples of popular gifts have included:
- Bobblehead doll (www.bobblefactory.com)
- Custom-made toolkit in canvas bag (www.ataly.com)
- Fire extinguisher in colorful bag
- Homeowner’s Book of Records, which includes sections for new home information
- Photo of new home imprinted on coffee cups or blanket (can be ordered through many grocery store film departments)
Ken Jones and Matt Elerding wanted to make sure their closing gifts were especially memorable. Jones, Blue Oak Mortgage in Santa Rosa, Calif., was looking for a gift that people would use on a regular basis. A quality packaged bottle of olive oil was the answer. “We developed a private label olive oil package in a nice bottle with label that has our name, logo and other information,” he said. They researched oil/packaging companies and were fortunate to find one in their local area.
“It’s a great closing gift because it’s a little different,” he said. “People in our market are accustomed to wine bottles (which not all people prefer) and other things.”
Jones added that the olive oil has a longer “shelf life” than other flowers, food baskets and other items. “It is a taller bottle and is better suited for a dining table or counter, where it will stay for months,” he noted. “People use it in cooking, as a bread dip and other ways and they continue to think of us. Our customers are very happy to receive it and we get great comments.”
Elerding, The Elerding Team, Vancouver, Wash., has used a variety of closing gifts in the past, including store gift cards, flower bouquets and gift baskets. “My previous gifts just weren’t as effective as I wanted,” he said. He began evaluating gift ideas that were more personal, which customers would appreciate for a longer period of time. Elerding decided that everyone likes good music. He developed an annual Classical Music CD for new customers, past clients and others. “The CD started as a simple collection of 18 of my favorite classical pieces; Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata, Chopin’s Minute Waltz, a handful of Rachmaninoff Preludes, a Liszt Concerto and a hauntingly beautiful piece by Erik Satie titled Gymnopedie – just to name a few.” He has since added a series of other CDs, which he said are relatively simple to create.
Elerding added that “The response to this music has been overwhelming. I have received calls from people asking if they can get a copy of one of the CDs.”
Elerding shared a few tips for selecting a closing/other gift:
- Cost – “Is the cost (based on the commission received) consistent? As a general ‘rule of thumb’ I like to earmark approximately five percent of my gross commission to recognize the client. This may seem like a healthy investment but the return on investment is often immeasurable.”
- Replication – “You need to be able to replicate the gift(s). In other words, am I going to have to reinvent the wheel each time I send out a gift or some symbol of recognition? My goal is to have equal parts ‘personal feel’ and ‘easily duplicated.’
- Adding Personality – “Is the gift ‘me’?” It is important that the gift, in some small way, be a reflection of who I am as a person. Anyone can give a gift card to Home Depot, but there is something unique and special about a classical music CD that has a selection of my personal favorites as well as a short little write-up on the CD explaining why the music is important to me and why I have included these particular pieces.
- Shelf Life— “Is it going to stick around? A tin of cookies will be devoured in mere hours. A Home Depot card will get used on some random and ‘un-unique’ household items. Flowers wither and die. But a CD – even if they don’t actually listen to it – gets plopped on to the shelf with the other CDs and my name, phone number and e-mail are predominantly displayed on the binding of the jewel case, which will be forever in their home.”
“In short, I think closing gifts need to be considered an investment for your future business. I think they need to be easily replicated. It is critical that the gift is a reflection of who you are as a person. And I think the gift needs to be something that is going to be ‘hanging around’ their house or office for years to come.”