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Why a business gift can lose you a customer…

By Dave Stevens

I’ve just engaged a supplier organisation to provide some good marketing training to my troops.  I’m really excited about getting this supplier on board – they’re bright, creative, and seem to be fun to work with.  It took me an age to find them – but the wait seems to have been worth it.

I’ve met the supplier on a couple of occasions, connected with the account leads on LinkedIn, exchanged business cards, held a couple of introductory meetings.  Things seem to be going well.

I arrived into the office last Wednesday to find that the supplier had sent me a welcome gift.  I didn’t have time to study the parcel but I saw the label of the sender and noted that it was bottle of wine-sized and shaped like a bottle of wine in a box and it was well-wrapped as if it contained glass.  It was probably a bottle of wine.

To be honest, I’m not one for supplier gifts.  The proof of a decent supplier lies in how they do on the task you’ve set them not in how many presents they can send you in an attempt to buy future custom.  But hey I won’t quibble with a bottle of wine.  Nice thought.  Yes, I probably felt some kind things about the supplier that Wednesday.

And I got on with my day.

Hours pass.  The sun sets.  Meetings end.  I get back to my desk.  And finally I get to open my parcel.

I pick it up and immediately notice my mistake.  It’s too light to be a bottle of wine.  It turns out to be a green plastic phone hand-set made in China that I can connect to my smartphone head-set socket.  So no real practical use then.  Probably intended to be quirky.  But any sense of quirkiness is just overwhelmed by my sense of disappointment that the gift could have been something more!

So as a welcome gift – this has back-fired for the supplier.  I’m now questioning whether this supplier was the right choice for the job after all.  Doubt has crept in.  If they can get something like this wrong, then what else?

A word to marketers who offer such gifts then.  Think through the full customer experience of your gift-sending to your target audience before sending out your welcome gift.  You might just be investing to lose your customer’s loyalty.

Categories: b2b marketing marketing Uncategorized

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Dave is an experienced global B2B Chief Marketing Officer / Marketing Director with an established reputation for delivering commercial results in start-up, mid-tier, and blue-chip businesses across technology, and business services and professional services sectors.

Dave has worked for major brands such as Telefonica O2, EY, and Barclays and held posts from Chief Marketing Officer to Director of Online, has run his own business, and managed a P&L for a major corporate. He is chair and co-founder of the Business Marketing Club ( - a network of B2B marketers. In 2019, he was named one of the top 100 B2B European marketing leaders ( He is a graduate of Cambridge University, a Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) Chartered Marketer and holds a MBA with Imperial College, London. Dave is a keen cyclist and adventure traveller, is married, and lives in Buckinghamshire. You can read his blogs at

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