December 14, 2022

Sabir x John Ruhlin


John Ruhlin is the man behind Giftology, a game-changing gift marketing strategy that countless entrepreneurs have utilized to accelerate business growth. It’s a strategy that maximizes client relationships to build loyalty.

Some of the most important characteristics of this approach include:

  • Give True Value: Gift marketing isn’t about printing thousands of branded t-shirts and giving them away for free. Your gifts must have meaning. They must be unique. They don’t have to be expensive, but they should make the recipient stop and think.
  • Give at the Right Time: Don’t give a gift just because it’s Christmas. That’s what everyone does. It’s to be expected, and gift marketing is most effective when it’s not expected.
  • Don’t Look for Shortcuts: Although you don’t need to spend a lot of money, you also shouldn’t be looking for cheap shortcuts that lose all meaning. As the saying goes, it’s the thought that counts, and if it’s obvious that you didn’t think much about it, your gift won’t have the desired impact.
  • It Works for Everyone: Big brands can afford expensive and meaningful gifts, but you don’t need to match them as a small business. It’s all about being creative and finding a way to make that impact without blowing your budget.

If you have yet to utilize gift marketing, now is the perfect time to start. John Ruhlin guarantees that if you follow the methods for 3 years, and you fully commit to the ideology, you will experience 10x growth.

How To Use The Giftology Method

John Ruhlin is the creator of the Giftology system, a “gift marketing” strategy that uses thought-provoking and impactful gifts to produce long-lasting and profitable client relationships.

It plays into something that businesses have known for a long time, which is that if you give your clients a gift, they will appreciate you more and eventually spend more money. But it takes things to another level, using those gifts to create 10x and even higher growth for businesses, executives, and professionals in all walks of life.

I invited John Ruhlin to speak on This Week With Sabir, where we spoke about the Giftology method and highlighted the benefits and strategies.

You can watch our discussion on YouTube and in this blog. For more information on how Giftology works and why gift marketing is so effective, check out this accompanying guide.

How Does Gift Marketing Work?

Gift marketing is incredibly effective, and any experienced business owner and entrepreneur will tell you that. To people on the outside, as well as those who have only just launched their business, it seems like a massive waste of money.

After all, how can you possibly benefit from giving someone free gifts?

It’s all about catching their attention.

Every entrepreneur and every business is inundated with scores of emails on a daily basis.

As an example, a friend of mine runs a small business with his wife. They are the only two people in the business, it’s a part-time endeavor, and they run it from their own home. A couple of years ago, not long after it launched, he told me that he was getting about 5 orders a day and just 1 or 2 customer emails a week.

However, he was also receiving over 50 weekly emails from SEO agencies, marketers, suppliers, advertising agencies, and companies selling ad space.

It’s a very small business. So, imagine what goes through the inbox of a company that generates millions of dollars in annual sales.

Emails, phone calls, snail mail—it doesn’t matter how you do it, your message just isn’t getting through.

But if they find a glittering gift among all of the flyers, junk mail, catalogs, and other nonsense, it will stand out, they’ll pay attention to it, and they will remember who sent it.

You’re not necessarily trying to get their business there and then. In fact, most of the Giftology method revolves around targeting existing clients. The goal is just to make an impact and ensure they remember you.

Every day, we are bombarded with ads for different companies and individuals. I recently watched an hour-long podcast, and I saw 5 different ads from 5 different “experts” (dropshippers, SEO gurus, LinkedIn experts). I won’t remember any of them tomorrow. I don’t even remember them now.

The same is true for the people who email me, DM me, and even send me snail mail.

But the guy who sends me a handwritten note along with a box of cupcakes that I enjoy with my family will be remembered today, tomorrow, and maybe even 6 months from now.

Gift marketing is all about rising above the noise. And trust me, in the world of business, there is a lot of noise.

How Can You Make Gift Marketing Work For You?

Now that we know what gift marketing is and why it’s so important, let’s look at some of the ways we can make it work.

Here are some of the tips and strategies discussed by John Ruhlin:

Give Something Of Value

In an episode of The Office that I watched recently, Andy tries to win favor with a prospective client by handing over his card and saying, “This is my private number”, only for the client to tell him, “But every salesman gives me their private number”.

It’s a similar story with gift marketing.

You’re not the only one who has an idea to give a gift. It might seem like an impactful idea to you now, but 100s of others are trying to make the same impact in the same way.

So, simply giving the first thing that comes to mind won’t suffice.

By much the same token, your branded keyring, cup, or t-shirt won’t work.

When was the last time you proudly wore a t-shirt with the name of a company that has nothing to do with fashion? Sure, these t-shirts get used, but only if they’re the right size (which they rarely are) and usually only for “dirty” tasks, such as gardening or painting.

As for the keyrings, cups, and other gift items you can buy in their thousands from China, it’s junk.

Nobody needs more junk and nobody will thank you for adding to their growing pile of useless stuff.

It’s about being unique. You need to stand out and provide true value.

John Ruhlin recommends giving something that will impress the recipient’s family. That way, not only will it impact their lives, but it will be remembered by their partner and/or kids.

Think about it this way—your client probably gets gifts every day and so they don’t care, but how many gifts do they receive for their wife or husband?

A couple of years ago, I worked with a bakery that made amazing cakes and treats. A few months after the job began, I wanted to give my clients gifts and so I ordered items from that bakery.

Not only were my clients impressed, but I received numerous messages of thanks from their spouses and children. It was a win-win for me, as several of those spouses were celebrities and influencers with huge followings.

That’s the kind of impact you need, and when you get it right, the benefits are worth more than even the most efficient of Google Ads campaigns.

It’s Not Just About Money

While it’s important to provide a lot of value when giving a gift, that doesn’t simply equate to buying a big-ticket item.

Let’s use alcohol gifts as an example.

On the one hand, you could send a $500 bottle of wine. It’s expensive. It’s a luxury gift. But what if that person doesn’t drink? What if they know nothing about wine? What if they hate wine?

You may offend them. They may even ignore it on the assumption that it’s only worth a few bucks. Imagine sending a rare $500 bottle of wine to someone who dismisses it as cheap junk and gives it to their secretary to make sangria.

On the other hand, you could learn more about them, discover that they were raised in the highlands of Scotland and love Scotch whisky, and buy them a $50 bottle from a distillery near to where they grew up.

The latter has a far greater impact. It shows that you did your homework. It will be remembered. It also costs you 10x less.

John used an example of a premium hotel that remembers a guest’s favorite chocolate and leaves it in the room. They spend a few bucks, no more, but it has that personal connection that will be appreciated. Ironically, it would probably have more impact than an expensive bottle of Champagne.

For more information on thoughtful gift-giving, check out my discussion with Stu Heinecke, an author and cartoonist who gives prospective clients original comic sketches that feature aspects of their personality and career.

Give At The Right Time

Everyone expects gifts at Christmas, and they are also common during Easter, Thanksgiving, and other major holidays.

If you save your gifts for these holidays, they won’t have the same impact.

It’s like buying the biggest and most expensive gift at a wedding. Sure, it will be appreciated, but by the time they’ve opened all the other presents and considered everything, they won’t remember who gave them what.

A Christmas gift feels more like an obligation, and that’s not how you make yourself memorable.

What About Niche Brands?

What can you offer if you run a niche brand or offer a niche service?

During my discussion with John Ruhlin, we used the example of a colorectal surgeon.

It’s a highly specialized job, and while you want to give a relevant gift, that’s not easy to do.

What you shouldn’t do is offer some kind of freebie or discount, such as a free examination. It will be appreciated, but it feels more transactional.

You won’t be remembered for the same reason you don’t fondly remember a snack just because you got some free bites at the grocery store.

The solution is the same as it is for all other professions. Just choose something personal and impactful. It doesn’t need to be 100% relevant. In this case, you’d probably want to avoid anything unhealthy, as that’s the opposite of what you’re trying to achieve with your profession, but that doesn’t mean you can only give them salad hampers and gym memberships.

When Does Gifting Fail?

Gift marketing can and will go wrong, but it’s not the end of the world when that happens.

John Ruhlin discussed some of these “disasters” during the show.

He noted that one of the most common mistakes occurs when someone gets the gift but doesn’t receive the note. As you might expect, it’s a little strange. Suddenly you have something that is expensive and personalized, but there’s no note to say who it’s from.

You’ll probably think you’re being stalked.

He also spoke about times when he sent gifts to companies being investigated for fraud, adding fuel to the fire. On other occasions, the gifts have been misconstrued as a bribe.

When you’re doing something unique and memorable, there will be times when people are confused and it just doesn’t hit. There’s a risk, but you can also turn many of them around.

Ruhlin spoke about a time when he sent an engraved set of knives but inadvertently used the name of the client’s ex-wife. To fix the issue, he sent a gift that was worth three times as much and featured the name of the new wife.

As a result, it turned from a negative to a positive.

You can also avoid some issues by practicing caution and doing your research.

Avoid companies that aren’t allowed to accept gifts due to the potential for bribery. Check for existing investigations. And don’t send a highly personalized gift that involves young family members if the client doesn’t know you.

It’s good to involve family members, but only when it’s acceptable. Imagine receiving a gift from a stranger that mentions the names and ages of all your children and connects to their likes and dislikes.

You won’t be impressed. You’ll be creeped out. Mentioning kids’ names shows that you’re paying attention when that person is actually a client and has mentioned them previously. Preempting that and being specific without a prior connection is just going to raise a red flag for the recipient.

What If They Can’t Receive A Gift?

Some companies can’t accept gifts or meals, as they deal with sensitive clients and such offers may be seen as bribes.

When that’s the case, send a quality hand-written note and impact them in a different way. There’s always something they can accept and a way that you can reach them.

John Ruhlin spoke about his stationery and noted that he uses “steel” sheets. They cost about $10 a sheet, so they are expensive compared to paper but cheap compared to luxury gifts. Add a thoughtful message and get the delivery right, and you have something that can be just as impactful as a meal or gift.

What About Cheaper Shortcuts?

Small business owners don’t have lots of capital and can’t devote the funds needed for luxury gifts.

But you don’t need to spend a lot of money to make gift marketing work.

Perspective is key. You just need to reframe your approach.

How much do you spend on marketing? How much money are you spending on trying to acquire new customers or encourage repeat purchases from existing ones?

Now, think about how much of that could be spent on gift marketing.

The problem is that you might be seeing it as an optional extra, something that should constitute a fraction of your budget. In fact, the effectiveness of this approach means it can form a large part of your marketing strategy when utilized properly.

Is spending $200 on a single client too much if that client stays for life and spends thousands?

Of course not.

Also, remember that it’s not about money. It’s about value and being thoughtful. Like the hotel that gives guests their favorite chocolate, you don’t have to spend big to make an impact. It’s all about listening to the client, understanding them, and being creative enough to make an impact in their lives.

As an example, I work as a professor at a university and I just finished my first semester. I received a lot of appreciative comments from my students, but I was expecting one of them to give me an apple.

It was a tradition that became a cliché and then a joke. I don’t need an apple. But if I had been given one, I would have found it amusing and I would have remembered the student who gave me it.

That’s all it would have taken to make an impact and be remembered.

It’s not about money. It’s more about creativity. Oftentimes, the best gifts are the cheapest, but they have value in other areas.

The $100,000 Question

You have a marketing plan, finance plan, diet plan, and workout plan…so why not have a relationship plan?

That was John Ruhlin’s response when I asked him for his $100,000 advice.

He recommends finding the people who make your business tick and then going all in to take care of them. Make it about them, don’t look for easy or cheap options. Commit to doing it for three years and see how it works for you.

In his experience, you can expect at least 10x growth, but many companies that have followed his strategies have witnessed far greater growth than that.

About John Ruhlin

John Ruhlin is the world’s leading authority in maximizing customer loyalty through radical generosity. He is the founder and author of Giftology and has been featured in Fox News, Forbes, Fast Company, Inc and New York Times. While becoming the #1 performer out of 1.5 million sales reps for one of the world’s most recognizable brands, John developed a system of using generosity to gain access to elite clients and generate thousands of referrals. He and his firm now help automate this process for individuals and organizations like UBS, Raymond James, DR Horton, Keller Williams, the Chicago Cubs, and Caesar’s Palace. John and the Giftology team can help any individual turn their clients into their own personal sales force to drive exponential growth.

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