Ruthanne Terrero
On Location: Ruthanne Terrero at the Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay. Watch for her report in a future issue of Luxury Travel Advisor.

Do you have a roster of thank you gifts that you regularly give to your clients when they’re traveling? Say, a bowl of fruit in their room on arrival? Fancy luggage tags, perhaps? Now ask yourselves, “Do my clients really want these gifts or am I just going through the motions here?”

Case in point: I order goods from PetMeds in large quantities so that I will qualify for the free shipping deal. That makes me a good customer in its eyes. At first, the little “thank you” that PetMeds included in the shipment was a package of catnip, which I’m not fond of because it can make even very good cats act very weird. But after a while, the bonus in each delivery was a giant dog biscuit. At first I was amused because there’s nothing more entertaining than putting a giant dog biscuit in front of a cat that sniffs it and then walks away completely disinterested. But when I received a bonus dog biscuit for the fourth time recently, I wondered why whoever was putting the package together didn’t connect the fact that everything else in the box was, indeed, for a cat.

PetMeds has another funny sort of “fail” thing going on. It sends promotional e-mails to me that are addressed to Bambi (my cat). Cute, right? Only thing is, because I once described her as “multicolored” in a questionnaire, PetMeds now inserts a photo of a multicolored cat into my promos and the cat looks nothing like mine. I wouldn’t mind, really, but so certain is it of its custom-marketing prowess, it even puts a caption under the photo that says “Bambi.” I have to tell you, on a bad day, it tends to catch me off guard.

The point is that all of these efforts are meant to be good things that are completely missing their mark.

Are you doing the same thing with your client promotions? Particularly when selling luxury, it’s vital that your one-to-one marketing efforts hit their targets directly, or else they’re a waste of time.

Consider the clients who get the very nice luggage tags from you each time they take a trip. How many sets have you sent them by now? Do you know that they have the same junk drawer at home that we all have that’s brimming with things that are useless but too good to throw away? That’s where those luggage tags are going. The same is true for fancy trip document jackets that get redundant after the fifth time you’ve received them and don’t even get me started on the standard bowl of fruit in a hotel room or cruise stateroom that often is sent as a welcome gift. People don’t eat waxy fruit at home and they’re not about to start eating it in some strange place just because you’re trying to indicate that you appreciate their business.

If you want to do something extra for your clients, you’ve got to ask them questions and then listen to their answers. Do they like wine? What kind? Don’t waste your money sending Bordeaux when they’re just mad about Napa cabernet.

The gifts that will wow your clients are those that will set them apart from others on a trip or catch them off guard in a good, “wow” kind of a way. Have you set up dinner reservations for them at a super luxe hotel? Secretly request that the hotel’s house car—which happens to be a Maybach, rather than a mere cab—whisks them off to the restaurant. Take the time to arrange similar other good surprises on their itinerary but ensure that you know enough about their preferences to make your gestures count. The last thing you want is for them to be muttering, “Oh, I’m sure he/she meant well” as they’re staring at your misguided gift. Trust me, I’ve been there. It’s like looking at a giant dog biscuit thrown into a box of cat vitamins. And that gets old quickly.