The theme of this week's holiday is also the theme to a successful career. By Katie Jansen (VP of Corporate Marketing, AppLovin) Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays because it makes me reflect on the many things that I’m grateful for and ushers in an entire season of generosity. The holidays infuse work, too. It’s always nice to see your colleagues in the slightly different light of celebration. There’s a harmful myth that you need to be self-centered to get ahead in business. While you can’t focus on trying to be liked all the time, showing generosity and being nice to others can have a positive impact on your career. Getting ahead shouldn’t be the reason you do it, but I do want to dispel the myth that being kind or generous is a sign of weakness. A generous spirit can do wonders for your business and even your career. Here’s why: Generosity demonstrates to others your values and makes people want to reciprocate. People like receiving gifts. It makes them feel good. And when they get those warm fuzzies from you, they’ll associate other good things with you. That goes a long way in business by building rapport and trust. Back when I ran a marketing firm, I always sent a gift to anyone who referred me business, whether that business closed or not. If someone took the time to recommend my company and that referral reached me, I always acknowledged it with a nice box of chocolates, a bottle of wine or even just a handwritten thank you note. It always surprised me how thrilled people were that I took the time to acknowledge the referral. The simple act of showing appreciation started a flywheel effect that got us more and more referrals -- almost more than I could keep up with. One of those referrers explained it to me over drinks one night: “It’s not so much the gift itself, but that you think to send one at all. You take the time to show you were grateful for the recommendation I made, and that indicates to me that you will have the same caring and respectful approach with the referrals I send your way.” He added that a gift shows him that someone is the kind of person he wants to do business with.
The Right Gift Reflects Well on Your Brand
My mother is a helpful and strong woman, and she taught me that if you’re going to give a gift (of any kind), make sure it’s a good one. I learned from her that “good” in this context doesn’t necessarily mean expensive; it just means that you put effort into pairing the gift with the person. It might take some time to figure out what people could like, but it’s worth it and sends a very positive message about your brand. It always means a lot to me when people give me gifts that they know I will genuinely enjoy, like a nice bottle of wine or a well-selected cheese basket. So I put thought into not what’s the most expensive, but hits the right note in terms of who the person is and what they value. But great gifts don’t just reflect well on business brands; they also reflect well on your personal brand. I once met with a woman to discuss her career goals. Afterwards, she sent me a basket of granola as a thank you. She remembered that somewhere in our conversation, I had mentioned that I like granola. I loved the gift and was impressed that she took the time to thank me in such a thoughtful, perceptive way -- in effect, she communicated her personal “brand.” I now mentor this woman, and one of the reasons is because that gift demonstrated to me that she listened and that our conversation was valuable to her.
Gifting is a Good Way to Reconnect or Stay Connected
In many professions, networking and staying in touch is crucial. Gift giving is a great way to do so. I’ve always tried to keep track of meaningful times in customers’ and partners’ lives, like a new baby or getting married. And of course the holidays are great for marking the end of a good business year and the beginning of a new one. It’s also a good idea to celebrate business milestones, like closing a deal, meeting a goal or delivering on hard-to-reach results. At AppLovin, we make recognizing these moments with gifts a priority. Our sales team is tapped into our customers, and every year we pick thoughtful holiday gifts for them such as macaroons, whiskey or nice chocolates. Many of our customers reach out and and reconnect in return, and that feels good -- and helps solidify our relationship. With the holiday season approaching, now is a great time to think about gift giving. No matter what the context, gifts show that you care -- a good thing in and of itself -- and because showing that you care is an important business and career strategy.
When you’re choosing a gift for a colleague, customer or partner, think about what they would really appreciate. Before it’s too late, start thinking about how you can show your appreciation and gratitude toward people with whom you do business. Thoughtful gifts deliver a better ROI than almost anything else in business.
About the guest blogger: Katie Jansen is the VP of Corporate Marketing at AppLovin, a marketing automation and analytics platform for brands that want to reach their consumers on mobile. She was the company's first marketing hire in 2012 when it had 15 employees. Today, the company has more than 90 employees, was named #8 on Forbes' America's Most Promising Companies and is on track to surpass $200 million in revenue this year. Business Insider named Katie one of the most powerful women in mobile advertising in 2014.