EE027 – John Ruhlin – The Art of Gifting

Episode 27 features John Ruhlin the author of a fantastic book called Giftology, the art of gifting in business and how it can win new relationships and maintain your existing relationships.

John Ruhlin is the world’s leading authority in maximising 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 and appeared on podcasts such as Pat Flynn, Lewis Howes and The Art of Charm. While becoming the #1 performer out of 1.5 million sales reps for one of the world’s most recognisable 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 organisations 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.

Some of the topics discussed in this episode:
  • How John won business with The Chicago Cubs by sending them gifts for 6 1/2 years. They eventually reached out to him and led to an amazing story and results for the team, their business and fans
  • Why gifting is the long game
  • The book changed his current relationships as people were really wowed by the contents
  • He is best friends with Hal Elrond, author of “The Miracle Morning“, who was one of the people who helped motivate John to get the book done
  • The 5 year launch for the book that involved doing something book related every week for those 5 years
  • Good gifting leads to active loyalty, which is far better than passive loyalty, but most people don’t even realise they have a loyalty problem
  • Giftology leads to reciprocity. Helps you show your appreciation for business and personal relationships
  • He grew up a farm boy one of 6 kids in Ohio and originally wanted to be a doctor. Got a job selling knives for Cutco pocket knives which changed his life.
  • How a girlfriends dad taught him the power of taking care of the inner circle
  • Many gifts lead to the wrong results, bad ROI and low costs per impression:
    John explains what costs per impression means and the importance of it to you getting future business
    John has gifts he gave 15 years ago that are still giving active loyalty to him and gaining him new business all these years later because of high costs per impression
  • “In business most people do gifting because they’re having an event or its Xmas and they want to check the box and to me thats a waste of money. You’re not gonna get any ROI out of that and it’s a waste of money.”
  • Great advice for speakers and Thought Leaders
  • 80% of budget to take care of 20% of relationships  – for most people 80% of revenue comes from 20% of clients
  • Its not about how much you spend, its about how much value will it give to the people that receive it
  • What gifts should you giveaway at trade shows? Listen to Johns insightful and maybe surprising answer
  • Why women are so much better at giving gifts than men
“In 40 years of business the reason I have more referrals and access and engagement with my relationships is I found out one simple truth; If your take care of the family, in business everything else seems to take care of itself” – this was John’s lightning bolt moment
He still sells millions of dollars worth of knives
The giftology recipe, which is about taking care of the inner circle, people that aren’t able to see the reasons for that aren’t a client John wants to work with, because John knows they won’t get the results that john gets for his customers
Targeted Jeffrey Gitomer – John met him and started sending him monthly gifts for 18 months -all personalised knives with personalised messages until Jeffrey eventually said to him:
“John you’re the most pleasantly persistent mofo. I’m not gonna guarantee anything but if you fly out here I’ll hang out with you for a couple of hours and we’ll see where that leads “ he became a raving fan , interviewed John on his podcast, did videos for him, referred him to his clients and generally endorse him and sends John messages occasionally such as
“It’s 6am and I didn’t even wanna think about you, but I’m using one of your stupid knives to cut up an apple and my girlfriend thinks you’re amazing and keeps talking about you all the time and I feel like I’m sleeping with your sales rep!”
By sending gifts with the clients wife’s initials on them, he got their wives to become a raving fan and won him business. Referrals went up 110% for the clients business and the only that changed was by targeting the inner circles of his clients with personalised gifts.
“Very often the people that win in business are the people that are liked, trusted and top of mind”
Top 10 list of the things to avoid if you want active loyalty: download that paper for free – a course on there called “Referrals without asking”
Exceeding Expectations links:
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How to leave a podcast review: some of the resources above are affiliate links, meaning I get paid a commission (at no extra cost to you) if you use that link to make a purchase. This all helps fund the show costs.


(Transcriptions are done using through a system of artificial intelligence; so every episode contains a few mistakes as AI is not yet perfect for transcribing the human voice. However, it is a very time-consuming process to go through each transcript and correct all the errors. So please accept my apologies for the number of errors, but I hope that these transcripts are useful to you.)

Exceeding Expectations – Episode 27

Tony: This week’s guest is John Ruhlin, author of a really amazing book called Giftology which is all about the art of gifting. Though mostly for business, it does talk about personal relationships as well, but it’s more concentrated on business relationships. How you can win relationships by gifting, how you can maintain your relationships and some of the areas where people tend to go wrong by giving the wrong gifts, which can result in a very bad return on investment and also low cost per impression. If you’re not sure what that means, well, John will be explaining exactly what that is.

We cover a lot of ground in this episode, such as giving some advice on what you can do at trade fairs, wedding fairs, that sort of thing. Some advice for speakers, thought leaders, coaches, why women are so much better at giving gifts than guys are. If you liked this episode, why not pop along to the Facebook group for Exceeding Expectations, pop some questions on there or some thoughts about things that you’ve heard. You could also suggest future guests that you’d love to hear interviewed on this show. That would be great. So, hope you enjoy this episode. Here is John Ruhlin.

This week’s episode of Exceeding Expectations. I’m very excited to have John Ruhlin as my guest. How are you John?

John: I’m fantastic Tony.

Tony: John, for those of you who do not know is the author of an amazing book called Giftology. Well, and it’s not simply called Giftology, because we have to give it its full title. Its Giftology: The Art and Science of Using Gifts to Cut through the Noise, Increase Referrals and Strengthen Retention. That’s got to be the longest title of a book ever, isn’t it?

John: It might be. It very well might. It’s just Giftology. Nobody cares about gifts, everybody cares about what gifts deliver. So, if it was just Giftology, nobody would take notice.

Tony: When did you release the book?

John: It was released about two and a half years ago. That’s when we went live.

Tony: What were your expectations before you actually did release the book?

John: Well, I mean, I really wasn’t sure, I was hopeful that…there’s no other book on how to use gifting, gratitude and generosity as a profit driver in your business as a true competitive advantage. The hope is that it would become the definitive book in the category of … Everybody talks about relationships being their most valuable asset, but nobody really gives a tangible roadmap of how to use…gifting is usually viewed as like swag, trinkets promo, which is the antithesis of what we teach. So I was hopeful that it would take me from being a $5,000 speaker up the ladder and it’s worked. I mean, we’re now getting 25 to 50 grand to go keynote and speak, which, for a farm boy from Ohio, milking goats, that’s crazy. That’s what you should make in a year and not in a speaking engagement.

So, it really has launched us. I’ve been doing this now for 18 years. I started the business when I was in college. But, it positioned us in people’s minds. Even clients I’ve had for 15 years, they read the book, and they’re like, now all of a sudden, they’re listening to me differently. So, it’s been a weird experience to have somebody that’s known me all along to treat me differently because a book came out. But yeah, we put our heart and soul into the thing and the ripple effects are starting to go global, which is pretty crazy.

Tony: You’ve been, I mean we had a brief chat before the recording started, and you’ve been on some major podcasts, the likes of Pat Flynn, and the Art of Charm and Lewis Howes, and probably many more is what I imagined.

John: Yeah, yeah. One of the most surreal things that has happened in the last six months was the New York Times reached out. They were pitching us on why we should get interviewed for an article. And I would have given my left arm five years ago, to even had been mentioned, and in a New York Times article. So, we’ve been really fortunate. Fast Company, flew us out to record a video series in New York about using gifting. The media has been really kind to us. I’ve been really fortunate to have a lot of great coverage.

Tony: Is there anything that’s resulted from the book that you didn’t really expect? Has there been any unusual things?

John: Well, kind of what I mentioned before. I thought it would become a lead magnet, and people would read it and reach out and say, ‘Hey, you’re the gifting guru. I got 1,000 employees, and I got 500 clients, can you help me?’ But, I wasn’t expecting it to change how my current relationships engaged me or treated me and my team. So I think the fact that even people that know me, or that have been around me, and that already use our principles of gifting and gratitude as a profit driver for their business and drive referrals and whatever else, I was shocked that they would read it and treat me differently, or even treat what I was saying.

Some of the stuff that we’ve been teaching people are like ‘Man that’s such….man, when did you come up with that? Is that new?’ I’m like, ‘No, I’ve been talking about that for 17 years.’ They’re like, ‘Really?’ I’m like, yeah. Somehow you read it in the book and all of a sudden, it’s magical. So yeah, the treatment from our current relationships was probably the biggest surprise.

Tony: When was it you first started thinking about writing a book?

John: I’ve thought about it for probably six or seven years. I tried to write it on my own. I got like 10% of the way done and I would just have writer’s block, and I would just find every other way to distract me as putting as much as possible. Once I sold half the business to my business partner, 11-12 years ago, and he started to really nudge me and say, “dude, you got great stuff here. You’re speaking is awesome.” He’s like, “We need to make a book.” I’m like, I don’t know if I have enough for a book.

So, I started to do some podcast interviews through guys, like, Hal Elrod who’s one of my best friends. I’ve grown up in Cutco together like 20 years, and started to speak it out. I realised that there is enough here for a book and that’s when I reached out to somebody that scribes. They used to be called Book in a Box, Tucker, Max and Zach and JT and those guys. Then, one of my mentors, Cameron Harold was like, ‘Man, you really need to talk to the guys, they’ll help you.’ Sure enough, from the time we signed with them on the dotted line, to when it was published was six months later. They really accelerated things and made it easy and so I’m super grateful for them. If it wasn’t for them and my partner kind of nudging me, there still wouldn’t be a Giftology book because it was a fear of mine that I was like, now I don’t know if this if this is going to work or not.

Tony: Since the success of the book, have you thought about doing a follow up?

John: If you had asked me within the first year, I would have said, ‘Heck no, like not a chance.’ There’s only one Giftology book. There’s not a Giftology 2 coming out. We’ve since created courses and some other things. But, I think what I’ve realised is that there is, like anything, if you’re growing and pruning yourself, like you learn things. I don’t know that there’ll be another Giftology book. But there, I can see, like I committed to the launch for my book to be…. most people commit like five weeks or five months, my commitment was I was going to do something book related every week for five years. It was going to be a five year launch.

So, I’m two and a half years in to a five year launch plan. So I can see in like 2021, launching something. I have kind of a concept around the five love languages that I’m throwing around in my head. I think that there’s a need for another evolution of how to love on people and build relationships. The simple answer is yes, I can see … Now if I never read another book, I feel really good about the book that I have out on the market. I feel like it will stand the test of time. But, I do think that there’s an opportunity for another book come out from John Ruhlin.

Tony: Let’s just take a step back. For the people listening who aren’t familiar with the book, do you want to just give a brief description of what the book is all about?

John: Yeah. So like I talked about before, nobody cares about gifts. Most people don’t. They feel like oh, it’s like a warm, fuzzy thing you do around the holidays or Christmas or, somebody has been with you as an employee for 50 years, here’s a gold watch. What I realised is that there’s a big …everybody says relationships are their most valuable asset. People are like oh, I have loyal employees, I have loyal clients, they stick with me. Somebody collecting a pay check, or somebody sticking around with you until a better offer comes along is not loyalty. That’s passive loyalty. Active loyalty is when you have a client that’s actively sending you referrals, or you have an employee that’s actively filling other seats on your bus and recommending their friends and family to come work with you.

So active loyalty is really different than passive loyalty. People that feel loved on and inspired, become active loyalists. If your clients and your employees aren’t actively sending you referrals, then you have a loyalty problem. Most people don’t even realise that they have a loyalty problem. So Giftology, by its very nature, is really just a roadmap and a system on how you love on all of your relationships, whether it’s your clients, your prospects, your suppliers, your employees in a way that communicates to them that they matter, that they’re VIP and that they’re special. Then, It may inspire them to reciprocate back to you an act of loyalty. That could be in the form of referrals, could be in the form of going the extra mile for you if they’re an employee.

So really, most people are starved for affection, for love, for acknowledgement and for appreciation. At a core level, our firm, companies hire us to do all of their gifting for them. It’s not like, ‘hey, I want to buy 10,000 T-shirts with my logo on it. It’s how do I appreciate people in such a way, it’s really it’s like, how would you appreciate your spouse? Would you make it personalised? You’d go all in and you’d do the most you could do. So Giftology is really just a roadmap and a system of how to think about your most important relationships and how to love on them in such a way that they want to reciprocate and advocate on your behalf.

Tony: When I was reading the book…so it’s kind of started off where you were you were selling knives. Is that how the idea first sort of came about to start giving gifts?

John: Yeah, yeah. People sometimes when they hear Giftology, or they hear that we work with like the Cubs and some professional sports franchises, they assume that I grew up in a wealthy home, maybe I was part of the country club in Los Angeles or New York or some global hotspot. But, I grew up poor. I grew up a farm boy milking goats, one of six kids, on 47 acres in the middle of nowhere in Ohio, in the middle of the country. I didn’t like blue collar work so I thought, I’m going to get really good grades in school and I’m going to get out of this and go make a lot of money. I was going to go be a doctor. I was going to go to med school.

I learned a lot of what I teach from a mentor of mine. He was my girlfriend’s dad, and he was an attorney. As I was selling the knives, I went and pitched him giving away Cutco to all of his clients, because he was the kind of guy that would find like a deal on noodles, and he buy like a semi load of noodles. Then, everybody at church the next Sunday, like 300 people would walk away with 20 cases and noodles. I’m like ‘Paul, why would you do that? Like that’s 20-30 grand. That’s a lot of money.’ He’s like, ‘Did you see their smiles?’ I’m like, ‘Well, of course they were smiling. Even the most evil person on the planet would smile if you give them a year supply of noodles.’ He’s like, ‘But that’s just who I am.’

So I thought maybe he’ll give away, all of his clients are CEOs of insurance companies , lumber yards, home builders, construction companies, maybe he’ll giveaway these high end pocket knives. The domain is all in the hunting, fishing and the outdoors. He changed my life forever. He’s like, ‘John, can I order 100 of those paring knives? I’m like, you want to order 100 kitchen tools to give away to a bunch of grown men CEOs of multi million or billion dollar companies? I’m like, ‘why?’ He said, ‘John, in 40 years in business, the reason I have more referrals and access and engagement with my relationships is I found out one simple truth. That’s simple truth is if you take care of the family, and business, everything else seems to take care of itself.’

So for me, it was a lightning bolt moment. I’m like, Oh my gosh, like Paul understands it wasn’t about the knife. Although to this day, people will be like, ‘John, what’s the hot new gift?’ I’m like, the stupid knives. They’re like, ‘No, you still sell the knives?’ I’m like, ‘we sell millions of dollars in knives. It’s like it’s our number… it’s the most universal thing on the planet because whether you’re a janitor or the CEO, every home has a kitchen and that’s where you break bread with your inner circle. That’s where you break bread with the people that are most valuable to you, your family, your celebrations all centered around food, and family and breaking bread and food and wine or whatever else. The knives are one of those artefacts that stick around. So Paul taught me the power of taking care of the inner circle, that’s what we call the inner circle. So somebody’s spouse, their kids, their pet, their assistant. To this day, we still.. my personal gifting budget has grown to be this past year was about $425,000 ..

Tony: Wow.

John: .. and 80% of that, and I started when I was in college. So I started doing like $500 a month back then because I couldn’t afford the crazy things we do now. But, it was quite a small bill. But to this day, we still spend 80% of our resources, and encourage our clients. When we do gifting for our clients, people are like ‘oh, I want to say bourbon, because all my clients like bourbon or wine. I’m like, ‘Who cares what they like? What is what does their spouse like? They’re like’ What do you mean?’ I’m like, ‘well, they’re married, right?’ They’re like, ‘yeah.’ I’m like, ‘Who cares what the executive that gets wined and dined all the time likes make him or her look like the hero to their family. Let’s do something that’s family oriented. They’re like, ‘What, we’re going to send some to the family? I’m like, ‘yeah, who cares about golf? Who cares about wine? Take care of the family.

So 80% of my resources, and my clients resources are all about taking care of that inner circle. So, that’s part of our recipe. People are like, ‘John, I don’t want to do that. I don’t want to do that.’ I’m like, ‘do you want to make bread?’ They’re like, ‘What do you mean?’ I’m like, ‘You want people to send you referrals, then follow the recipe. You can’t not put yeast in, you’re not going to get bread. So follow the Giftology recipe. One of those is taking care of the inner circle. If you’re not willing to do that, then you’re not a good client for us. People that aren’t willing to follow the simple steps won’t get the results that we’re getting for our relationships.

Tony: You had some pretty good stories in a book about giving gifts to spouses and to family.

John: Yeah, well, I mean, some of the stories, like the knives thing, one of the guys I targeted was Jeffrey Gitomer, who has sold four or 5 million books. He’s the number one sales author, I think on the planet over the last decade or two. They charge $35000-$40000 to speak. He’s written the Little Red Book of Sales. He’s just this icon. I met him at an event and I started to follow up with him and he wouldn’t return my phone call. So, I sent him an empty block, and every month for 18 months, so 18 gifts of knives that we’re all personalised to him and his spouse about carving out time and about being on the cutting edge of sales.

After I’d built this $4000 or $5,000 knife block, he reached out to me. He said ‘John, you’re the most pleasantly persistent mofo,’ if you can say ‘mofo,’ . He said, ‘I’m not going to guarantee anything. But, if you fly to Charlotte, I’ll hang out with you for a couple hours and we’ll see it goes. He’s now become a raving fan client. He’s included me on his podcast. He’s done videos for me. He’s referred me to clients. One of the reasons we can charge $25000-$5000 is because guys like him, before anybody knew who John Ruhlin was, or Giftology, he was endorsing me. He even to this day, he’ll text me at 6am. He’s like, ‘I don’t even want to think about John Ruhlin but I’m using one of your stupid knives to cut up an apple and I’m thinking about you and my girlfriend thinks you’re amazing. She’s talking about you all the time. I feel like I’m sleeping with your sales rep’

So yeah, the inner circle is super powerful. It’s not just knives. Anytime you can send something to somebody, like, I had one guy that we were courting and he thought the gift idea was stupid. I sent him a knife but I also sent him a custom leather tote bag that was handmade, and I put his wife’s name and initials on it. Sure enough, he was like ‘John, I’ve owned private equity companies. I’ve owned investment firms and my wife is asking about John Ruhlin on a weekly basis. I can’t believe you got my wife to work against me. She won’t stop talking about you and she’s never met you before. This is a guy who coaches named John Bowen. He coaches, he’s like the number one coach in the financial services space for high level, affluent wealth managers. He’s like, ‘if they worked with me, I can’t imagine what it would do for my clients.’

So we started the gifting for his relationship out of that. He didn’t want to follow the recipe either. I told him, ‘If you don’t follow the recipe, it won’t work.’ Of course, we did it and his referrals went up 110% from working with us, and he said ‘the only thing we changed was the stupid gifts that we’re sending out to people.’ So see, people are like, ‘does this work in real life? I’m like, I’m not a professor, even though I get to teach at colleges, as a kind of an adjunct professor an event [inaudible 17:58].This is what I’ve been doing for 18 years.

People ask ‘How did you get the New York Times? How did you get the Cubs as clients. I tell them ‘we eat our own dog food. We send out a lot of freaking gifts and we do it the right way. We don’t put strings attached on them. Because of that, doors that a farm boy should never get through, have opened for us, because we practice it consistently, not once, not twice, not for a year, but we’ve been practicing it for 18 years. Because of that there’s an avalanche that comes back to us in the form of reciprocity and open doors and people advocating for us and being active loyalists.

Tony: Of the people that you’ve helped or the clients that you’ve worked with, can you think of any sort really unusual stories and really kind of amazing stories?

John: Yeah. Well, one of the clients that we that we worked with, it was really a proud moment…I always wanted one of the more iconic pro sports teams as a client, and I sent gifts to a couple of the executives at the Cubs for probably six and a half years. They finally reached back out to me and said, ‘John, here’s your shot. You’ve loved on us, you’ve taken care of us. We’re redoing Wrigley Field. We’re ripping out the locker room wood and we’re going to throw it away. But, we thought maybe there’s something we could do with this. Let’s call John. We don’t want to make a paperweight out of it. We want it to be something cool. What do you think?’

For whatever reason, I hadn’t even seen the wood yet. But I said ‘wouldn’t it be amazing if instead of a paperweight or a plaque, those are lame…what if we took the wood and built Bluetooth speakers made from Wrigley Field like this hundred year old structure. It’d be something that even a billionaire couldn’t go buy, because it’d be a one of a kind. What if you did that for your top 400 or 500 relationships, your sponsors, your team owners, people that spend hundreds of thousands or millions or even 10s of millions of dollars with you. They’re like, ‘that’s awesome! Go do that! We want to do that with you. I went to a couple speaker companies, and they’re like, ‘John, that wood that you sent us is the worst wood on the planet. It’s falling apart. We can’t make a speaker out of that. It’ll look and sound horrible.’ I’m like, ‘You don’t understand. I’ve told the Cubs that we could do it.’ They’re said ‘sorry, we have to pass.

Then I’m thinking, I have to figure out a way to make this happen. So, we went in house to our little factory, to our design studio. We’re not really set up to make speakers. But I went to the guys and I said ‘Hey. Is there a way to remake this wood into 400 speakers?’ They’re like, ‘we’ve never done this before, but we’ll figure out a way. So, what we ended up doing is having to re-laminate the wood, like re-glue it all back together. Then they routed it out. I mean, 400 of these Bluetooth speakers numbered 1 through 400. we had to pull it off in six weeks. It was an impossible kind of project. But, we pulled it off, shipped them out to people. Even like the billionaire Ricketts family, who owns the team was like, this is one of the coolest things ever. It’s like it’s an artefact but it has purpose it has history and a story, but you can actually use it on a day to day basis.

So, one of the reasons the New York Times reached out to us was that they saw that project that we did for the Cubs, and they’re like ‘holy crap, if you can do that, you really are the Giftology guru. You really are the guy.’ So it inspired them to reach out years and years later. So, we’ve since done other cool projects for the Cubs and some other teams, and in other companies where they’re like, ‘man, we have a 1000 or 5000 of our most important people. We can’t just send them a cheap bottle of wine or a gift card to Amazon. That’s lame. That’s not going to communicate value to them. But the Cubs was one of those ones where it’s super stressful. But, when it pulled off it was like, man, this is a true Grand Slam we were on cloud nine.

Tony: That’s a fantastic idea. As you were talking about it, I’m thinking, so when these companies are coming to you and asking for you to give them ideas, is it a case of you coming up with 5-10 ideas? Then you try and decide which is the best of those ideas? How do you work on an idea?

John: For most of the time, they’re coming to us and we’re coming back to them with one idea. Because, what ends up happening is people for whatever reason, gifting they want to see five different ideas. I tell them ‘you’re going to shop for the idea with your own eyes. If you like steak, you want to give everybody steak. If you like Bose headphones, you’re going or technology, you’re going to send technology. Most people have a really difficult time understanding how to shop and think about gifting as not just a ‘wow, this is really cool.’ One of the reasons that we don’t send out food is, people are like ‘everybody loves food. I’m like, ‘Well, what about if somebody is gluten free? Or what if somebody is Jewish and you send them a ham? What about if.. there’s a lot of ways to offend people with food.’

A lot of times when people send food, they’re not thinking about true and cost per impression. People are confused like, ‘What are you talking about cost per impression?’ I’m like, ‘Well, if you send this beautiful bottle of wine is $300, you think you’re a hero. The client gets it and if they’re into wine, they’re like, ‘Oh, this is cool. They drink the wine. How many times did they think about you?’ They’re like, ‘one time’ So, I explain that they spent $300 for one impression. They’re like, ‘yeah, you’re right. I’m like, ‘what if you sent them a gift, and they use it once a day for the next 10 years? You might even spend $3,000 on that gift but your cost per impression was a dime [ten cents], because they thought of you 3600 times over the next 10 years. Who do you think is going to get the phone call, the referral? Who’s going to be most top of mind? Who’s going to be most trusted? If you’re playing the long game in business, you know that you want to get that phone call when somebody is on the golf course or at a dinner, you want them to instantly talk about you.

The reason that I can compete with billion dollar companies is because I have gifts I gave 15 years ago that are still working and giving active loyalty to me, that I don’t have to put any more money in. I didn’t have to make any more phone calls. They’re doing their job. So, a lot of the strategies that we employ when somebody reaches out to us, they’re like, ‘Hey, we just want to order 500 jackets.’ I answer, ‘but we don’t sell jackets.’ We’re going to tell you what you should give. You’re not going to tell us what you want to order. If we’re just an order taker, then go order it off as some promo or swag company, throw your logo on it, ruin the gift completely and call it a day.

If you reach out to us, you’re coming to us because you have valuable relationships, and you want to give a gift not because you have to. You’re giving a gift because you want to inspire some sort of result on the back end. You understand that we are the experts, you’ve been thinking about it for 17 seconds. So just because you like Apple doesn’t mean it’s a good gift. So, its completely changing the conversation into saying, we’re going to help direct what the gift should be. Also, we’re going to think about what should the gift follow up gift be six months later? What should they gift be three years later? So how can we live a plan, a system, so that your people that you’re trying to appreciate, appreciate it and are feeling the love. But, you’re not having to reinvent the wheel every time you’re doing a gift.

So a lot of times when people engage us, they think they’re calling to order something. I’m like, ‘if you’re just going to order something, go find somebody else.’ But if you’re calling because you want to drive a behaviour and use psychology to your advantage, then you can go through our process and we’ll help you. That’s whether you’re a $2 million company, and we have $2 million start-up companies as clients and we have $20 billion companies as well. It’s not a company’s size, it’s more of a methodology and are you a giver? Are you going into this with the right expectations? It is really looking to drive something versus .. most people do gifting because they have an event or because it’s Christmas, and they want to check the box. To me, that’s a waste of money. I’m not going to spend your money that way because you’re not going to get any ROI out of it. You might feel warm and fuzzy for five minutes. But who cares? That’s not going to drive a behaviour.

Tony: When people come to you and they want you to give them some ideas for some sort of gift, do they usually just have maybe one or two people in mind? Then you give them an idea and they’re like ‘wow, I could actually give that to about 20 people?

John: Yeah, of course. If somebody wants to do a one off gift, we’re not the people to call it typically. It’s not scale-able I tell people that they should be budgeting 80% of their budget to take care of their relationships. Most people when they’re doing gifts, they say ‘hey, my budgets $25 a person and I have 1000 people.’ I’m like, ‘Oh, that’s cool. So your budgets is $25000.00? If I were you, instead of doing 1000 people, I would spend $250 on 100 people.’ They’re like, ‘what about the other 900 other people?’ I’m like, ‘My guess is if you get 1000 raving fans or 1000 people to love you, they will out reciprocate, they will out refer and they will do more business with you.’

Most people’s 80% of their revenues is coming from 20% of their clients. So, when people come to us, they’re like, ‘hey, want to do this one gift,’ or ‘Hey, I want to do these thousands of gifts.’ I’m like ‘Who you’re sending the gifts who is just as important as what you’re sending.’ Most people don’t have their list segmented. So most of the time people are like, ‘I want to do one gift.’ I’m like , ‘If you don’t have 20 relationships to appreciate you’re not a good fit for us. We’re not going to do a one off gift here and a one off gift there. It’s not sustainable. It’s taking up too much of your time and too much of our time.

What we can do is lay out a plan for your top 20 or top 50 or top 100. Sometimes people come to us and say, ‘Hey, we heard about your stupid knife thing, or we heard about the crazy $600 mug that you do that makes billionaires cry, can we do that?’ I’m like, ‘Yeah, we can do that, but let’s think about not just one person. Let us lay out a plan so you it can almost be on autopilot for them. They can go focus on what they need to do, but in the background, our team is executing those details without anybody else being aware of it.

Tony: So the knives that you started off selling, have you got shares that company now?

John: I wish. They are privately owned. They’re about a $300 million company out of New York. They’re like the Rolex of knives. Now, they treat me like gold. They’re more of a partner but I don’t have any ownership in the company. People assume that because of how much I talk about them. They’re like, ‘what do they have on you?’ ‘Are they blackmailing you?’ I’m like, ‘No, I’ve tried to get away from them and do other things.’

The simple fact is finding a gift that’s universal, that can take care of somebody making $50000 a year, or $500,000 a year or somebody , like different levels. There’s very few universal gifts out there that tap into humanity. Eating is one of those things that even in 2019. So a lot of the gifts were either knives, or we do these crazy wine tools from Australia, that are $400-$500 a piece. People ask ‘how would you spend $400 or $500 on a wine tool?’ I say, ‘Well, if you’re giving it to somebody that loves wine, and they’re spending $50, $100 or $150 on bottles of wine, four or five bottles of wine covers the cost of the wind tool, and those are gone in 15 minutes. I give them a wine tool that’s 10 times nicer than anything they’ve ever seen and they’ll use it for the next 40 years. So, it doesn’t matter what I’m giving.

One of our core values is, if you’re giving a watch, give a best in class watch. If you’re giving a charger, or give a best in class charger. If you’re giving a knife, give a best in class knife. A lot of times people are like ‘I’m going to give a watch.’ I’m like, ‘oh cool.’ What kind of watch are you giving? They’ll say. ‘We’re going to give this fossil watch that cost around $500. I’m like ‘all the people you’re giving it to are wearing Rolexes that are $5000, $10000, 15000. What do you think that $500 fossil is going to do?’ They’re like, ‘oh, man, they’re probably not going to wear it, are they?’ I’m like ‘no, they’re not going to wear it. They’re going to re-gift it. They’re going to go back to the drawer. They’re going to give it to Goodwill. So, if you spent $250 on a mug, it’d probably be the nicest mug anybody has ever seen it, and they’d actually use it versus spending $500 on a watch that nobody cares about.

So oftentimes, it’s not spending more money, whether it’s a knife or whatever else. It’s being strategic and going best in class and a category that nobody else is doing. So that’s why our business cards are $3, our letterhead, I spent $9 per sheet on my letterhead, and people think I’m being frivolous and stupid. But, people brag when they get a sheet of steel handwritten note and like a $9 thank you note shows up people, that’s remarkable. It’s like Seth Godin’s concept of the purple cow. A lot of what we’re doing is just kind of flipping the script and making a detail that most people go cheap on, we go ten thousand percent higher. I take things where everybody’s having a pissing match, like a trade show or an event and I cut it out all together because I can’t outspend my competitors. I’d rather redirect that money towards something that’s truly remarkable. And by doing so, I get people to talk about us and our clients.

Tony: You just mentioned trade shows. So when people are.. I forever see on Facebook groups and business groups, people talking about I don’t know what to give away to people at my trade show. What advice would you give to people listening or things they could do or something along those lines?

John: Give nothing.

Tony: Okay.

John: Here’s why. If you give out something to 1000 people at a trade show booth, first off, everybody sees that you’re giving that out. Does anybody feel VIP when everybody gets something? No, they feel generic. They feel like the masses. Most of the time you’re throwing your logo on it and a logo defaces the item. You think you’re doing marketing, but you’re giving it out to your best clients. Are they going to be wowed by a golf club cover or some cheap crappy portfolio from China with your logo slapped on it? No, everybody gets those things all the time. They’re going to re-gift them and they’re not going to use them. What I would recommend doing is take the hundred people that are clients or prospects that you really want to meet with, spend all of your budget that you would’ve spent on 1000 tchotchkes, spend it on 50 or 100, pre-gift experiences, sending it to them with a handwritten note ahead of time.

So, clients will hire us to do this all the time. Take the list, shrink it down to the top 50, 100, 250, whatever the number is, and go all in on a smaller number ahead of time, personalise the gift with their name, and have the note handwritten. That gift shows up to them. Let’s say there’s 50,000 people going to a trade show. Almost everybody is getting emails and whatever else. Very few people are sending a gift ahead of time and whatever else. [inaudible 32:38]. They’ll attend your happy hour. Now they’ll come to your booth. Now, they’re are coming excited to talk to you versus passing out a bunch of crap with their logo on it that’s going to end up in a landfill. I talked to people all the time and they’re like, ‘Oh, we’re so green.’ I’m like, ‘if you want to be green, stop giving a bunch of crap from China with your logo and it ends up in the trash can. That’s a great way to be green.

The other thing is if you have it’s a booth and you meet a bunch of great people, take your top 100 leads, or conversations that you had out of thousands, and follow up with a handwritten note, maybe a gift to those people because guess what happens? People have all these great conversations, what happens when those people go back to the real world and the grind of business? They’re busy. They don’t respond to emails.

You think you had this dream 100 client on a line and they’re going to be a whale for you. Then all of a sudden, they go dark? Guess what happened? Follow up with a handwritten note and a series of gifts afterwards, you extend the experience, you keep the momentum going, with what happened at the trade show. Now, all of a sudden, you’re having conversations with people four weeks later, and they’re still talking to you and they’re moving things along. On the other hand, what most people do is they have this amazing conversation, they get a bunch of brochures and crap that they don’t want, they get back, they’re overwhelmed, because they’re behind on emails, and they go dark.

So, instead of you bagging this great client, you just pissed away a bunch of money and time to pat each other on the back and be like, oh, our CRM is filled with a bunch of leads. Who cares? How many deals did you close from that trade show? Oftentimes, it’s not nearly as many as that should have been, because they didn’t have a plan on the pre and the post to that event, to stand out from the other thousands of people that are all bombarding those same people with text messages and emails and brochures and the same crap. So, that would be my recommendation on how we and how our clients approach trade shows.

Tony: That makes so much sense. Yeah. Would you say that women are better gift givers? If so, why?

John: Oh, a million percent better. It’s not even in the same stratosphere. They’re better at it because women in general, have a way higher IQ when it comes to emotional intelligence. They’re wired for empathy. They’re wired for most…and this is generalisations, it’s not like guy.. like I own gifting company, you can learn things and understand there’s a process to it. But, in general, women are more thoughtful. They understand the details matter and are more likely to understand the power of putting thought into a handwritten note, of personalising a gift and not making it about themselves.

Guys are so ego driven, so selfish, so linear and so on to the next thing on to the next thing that women just are better relationship builders, in general. Because of that, really gifting is just an extension of relationship building at the highest level. If you think about it, this is stereotypical, but if a traditional couple, a husband and wife goes to a wedding, who’s thinking about the wedding gift? Oftentimes, probably 80% of time, it’s the woman. They’re not giving a gift, it’s like about themselves, they’re giving a gift, it’s about the couple, about who’s giving married. So yeah, there’s no question. Most of the people who are Giftologists on my team are women. They get it. They get the process, are interested the details and they’re way more empathetic. They are just better in every way possible.

Oftentimes, I’m meeting with CEOs that are guys and our VP of Sales or VP of Marketing and they’re like, ‘yeah, that gifting like we’re not getting it. We’re going to keep doing our dinners, and golf and rounds and ballgame tickets and steak dinners. I’m like, ‘have fun competing with all of your other frat boys that are leading other companies and let me know how that works out for you falling in the same playbook as all your competitors.’ Sometimes they get pissed off but I’m like ‘it’s good talk to the women around you and in your life and understand that this is a way you could spend less money and have more impact on your relationships.’ Women in general, a lot of the people that become sales champions and advocates for us, are oftentimes, the assistant and a lot of times, not all the time, but a lot of times, those are women. They get it. They just understand it inherently and so no question women are way better at Giftology than guys are.

Tony: We haven’t got a lot of time left. Before we finish, is quite a few of the listeners of this show are speakers and authors and coaches and so on…and for people who are creating online courses as well for that matter. What would you say for those sorts of people? What are the best ways for them to get more speaker bookings and for authors to get more books sales? How would they be able to use Giftology?

John: Yeah. Some of our best clients are speakers, thought leaders, are the consultants of the world. They don’t have huge budgets, but they have high value relationships. It’s amazing to me, how many people that have podcasts, how many people that speak, maybe they send a handwritten note, maybe to the CEO, or the person cutting the check. And I’m like, ‘there’s an event planner worked her or his butt off. There’s an assistant behind the scenes. There’s a team.’ I send a gift after a speaking engagement. I take care of oftentimes three to six people. It’s not with brownies or an Amazon gift card. I’ll send what it would cost to take that person out to a nice dinner, a round a golf, ball game tickets, which is [inaudible 38:19]. I’ll send a $500 gift to all of them. People say ‘that can be $2,000 for the gifts’ and I’m like, ‘I got paid.’ Early on it was $10000, and I’m like, I’ll trade $2000 for $10000 all day long. That’s like an ATM machine that put $1 and I get $5 back.

People say ‘what if they can’t book you again?’ I’m like, guess what, When people go to events, and they serve on boards, do they ever talk? Like ‘Hey, who do you have on your conference? Hey, who’s a great speaker that you’ve used recently?, Hey, I’m struggling Baba blah. Hey, have you read this book lately?’ People talk, and whether they can book you or not. Guess what happens when somebody is not well treated as an event planner, or as an assistant? They leave and go to another company, who also has opportunities to book speakers. But people like how many speakers bureaus do you work with? I’m like, basically, zero. I’ve never been booked by a speaker’s bureau. They’re like, how are you getting $25000-$50000 to speak? I’m like, because I treat all of my CEOs, and their assistants, and their event planners and their VP of Marketing. I love on all of them. I reinvest 5-15% of net profits, back into my relationships,5-15%. People are like that’s too much money. I’ll put in 15 cents to get 85 cents back all day long.

Casinos do 20% of revenue, not net, gross, all revenue, they reinvest back into their whales and into their high rollers, 20% revenue. Why? Because they know that when they put 20 cents in, they get 80 cents back. That’s an equation that people will take all day long but most people don’t think about it that way. They think all this is just a one time speaking deal or this is just a one time consulting deal. Everybody [inaudible 40:10] and whatever else to talk about the long game. There’s very new people that are out there actually playing the long game, and building relationships. Some of the things that have happened to me happened five to seven years after I planted seeds.

So when I talked to my speaker friends, or whatever else, and they’re getting paid $10000 to speak, and maybe they’re a better speaker than I am and I’m getting paid $30000. They’re like, how are you doing this? You don’t even have a bureau. You don’t have an agency. I’m like,’ I eat my own dog food. I love on people.’ I think our message is unique. I think I’m a great speaker, but I’m not better than other people out there that are better speakers or better practitioners. But at the end of the day, the people that win in business, oftentimes are the people that are liked, trusted and most top of mind. That’s what Giftology is. It covers all three of those.

Tony: I think there’s just so many light bulbs going off with some people listening right now. That was fantastic advice. So just before we finish, what would you say about exceeding expectations and over delivering? What your thoughts on that?

John: Yeah. I think it’s cool to say you exceed expectations. I think very few people do. I think most people hold back 5 or 10%, because they’re afraid to be taken advantage of because we all have bee. We’ve been in situations where we poured our heart and soul into things and people were a takers, they’re weren’t givers. They didn’t reciprocate. So, whether it’s relationship with our spouse, or whether it’s relationships with our clients, like we hold back, because we’re afraid.

So, I would say that doing a lot more for a lot less people is to me, like this is part of the secret sauce where we can exceed expectations. Seth Godin, and those guys talk about all the time, it’s hard to exceed expectations for everybody, all the time. But, if you narrow it down to your top 25 of your relationships, your top 50, your top whatever, then you go all in on those people and pour all of your heart and soul into those people and you pour your resources into those people. That’s what I mean.

Tim Ferriss has talked about it. If you have 1000 in your tribe, that are raving fans, those thousand people go out, and can do more than a million people that just happened to know about you. So, when we walk clients through a process, I’m like, ‘Hey, like this is how you have to think. This is why instead of spending $20, we’re going to spend $500 on a gift, and it makes people feel uncomfortable. Now, meanwhile, they spent $500 on a bar tab the other night and didn’t think twice about it. So it’s just shifting their perception of where they need to exceed expectations, and how to do it not 1 or 2%, higher, but doing it 10,000%.

I would be remiss if , being the gift guy, if I didn’t give a lot of your consultants and thought leaders a gift. That would be all of you.. we’ll walk through and some of them want to do gifting on their own. They don’t want us to do all their gifting. They’re like, ‘John, can you give us some boundaries of things that we should avoid if we want to exceed people’s expectations? What are the things we need to avoid gifting? We put together a top 10 list of the worst gifts to avoid if you want active loyalty. If they go to, they can download that white paper for free. It also sends out some of our tips and tricks on how to gift at a high level. But like food is on there, gift cards are on there.

Oftentimes, the challenge for a lot of people is they read the list, and they’re like, I give all 10 of those on a regular basis. They’re horrified that that’s their playbook. But it at least gives people boundaries of saying, if they’re going to delegate it to an assistant, which I don’t recommend doing, that they can talk to their team and say, avoid these things and here’s why. If you just avoid those 10, you probably in the top 10% of gift givers around just by avoiding the things that are on that list. That’s something that might be helpful.

Tony: John, it’s been so much fantastic information you give. If people want to find out more information about you, which sites do they visit?

John: would be a great place to start. They can dive in there. We have a course that oftentimes is being given away called Referrals Without Asking. It is a great place to dive in and understand our methodology and how to get referrals without asking what that looks like and how Giftology drives that. But, that’s probably the best place to engage us.

Tony: Fantastic. Well, everything you just mentioned will be in the show notes. I really appreciate your time, john, It’s just been amazing information you’ve given. Thank you very much.

John: My pleasure. Thanks Tony.

Tony: Next week, Episode 28, my guest is Marion Ellis. Her background is in property surveying and evaluations and so on. She now as a speaker, and a coach and she coaches property surveyors in how to give a better experience to the general public. Many people don’t realise the difference between all the various surveys that are available for property. This can often lead to problems down the line. She tells us some stories about some bad things that have happened because of that lack of knowledge that many people have, and how she coaches her surveyors in order to give them…they can give a much better experience to the customers they’re working with.

If you liked this episode, why not share it with people you know who might find it useful? Yeah, maybe you know a hair dresser or an accountant that might find some of this information really useful for their business. Join the Facebook group, you can just search for Exceeding Expectations on Facebook. You could start a conversation about some of the points you’ve heard on this episode, or any other episode. If you have suggestions for future guests, or anyone that over delivers to their customers, please do let me know.

Lastly, if you’d like information on the workshops I run about exceeding your customers expectations and also about increasing your prices, then please take a look at where you can find some details on upcoming workshops. If you’d like to like me to speak at an event, you can also get in touch with me from that side.

Hope you have a fantastic week and I’ll see you next week for Episode 28.

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