The Pros and Cons of Offering Gift Certificates for Organizing Services
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More money exchanges hands in December than at any other time of year, but if you don’t sell products, how can a savvy business person get in on the holiday shopping frenzy? Many professional organizers get on board by selling gift certificates for their services, but is it really a good idea?
There are several ways to look at it. Let’s start by looking at the benefits of selling gift certificates:
- Selling gift certificates can be an effective way to generate income at a time of year when clients are too busy with festivities to focus on getting organized.
- If you accept PayPal, you can receive payment and deliver the gift certificate by email, saving both you and the purchaser the time and hassle of going out.
- The recipient of the gift certificate may be someone who would not normally do business with you. In this way, the gift certificate also becomes a form of advertising.
- If the recipient requires services over and above the value of the gift certificate, you have the opportunity for additional sales.
So far, so good. But that’s not the whole picture!
As a normal rule, you probably don’t agree to work with a client until you’ve conducted an initial consultation over the phone, if not in person. Although the consultation is an opportunity to sell your services to your potential client, it’s also a chance to determine whether it’s appropriate for you to take on the job. How can you commit to working with someone without that direct contact? What if you show up for the first meeting and determine that you’re incompatible or that you don’t have the specialized skills needed for that particular client or situation? Will you be prepared to offer the purchaser a refund?
A similar dilemma may arise if the recipient of the gift certificate has no interest or desire to use your services. You may not be obligated to return the money, but is it ethical not to?
When I was a professional organizer, people frequently asked me about buying a gift certificate for a friend or family member. I generally discouraged them, pointing out that the disorganized person has to want to change for the service to have any lasting impact. I made exceptions on three occasions:
- The gift-giver discussed the idea with the recipient before buying the gift certificate. We had met previously so I knew I would be comfortable working with the client, and vice versa.
- Two daughters purchased a gift certificate for their mother for an in-depth consultation. It would then be up to their mother to decide if she wanted to follow through with follow-up services. It took her nearly a year to book her consultation, and I never heard from her again after that.
- An executive wanted to buy the services for his son, who was also his business partner. I met with the father on a day when the son was out of the office to get a good understanding of what would be required. We agreed that I would provide a “blank” gift certificate which he would present to his son, who would make all arrangements with me, and that the father would pay the bill. That was the last I heard from either of them. (I can only assume that the son was not on board with the idea; I only hope his father gave him something else instead!)
I hope this information will help you decide whether offering gift certificates is right for you and your business. If you’ve already made that decision, please let us know what you decided, and what led you to that decision.
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