If you’ve ever struggled to find the perfect present for someone on your holiday gift list, chances are that figuring out what to give your business clients is an equally bewildering endeavor. Your gift should be tasteful, memorable, and should promote your company’s good name.
Here are some tips on what to give clients to thank them, on behalf of your company, for the gift of their business:
- Send edible enjoyment. Ever notice the abundance of cookies, cakes, cheeses, and other goodies around the office at holiday time? That’s because the gift of edible treats is one of the most reliable choices when it comes to business-related gift giving. If you are concerned about sending too many sugary treats, choose an elaborate fruit basket instead, which is both a beautiful and healthful way to help your client celebrate the season.
- Go for flower power. Sending floral arrangements or living plants is a tasteful way to convey your gratitude to clients. They beautify the office environment and serve as a visual reminder of your thoughtfulness. One important thing to consider when sending flowers or plants during the holidays is scheduling. Try to send cut flowers for a Monday arrival so the person can enjoy them over the course of the workweek. And be sure to send flowers and plants early in the season so as not to miss those with holiday vacation plans. Another option is to wait until after the holidays and send your gift with wishes for a happy new year; this will also help your gift stand out from the glut of holiday deliveries and make a stronger impression on your client.
- Name that item. When buying gifts for clients, use it as an opportunity to promote your company’s brand by giving items printed with your company name and logo. This works well with gifts such as pens, coffee mugs, T-shirts, key chains, and calendars. A list of higher-ticket gifts could include picture frames, clocks, calculators, or other useful desktop items that the recipient would display prominently in their work space. Choosing a unique gift that no one else will think to send will have a stronger impact.
- Take advantage of regional flair. If your business is located in a city or area of the country known for a particular type of produce or famous landmark, make a clever statement by working this into your gift’s theme. New York-based companies might consider sending gift boxes of apples from the “Big Apple.” Firms in the Southwest could send a gift box of gourmet salsas or a flowering cactus; Florida-based companies a box of fresh citrus fruits. Be creative. Think about what your region is best known for and share it with clients who may live in distant areas of the country.
- Card them. Consider buying a batch of gift cards at set dollar amounts and disseminating them among your business clients. The great thing about gift cards is that they’re still good long after the holidays have come and gone — most gift cards retain their value for at least one year from the date of purchase. If you go the gift-card route, stick to establishments known for having multiple locations. Big chain stores and restaurants are good bets, as there’s usually an outpost in most major cities and towns. Gift cards to bookstores and coffee bars are also smart choices, since each has a variety of products and most recipients, regardless of their tastes, will be able to find something they like.
- Don’t choose booze. Avoid giving alcohol such as wine or spirits as a business gift, unless you have a personal relationship with the recipient and are certain of his or her tastes. Many people do not drink alcohol for a variety of reasons, and your gift may not go over well.
- Cross cultures with care. Keep in mind that gift-giving etiquette varies greatly from culture to culture. If you are presenting an international client with a holiday gift, be sure to do a little research beforehand to avoid making an embarrassing social gaffe. For example, if sending flowers abroad, you should know that in many Asian countries the color white is associated with death and funerals. The number of items also has great significance in some cultures: in China, an odd number of items is considered unlucky; in Japan, giving four of something has the same negative connotation. Know, too, that in countries where gift giving is rare in the business world, an elaborate or ostentatious gift may even be misconstrued as bribery. Do your homework beforehand. (Be sure to read Communicate Effectively Across Cultures.)
- Share a simple sentiment. Still struggling to find the right gift for your clients? Don’t despair — you can’t go wrong with a sincere handwritten note expressing your thanks for their business. Even if you lack the funds to purchase exorbitant gifts, you can still share your heartfelt appreciation for your business relationship.
Be sure to look into the gift-giving policies of your clients’ companies before sending along your present. Some companies have a “no gift” policy for their employees, and it could lead to an embarrassing situation if they must refuse your gift for this reason.
And don’t forget: If you are on the receiving end of a thoughtful present from a business colleague or client, be sure to acknowledge it promptly with a considerate note. Read Writing Professional Thank-You Notes for some good advice.