Business Holiday Gift-Giving Guide

Looking for business holiday gift giving ideas? While you want to show appreciation to customers, clients, employees, and vendors, you don’t want to offend or break your budget. This holiday gift giving guide can help you choose the right gifts. 

Holiday gift giving can be is stressful for business owners. Deciding if they should give gifts, who they should give gifts to, how much to spend, what to give and when to give it, are decisions that need to be made every year.

Not all businesses give customers and clients gifts, of course. But many do. According to a study by Gourmet Gift Baskets, 62 percent of American companies sent gifts to clients and partners in 2018, while 44 percent gave to their employees. And there are good reasons for this trend. Along with strengthening ties between companies and clients, gift giving is a great way to show your gratitude while spreading some holiday spirit.

While gift giving is clearly a time-honored tradition in the business world, companies that engage in this practice need to be sure that they’re following proper etiquette. The last thing you want is for your gift to frustrate or annoy the person you were hoping to impress.

Who Should You Give Business Gifts to?

Gifts are a great way to show your appreciation to customers, corporate clients and employees; however, that doesn’t mean everyone you work with should receive a shiny package during the holiday season. When it comes to customers, SMBs should avoid gifting to individuals with whom they aren’t yet in business. After all, if you give a gift to a prospective customer, it could be considered a bribe! In general, it’s appropriate to gift to current customers and business contacts who are purchasing your products or providing you with a service. For example, you might give to your clients, vendors, postal workers, freelancers, or consultants who went above and beyond for your company.

Additionally, many companies opt to give gifts to their employees. In particular, small business owners and managers should strive to reward their assistants and secretaries with small gifts that demonstrate their gratitude. If you opt to give gifts to some employees and not others, make sure you do so in private, so the staff members not receiving gifts don’t feel slighted.  

It’s worth noting that some companies have policies in place restricting the types or values of gifts their employees can accept. While these limitations are more common at large corporations and government organizations, you might want to inquire with human resources before sending that fruit basket or bottle of wine. The last thing you want to do is put recipients in a position where they have to send back your thoughtful offering.

How Much Should You Spend on Business Gifts?

Deciding whom to give gifts to is only half the battle. The next step is determining how much you should spend on holiday presents. After all, overly exorbitant gifts can make clients uncomfortable, while cheap gifts can make your business seem miserly. Neither of those options is likely to put your customers in the holiday spirit.

If you don’t know a company’s specific policy with regard to accepting gifts, aim to keep holiday presents around $25. When it comes to your own employees, feel free to spend a bit more if desired. According to one 2017 study, 73% of employers spent between $50 and $75 per employee on holiday gift giving. However, you should also keep the length of service in mind when making gift-giving decisions. An employee who has been with you for a decade probably merits a more expensive gift than the one who started at the company last week.

What Makes a Good Holiday Gift?

There’s no one perfect gift for small businesses to give over the holidays. After all, the ideal present depends on the individual, your unique relationship, and your budget. However, the most commonly gifted items include calendars, gift cards, flowers, gift baskets, and wine. Gourmet coffee, tea or cocoa also makes a good, inexpensive gift for employees or coworkers. Additionally, some companies choose to gift charitable donations in the recipient’s name.

While businesses are often tempted to give out branded items — you need something to do with those 500 company-logo Frisbees or visors — recipients will quickly (and correctly) peg these types of gifts as marketing products in disguise. If you do decide to send swag to promote your business during the holidays, choose items that recipients might have a real use for such as earbuds (in a case with your logo on it), thumb drives, power banks, mini toolsets, or other useful items related to your type of business. (Note BusinessKnowHow may make a commission if you make a purchase through those links)

SMBs should avoid giving humorous or joke gifts to clients who they don’t know well. After all, you might end up offending the recipient by mistake. Similarly, it’s best not to give wine or spirits unless you know for a fact that the recipient enjoys the occasional drink. The last thing you want to do is give a lovely bottle of wine to a client who is sober.

Finally, gift givers should be cognizant of cultural differences that might affect what presents are considered appropriate. For example, clocks are associated with death in some Chinese dialects. Similarly, certain flowers are linked with funerals in the Russian culture. Do your research before giving a gift in order to avoid an awkward situation.

When Should You Give Business Gifts?

Once you’ve decided what to purchase, the only thing that’s left to do is deliver your presents. While there’s not really a wrong time to give a holiday gift, SMBs should note that many larger companies are closed during the week between Christmas and New Year’s. So, if you opt to mail or ship presents to arrive during this time, the recipients might already be home with their families. When in doubt, include a generic message on the card (Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas) so you don’t risk offending anyone with your wording.

While most companies wait for December to hand out gifts, this is more of a tradition than a rule. You can opt to acknowledge and thank your customers at any time of the year. Moreover, you can feel free to give gifts to employees and vendors whenever you want to show your gratitude. So, the next time your company wraps up a big project, don’t be afraid to hand out Starbucks gift cards or sponsor an employee dinner to show your appreciation. 

A 2018 Knack Business Gift Satisfaction Survey Report revealed that 33 percent of respondents who received a memorable corporate gift felt more connected to the company that sent it. By giving clients and customers appropriate, useful gifts during the holidays, small businesses can increase their odds of finding success in the New Year.

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