To give or not to give is NOT the only question when it comes to business gifts. As we approach this holiday season you are about to be faced with decisions, if you haven’t already, such as… should we give gifts this year and if so when, how much should we spend, and what should we give?
Yet, the real question is why should you give business gifts? Gift giving is an opportunity to enhance your business relationships, to communicate with your clients and customers, and to keep the conversation going. What you give is a statement of you and your organization; it is an opportunity to reinforce your brand and strengthen your relationship with your clients.
Okay, so you agree and decide to give business gifts this year. Here is the problem: Everyone else that services or supplies your client will also be sending a gift. How can you make yours stand out and make a difference to your recipient?
“Timing is everything,” says Sheila Neisler of Catalyst, a marketing company. “If you are going to send a holiday gift, it is best to be the first or the last one your client will receive.” She recommends sending a ‘Thank You’ gift before Thanksgiving or a ‘Post-Holiday Cheer’ in January once everything else is over. “Use your gift to differentiate yourself from everyone else.” And she is right; there is no law that says all holiday gifts should be delivered during the second or third weeks of December.
And for that matter, there are also no regulations requiring that all of your gift giving should happen during the holidays. Many times the best gifts are those recognizing accomplishments, promotions, moves, thank you’s, anniversaries, and so much more throughout the year.
[quote float=”right”]Consider gifts you have received in the past. Have you ever ‘regifted’ presents that you simply did not have any use for, or worse yet, had no desire to keep?[/quote]What to give and how much to spend on that gift is entirely dependent upon your business or organization and your relationship with that client. The bottom line is you must know your clients. When I was speaking to one business person about the possibility of sending wine as a gift, he asked me, “Do you think my clients would appreciate receiving wine?” Really?! Isn’t that something you should know about your own client? I was not able to answer that question for him.
Think creatively when it comes to gift giving. Give something that tells a story, is unique, and will be truly appreciated by the recipient. I once worked with a graphic designer who was also an excellent photographer. The first year we worked together she sent me an attractive card holder and a set of calendar cards, one card per month with a small calendar and a lovely photograph. While there was a cover greeting card, the calendar cards did not include any logo identification. I enjoyed having this on my desk, and every year I looked forward to receiving the new set of cards. This was an excellent example of providing a useful gift that reinforced her brand and business.
Not every gift can directly link to your product or service. In that case it is the quality of the product that will speak volumes about your company. Avoid gifts that are essentially advertisements for your organization, such as mugs with your logo on it. How many coffee rooms have cabinets filled with an unmatched set of logo identified coffee mugs?
Consider gifts you have received in the past. Have you ever ‘regifted’ presents that you simply did not have any use for, or worse yet, had no desire to keep? When selecting a gift consider whether it is something you would enjoy receiving.
Here are five helpful hints for selecting gifts that will be remembered and appreciated:
1 Think Local
There is a reason why the new “farm-to-table” restaurants are so popular. This is a community that thrives on local everything! “People I work with are really excited about offering local products to their local clients,” said Celia Naranjo, owner of AshevilleGoods.com. “It is a win-win when local businesses support each other.” Finding those special “local” products could not be easier in Western North Carolina, whether you are looking for unique food items, locally produced beer or wine, hand crafted products, or even a gift card to one of the region’s award winning restaurants.
2 Gifts that can be enjoyed all year long
For those special clients and customers, consider the gift that keeps on giving in the form of a club membership. Some companies, many web based, allow you to send a monthly or quarterly gift to someone in a certain product category. How would you like your clients to be thinking about your company once a month or every quarter when they receive yet another special gift from you? The choices are endless from the Cheese of the Month Club and the Gourmet Cookie Club, to wine clubs and everything in between. There is a reason that Omaha Steaks has been so successful for more than a half a century. Continuity gift programs are proven successful in maintaining excellent awareness and communication with your clients.
3 Fun and Memorable Gifts
The opposite of annual or continuity gift programs would be the Surprise Gift ideas. Consider a unique idea that would generate smiles and memories with your client, such as setting a date with the client to have a local cupcake truck pull up in front of your office for everyone to enjoy. One executive recalled a gift his office received over 20 years ago. He described receiving a phone call from a supplier, requesting the opportunity to bring a local ice cream shop to his office. He said they came in and served up ice cream sundaes to everyone. Imagine having your company remembered decades later simply as the result of a fun and creative gift idea.
There is a growing trend toward giving charitable contributions in the name of your clients as opposed to a specific gift. “We want to give gifts out of sincere gratitude for our clients’ business,” said Scott Browne of Keller Williams. “And over the years we found gifts to feel like tokens of our appreciation and not of lasting value. So now we make contributions to Habitat for Humanity and send acknowledgments of the contributions to our clients. We actually receive thank you notes for our gifts to them.” Giving contributions, especially to local organizations, can create a very positive and lasting impression for everyone involved.
5 Membership Cards
One way to combine all of the ideas suggested here into a single memorable gift would be a membership to a local institution such as the Asheville Art Museum. A membership card will support local organizations, keeps giving all year long, should be enjoyable and memorable, and is a charitable contribution.
One more idea for when you are sending gifts to executives… consider sending the same gift to their executive assistant. In many cases, isn’t that the person you really need to work with on a regular basis and want to thank for their assistance throughout the year?
There are also gift ideas to avoid since the objective of gift giving is to create a positive and lasting impression. Do not send personal items, inexpensive logo identified products, or anything that might be considered in poor taste by the recipient. Remember that what may seem like a funny joke to you could easily be offensive to someone else.
Finally, know that there are times when no gift is the right gift. For example, don’t even think about sending gifts to any government officials—local, state, or federal—unless you want to end up reading about your gift in the newspapers. Others that cannot accept gifts include journalists, anyone in the military, and some medical professionals, to name a few. When in doubt it is best to contact the organization first to ask about their policy for receiving gifts.
And now here is a gift for you. The IRS offers companies a “gifting” deduction. When giving a “business gift” you are allowed up to a $25 deduction for any gift of $25 or more, regardless of how many gifts you give. This can be important if you have a long gift list.
This holiday season… and throughout the year, do not miss an opportunity to let your clients and customers know that you sincerely appreciate their business. Giving the right business gifts at the right time will strengthen meaningful business relationships. When it comes to business gifts, it truly is better to give than receive.