Ideal Business Gifts Arrive All Year Long

Posted on Tuesday, November 15, 2011

By Joanna Johnson (E2 Business Gifts)

The end of year often seems like the best time to thank your clients for their business and your employees for their hard work. Savvy professionals however, know that gift giving isn’t limited to the 4th quarter holiday season. Sending small presents throughout the year is an excellent way to solidify relationships with clients as well as business prospects. For freelancers, off-season gift giving can be an especially valuable tactic, as it’s an opportunity to stand apart from the crowd, announce your skills, recent accomplishments and generate recognition from potential clients and employers.

Fewer small business owners will thank their clients and customers with a gift this holiday season, according to the OPEN from American Express Small Business Monitor, a semi-annual survey of business owners. Interestingly, those who do plan to give will be spending significantly more than last year and are also more likely to recognize their staff and be growth-minded. 

"Guilty!" is what two-thirds of those surveyed (65%) say they would feel if they didn't show their appreciation to clients/customers and employees come the holidays -- still, only 59% plan to buy client gifts in 2009, compared to 70% in 2008. Ironically, while the number of small business owners spending on clients and customers fell this year, those who do plan to buy will be spending 28% more than in the previous two years.

The Monitor rates the most popular corporate gifts as:

  • 49% Greeting Cards and Calendars
  • 26% Gift Certificates
  • 23% Company Branded Items
  • 18% Tied - Both Fruit/Food Baskets and Charity Donations
  • 10% Tied - Both Flowers/Plants and Wine/Liquor
  • 2% Tied – Both Personal Accessories and Candy/Nuts
Business gift giving can be a double-edged sword. On one hand, gift giving can be an excellent way to build lasting relationships and market your company or service. Whether the gift is actually used is often irrelevant. There is something about receiving an unexpected gift that just makes us feel good and consequently, makes us feel good about the person and business who has given us the present. On the other hand, if a gift is inappropriate in content or value it can damage relationships as quickly as any other type of negative interaction.

How can one determine the best gift giving strategy for their business? It’s more an art than a science, but it helps to understand basic, contemporary business etiquette:

How much should I spend? There is certainly no rule, but many larger firms place a maximum value on gifts that their employees may accept, usually no more than $40 to $50. This is a good reason to send smaller gifts and tokens more frequently.

Is there a tax benefit for gift giving? Yes! In 2011 the IRS allowed business gifts within the U.S. to be tax deductible up to $25 per person (recipient) per tax year. This value does not include incidental costs such as the packaging or shipping costs of the gift, which are also generally tax deductible. Review IRS Publication 463 for further detail on deducting the business cost of gift giving.

Do I have to give holiday gifts? No. In fact, bypassing the deluge of year-end gift-giving in favor of more offbeat occasions such as Groundhog Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Earth Day, Cinco de Mayo, Independence Day, Labor Day, Halloween and Thanksgiving, will show creativity and make your company stand apart. Additionally, keeping a stock of gifts on hand for presenting to your clients on anniversaries with their company or on their birthdays, will show that you care and will make a lasting, favorable impression.

What’s the best way to deliver a gift? Make it personal - a personally delivered gift makes the best impression and will keep you in the mind of your recipient. If personal delivery is not possible, using a hand-signed card that briefly shares your thoughts will make a lasting impression even with a small gift. If the gift is to be consumed, make it last by sending it in a reusable personalized container which the recipient will want to keep.

Gourmet Hot Cocoa or Chai in personalized packaging. 

How should I structure a gift giving program within my company? Generally, gift giving will fall within your company’s business development and marketing outreach efforts. You’ll be best served by strategizing & planning your gift giving efforts in advance. First off, designate gift giving as a separate, official marketing program by giving it a project name such as ‘Presents for Profits’. Secondly, establish a designated annual gift budget and select specific gifts in advance, taking into consideration your recipient’s demographic and the level of professionalism that the gift imparts. Plan for regular monthly, quarterly, special event or holiday gifts tiered in value and frequency by customer level. Solicit input from your employees as to whom this year’s client/lead/customer/employee priorities should be. Higher priority customers can be scheduled for more frequent company presents and/or presents of higher perceived value. Engage your employees in the Customer Service Gift Program by holding a brainstorming meeting to determine gift ideas, as well as cohesive messages your company wants to impart with its gifts.

Ultimately, the key to good gift giving in business is in knowing what is and what is not appropriate. Sending a desk clock to one of your customers for a referral is appropriate. Giving the administrative assistant of a large new account, a Cartier watch is not appropriate. According to The New Complete Guide to Executive Manners by Letitia Baldridge, appropriate business gifts currently include: promotional giveaways, presents inscribed with the corporate logo, gift baskets, flowers, entertainment coupons or tickets, food and wine, travel accessories and desk accessories.

Gift giving is a positive way to build strong relationships in the business world. Think of gift giving as a tangible marketing opportunity to more deeply connect with your clients, to outshine your competition and to share news of your company’s success, all with one gift.


Joanna Johnson has 12+ years professional business marketing experience in the entertainment, non-profit and advertising industries. Johnson, an Indiana University Kelley School of Business graduate, is the owner of E2 Business Gifts, whose company name is derived from phonetic Spanish for ‘and you’. E2 Business Gifts distributes personalized promotional products for employee and customer gifts & recognition, trade-show giveaways, business marketing outreach and special event favors.

Joanna F. Johnson
E2 Business Gifts
P: 303.522.3686
F: 270.513.3686

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