Are you looking for creative ways to celebrate your company’s birthday? Eager to spread the news about a milestone in sales or revenue? Corporate gift giving is an opportunity to recognize the clients and customers who contribute to your company’s success and can be a valuable marketing tool. Whether you’re hosting an event where you’ll be handing out gift bags, or sending out personalized gifts, it’s imperative that your outreach be appropriate and well-received.
Here are ten rules of small business and corporate gifting. Following these guidelines will ensure that your company’s partners and customers know how much you appreciate their business.
1) Check Company Policies
Before you pick out the perfect gift for your client, keep in mind that many companies’ compliance departments require that corporate gifts received by their employees to be valued at less than $25, as per IRS regulations. Some companies don’t allow employees to receive gifts at all. Given these restrictions, you’ll want to check with the company’s Human Resources department before sending gifts. Who wants the gift to be returned to sender? Avoid this awkwardness for both your company and the client.
2) Consider Your Audience
When deciding what kind of gift to give, ask yourself the following questions: What is your client’s mission? Is there a way that your gift can resonate with that mission?
- Is the company environmentally conscious? A stainless steel water bottle sends an environmentally friendly message.
- Is the company high tech? Consider giving a laptop bag, which is practical and not as commonly given as a tote bag.
- What are the client’s personal interests? Find out what the client’s passions are; do they play golf or love musical theatre? An experience (tickets to a play, or a gift certificate at the golf course) can be more memorable than an object that they may not need.
3) Know When Not to Give
If you’re negotiating a big contract with a new company, it might not be appropriate to give a gift. Timing is everything; wait until the contract is signed, sealed and delivered before you send a present. Is the gift for a public official? Make sure that your token of appreciation, however small, couldn’t be misconstrued as a bribe. When it comes to your company’s reputation, you can never be too cautious.
4) Presentation Is Important
Whatever your gift giving budget may be, you don’t want it to appear that you’re giving gifts on the cheap. Have your gifts wrapped professionally; the presentation is part of the present. Think of how much more exciting a simple gift, such as golf balls or a picture frame, could be with fun, festive packaging.
5) Personalize Thank You Cards
A hand-written thank you card is a great way to personalize your gift and let the client or customer know how much you appreciate their business. A high-quality, visually appealing thank you card will make your gift stand out, and the card itself may even win a spot on the client’s bulletin board.
6) Be Subtle about Branding
Whether you’re giving pens, letter openers, or sweatshirts, it’s likely that your company’s logo will appear on your gifts. But make sure the logo is understated and tasteful so that it isn’t distracting to the recipient.
7) Consider Cultural Differences
Different cultures and countries have their own rules for corporate gift giving. Invest time in researching gift giving and receiving traditions if you are doing business with a multi-national company. In China, for example, a gift should never be wrapped in white or black, as the colors symbolize death. Be aware that some religions, such as Islam, prohibit alcohol. The last thing you want to do is accidentally offend someone or suggest that your company lacks sensitivity to cultural or religious differences.
8) Make a Charitable Gift
If you aren’t sure what gifts to give, find out what causes your client supports and choose an organization that resonates with the company’s mission. Both your client and the charitable organization will appreciate the recognition. And who knows, you may even gain a new client in the process.
9) Be Generous
If you’re sending a food basket, many businesses require that food gifts be shared among the staff. Plus, most people will feel obligated to share the contents of the food basket with their co-workers (but might prefer to have something left to take home with them). If you’re sending a food basket, make sure you include enough treats to go around.
10) Keep Track of the Gifts You Send
After you’ve chosen the perfectly thoughtful, culturally sensitive, cost-conscious and gorgeously packaged gifts for your clients and partners, make sure you document what you gave everyone so as not to duplicate your efforts next time your company celebrates a birthday or a milestone.
What are your strategies for small business or corporate gift giving? What kinds of gifts do you like to receive from business associates?
About the Author
Allison Rice is the Marketing Director for Amsterdam Printing (www.amsterdamprinting.com), one of the nation’s largest providers of promotional products for businesses large and small. Amsterdam Printing specializes in logo pens and other promotional products such as calendars, water bottles, and bags. Allison regularly contributes to the Small Business Know-How blog.