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Corporate Christmas Gift Etiquette

Published September 27, 2007        by Nicole

Christmas gift-giving has become a tradition in the corporate business world. By giving your clients a gift, you let them know that you truly value them and their business and look forward to working with them in the future. Handled appropriately, giving Christmas gifts can have a beneficial impact on your business. Everyone loves receiving a well thought out gift. So this year follow these tips to choose a memorable and appropriate Christmas gift.

1. First off, check into your own company and your client's company policy regarding gift-giving and receiving. These days many companies have strict rules (such as a limit on the monetary value a company employee can give or receive) to reduce the appearance of any impropriety or bribery. Many times policies of this nature will be laid out in an ethics manual.

If you are in the middle of contract negotiations or a bidding process, we recommend that you hold off on giving gifts until the deal is closed. You don't want your gift to be misinterpreted as an attempt to inappropriately influence the outcome. Remember that government employees are prohibited from accepting any Christmas gifts.

2. If this is the first year that you will be giving gifts to clients, think long and hard about what kind of gifts you want to give and how much you want to spend. Once you start gifting, it becomes a tradition and clients tend to "expect" to get something equivalent to the previous year's gift. The last thing you want are disappointed and resentful clients whose gift expectations didn't get met. If you gave gifts last holiday season, be sure to continue the tradition by following up with an equivalent or an even more special gift this year.

3. Determining what to spend can be a difficult task. Gifts that are inexpensive can sometimes be interpreted as an obligatory gift that does more harm than good. However, giving gifts that are too extravagant and expensive can be construed negatively (as if you are trying to "buy" their business). A general rule of thumb is that gifts going to clients have an average cost of $50 - $60 and usually don't exceed $150 unless they are going to a large office group or someone high up at the company. Company hierarchy should definitely influence how much you spend (or how special the gift is) because appearance is everything to these people and they don't want to be embarrassed. The CEO of a company should get something more expensive than say the Advertising Director. If you are buying gifts for individuals all at the same level within close physical proximity to one another, you may want to consider giving them all something similar or the same gift altogether so that you don't create animosity or the appearance of favoritism.

4. If you are in the referral business (and even if you aren't), you should keep a file on all your client's likes and dislikes, hobbies and other personal information that you obtain through conversing with your client. If you have such information, you should choose your gifts to align with each client's interests and tastes. If you know that they are a sports junkie, then tickets to a hockey or basketball game would surely be a hit. Everyone wants to be validated and giving a personal gift makes your client feel special. If you don't know your client's interests this year, start a file today so that you have that information for next year's holiday gift-giving. In the meantime, go with a gourmet gift. We all have an interest in eating after all!

5. Edible gourmet gifts are always a sure bet. Try to find gifts that have a wide range of snack items (that don't need to be prepared). By having an extensive selection of items like a gourmet gift tower or snack gift basket, your recipient will likely find something that they can enjoy even if they are diabetic or allergic to nuts, etc. We recommend avoiding gifts with liquor altogether because many people and companies have religious, ethical or personal problems with alcohol. No need to offend anyone! If you are sending gifts all across the U.S., you could always send a regional or state themed gift basket. For instance, if your company is based in Virginia, send a basket with regional items like Chesapeake Bay chips and Virginia peanuts. Many folks haven't ever tasted the crunchy peanuts from that region, but once they do, they'll be ordering them for themselves and they'll be thanking you for sharing a taste of Virginia.

6. Christmas holiday gifts are not about promoting your company - they are about saying "Thank You." So if you want to use your company logo in the gift, do it elegantly and tastefully. Don't cover an entire gift in your logo - it is just plain tacky. Imprinted ribbon or a small logo on a tin or gift box are always good options for logo inclusion.

7. Finally, avoid gifts that convey religion or politics. Stick with Season's Greetings or Happy Holidays!