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Corporate Christmas Gift Etiquette

Published November 26, 2014        by Matt

Gift giving during the holidays has become a tradition in the business world. A well thought out and impressive gift can strengthen your business relationship, share your holiday cheer, and have a positive effect on your overall business. The reverse is true as well. Handled inappropriately, a good intention can have a detrimental effect on your business.

We've written this article to help corporate businesses avoid the pitfalls associated with holiday gift-giving with tips on choosing the most appropriate and impressive Christmas gifts.

Corporate gift giving etiquette

Follow Your Company & Client Gift-Giving Policies

Today, many companies have stringent policies regarding giving and accepting gifts from associates. Limits on the monetary value of gifts that can be given or received will normally be laid out in the company employee or ethics manual. These policies are usually in place to avoid the appearance of impropriety or bribery. Some companies and all governmental agencies prohibit the acceptance of gifts altogether. So before sending a client a gift, check with them to see what their company's policy is - it would be a shame to waste money on a gift that they'd have to return or even worse, throw away!

IRS and tax deduction rules change from year to year so be sure to check how much the deduction is for corporate gifts before deciding how much to spend per person.

If your company is in the middle of a contract bidding process, wait until the contract has been awarded before giving any gifts to the involved parties. By waiting until the deal is closed, you will avoid any gifts being misinterpreted as an attempt to sway the outcome of the decision.

Make Business Gift-Giving A Tradition

If your company has given gourmet holiday gifts in the past, keep the tradition going. Clients and associates come to expect gifts especially if you've sent them out several years in a row. Therefore, stopping the sending of gifts without an explanation can lead to resentment or disappointment. That said, in difficult economic times, it is understandable to scale back your spending. However, avoid stopping giving gifts altogether.

If you are considering giving business Christmas gifts for the first time, be sure that it is a tradition that you can keep up for years to come. Once started, recipients tend to 'expect' gifts every year.

Determine What To Spend

Deciding what to spend on corporate holiday gifts can be difficult. Consider that inexpensive, cheap looking gifts can sometimes be interpreted as obligatory meaning that they can do more harm than good. Of course, at the opposite end of the spectrum are overly extravagant gift purchases. Gifts that are too expensive can be misinterpreted as though you are trying to 'buy' your client's business instead of as an 'we appreciate your business' gift.

How much should I spend on business holiday gifts

Generally speaking, holiday gifts and baskets that fall in the $50 - $60 range are a good bet. They are expensive enough to be memorable, but not so extravagant that they convey the wrong message. Gifts over $150 should be reserved for company executives or groups. No matter what you spend, be sure to purchase high-quality office Christmas gifts.

Finally when determining what to spend, consider the company hierarchy. Obviously, the executives and CEO's of a company should receive more extravagant gifts than the individual lower level employees. If you are sending gifts to several people in the same office who are at the same hierarchy level, it would be wise to send them the same or similarly priced items so that their is no room for misinterpretation of favoritism.

Tailor Holiday Gifts To Your Clients Interests

If clients are the backbone of your business (e.g. you rely on referrals), you should keep a spreadsheet or file with your clients likes and dislikes. Obviously, you don't come right out and ask them. However in conversations throughout the year, you are bound to learn things about what your client likes to eat, what they like to do for fun, what their hobbies are, and other personal information. Just keep notes on these little tidbits of information because they come in handy when trying to find the perfect birthday gift or corporate Christmas gift. A sure fire way to make your client feel special is to give them a gift that is especially tailored to their interests. So if you have this data on hand, you are all set. For instance if you know your client is a sports enthusiast, consider tickets to a local football or hockey game.

And for those of you that haven't started that all important file with your client's personal interest information, start it today! And for this year's holiday gift, consider giving a gourmet food basket. We all have to eat and food is one gift you can be sure they won't return!

Use Your Company Logo Tastefully

Don't incorporate your logo on every single item that you give clients for the holidays. After all, holiday gifts are about saying 'thank you', not about promoting your business. That said, using your logo on things like imprinted ribbon or foil stamped on gift boxes is an elegant and tasteful way to incorporate your company information with the gift. Business logo cookie gifts are also a nice way to incorporate a logo for the holidays.

Avoid Politics & Religion in Your Gifts

Although there has been a backlash against retailers for reducing the use of Merry Christmas in stores and advertising, it is still a good idea to stick with a more generic message such as 'Happy Holidays' or 'Season's Greetings' when sending your holiday gifts and cards. That said, if you are certain that your recipient celebrates Christmas or Hanukkah, feel free to send a Merry Christmas or Hanukkah gift.

Christmas Food Gifts are Always a Hit

Giving a gift with snack or gourmet foods is a sure fire winner during the holiday season. Edible food gifts and gift baskets are available at many online retailers and in local stores such as Costco. Holiday savvy retailers offer their gifts and baskets in a wide array of unique containers with various foods such as gourmet nuts, fresh-baked cookies, meats and cheeses and so much more. Even if your recipient has special dietary needs, items such as diabetic gift baskets are a great alternative to sugary treats.

Holiday Food Gifts

Regional themed food gifts are a great way to promote your business and your unique local area especially if your state or area specializes in great tasting, well-known foods. For instance, Virginia and North Carolina are known for their jumbo crunchy peanuts so incorporating these along with other specialty items such as Chesapeake Bay chips, maple syrups, apple butters, and other delectable local items is a great gift idea. Once clients get a taste of those outrageously good peanuts, they'll be ordering them up for themselves.

Finally - a note about alcohol. It is best to avoid gifts with alcohol unless you are certain that the recipient is a wine enthusiast. In this case, a holiday wine gift basket or bottle of Merlot is perfectly acceptable. However, note that many cultures and religions forbid the consumption of alcohol and there is no point taking a chance that someone may get offended.

Include A Handwritten Card

A handwritten card gives any gift a more personal feel. Many online companies will include cards that you provide with gifts that you purchase from them. Just inquire up front about whether or not this is possible.

And finally if at all possible, hand deliver your holiday gifts directly to the recipient. It may take time, but it will make each one of your client's feel truly special.