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Maneuvering the Treacherous Maze of Business Gift Giving

Planning for the right business gift matters.

The holidays are hectic!  Most of us run around in a gift-focused fog, working late to complete those end-of-year personal projects and shopping for holiday party clothes that will hide the five pounds we are certain to gain.  Professionally, we are scrambling to complete work, close out the books, and accommodate the revolving door of staff holiday vacations.

But don’t forget that this is also the season to extend a formal thank you to employees and clients through gifts or other forms of recognition. This is not a casual task!  A business gift should be appropriate to the person or business for which it is intended.  The following are some quick guidelines to help ensure that your business gift will be received with appreciation.

Professional Gifts with a Personal Touch

A business gift with a personal touch can differentiate you, demonstrating that you are paying attention to the recipient throughout the year―it just takes a bit of extra effort.  Consider a gift that reflects a special interest of the recipient.  Or, perhaps a gift related to the general industry of the firm (for a group gift).  Presents that demonstrate an association with food items and can be shared throughout an office are good and then take the extra step―select something edible that represent the state or region where your company is headquartered.  This business gift approach offers a creative (and edible) reminder of your company while spreading good cheer about your thoughtfulness throughout the office.

If affordable for your business, cash bonuses for employees are often more appreciated than an actual gift.  In addition, hosting a team lunch or dinner can be a great bonding experience with your staff and can replace the often disastrous or awkward holiday party which can offer ample opportunities for faux pas when alcohol is served.

Spend Appropriately on the Business Gift

Determining the gift budget is usually dependent on your company finances.  The amount spent or “bonused” to employees is usually based on title and responsibilities.  It’s important to have a standard protocol for bonuses.  If finances are tight and gifts are small, an additional personalized note of appreciation to each employee can go a long way.

If you are providing gifts to service providers, be sure to research the types of gifts or dollar limit of gifts that they can receive.  For example, postal workers can only accept gifts or tips up to $20.  Tipping or spending too much might lead to an awkward situation.

Keep the Holiday Card Neutral

Cards are a great and inexpensive way to reach out to employees, clients, and vendors.  Keep the holiday theme neutral as it’s unlikely you’ll know the specific religious affiliation or cultural background of all intended recipients.  Buy holiday cards early, in bulk if needed, and send them soon after Thanksgiving.  Prior to writing out the personal message on the card, be sure to type the message out and spell check it; text message acronyms and emojis are not yet standard gift card etiquette.

Make a List and Check It Twice

Be sure to keep a running list of clients and employees over the year to ensure that no one is forgotten at holiday time.  Whether giving a card or business gift, it’s important to remember everyone.  Even a small token of appreciation and acknowledgement can make people feel important to your business.

And most importantly…don’t forget to have a happy and joyful holiday season!

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About Bobbie Wasserman

Bobbie Wasserman, M.B.A., is managing director of Wave2 Alliances, a firm that builds or restructures corporate communication departments for multi-channel companies. She has worked with several direct selling firms, including in-house as VP of Public Relations for ViSalus and is a former VP of Corporate Reputation and Crisis Management at Edelman.

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