Open this: A guide to giving client gifts

Whoever wrote the song “It’s the most wonderful time of the year” clearly didn’t own a business. The holidays can be one of the most stressful times for a business owner. To give or not to give? That is the question. And if you give, who do you give to? And then, the real stumper – what do you give?

Is it January yet?

To alleviate some of your stress, the EnMast staffers have compiled this Gift Guide to aid you in your gift-giving efforts. We polled some business owners for their thoughts on best and worst gifts, and received some great insight. For instance, chocolate is both a favorite gift – and a worst gift. Moldy ham? Never a good idea. A thoughtful, personal gift? On the mark, every time.

While we’re offering you some good suggestions here, you’re still going to have to use your noggin, people. Remember that the purpose of your gift is to say “thank you” to your clients for their business, but also to say “keep it coming” and even “send more when possible.” So what gifts convey that message? Here are some suggestions:

  1. Personalized gifts. Now, by personalized, we don’t mean personalized with your company logo on it. In fact, gifts with company logos on them typically end up on the “worst list” and thrown into a drawer (if not the garbage). But, as one respondent noted, “subtle branding” is ok. “Personalized” in this case means you thought of the person when you bought the gift. For example, one respondent loved that a business associate bought him a replica of his new car, and another appreciated homemade cookies.
  2. Technology. Electronics are great gifts, but first make sure your client is open to using new technology. Some people are “old school” and aren’t ready to part with their paper planners and calendars. That’s ok. In that case, buy them a nice monogrammed leather planner or a calendar that pertains to one of their interests. And if they are of the “techy” variety, an iPad, Kindle and Nook are great gifts.
  3. Food. Be careful if you give food, that’s all we’re saying. Not everyone likes ham or turkey, or salmon or lobster. Make sure you know for sure that they like the type of food you’re giving them. A number of respondents raved about Harry and David’s pears and food baskets. If you are really intent on feeding them in some way, give them a gift card to their favorite restaurant, or a or Lettuce Entertain You gift card (if you’re in the Chicago area) and they can choose a restaurant for themselves. Or, maybe you buy lunch for the whole office.
  4. Luxury. Surely your clients don’t work all the time. What do they like to do in their free time? One respondent shared that she loved receiving a gift certificate to a luxury Chicago spa. Women may enjoy gift certificates for manicures or pedicures – but not all women will, so be careful about that. Tickets to sporting events are also a great gift idea (but just make sure that your client likes that particular team).
  5. The unexpected. You know you’ve succeeded in giving the perfect client gift if you leave your client speechless. We’re guessing that clients of Leo Burnett were left speechless when they opened this gift. The gift, while likely outside of most people’s budgets, did a great job of reinforcing the brand while giving the client something of value. Great job!
  6. Good will. Several people noted that they appreciate when a business associate make a donation to their favorite charity on their behalf. This can be a little tricky because how do you know what their favorite charity is? If you don’t know, you could give them a check with an amount written in, and then the person could write in the name of their charity.

Now we’re really going to throw you. Do you even want to give your clients a gift at this time of year? Why not be different?  Not everyone celebrates Christmas. Maybe you can choose a holiday that doesn’t have a religious tie-in, like Independence Day, St. Patrick’s Day or Labor Day. Regardless of when your favorite gift-giving time is, here’s the best advice we can give you: Do it right, or don’t do it all.

Bridget Ingebrigtsen

Bridget Ingebrigtsen owns Write On Command, a company that provides writing and editing services to businesses and not-for-profits. Bridget describes her six-year stint as Anchor Advisors' writer/editor as being "mutually beneficial" -- she helps Anchor Advisors keep their written projects on track and Anchor Advisors helps her keep her business on track. When she's not running her business, Bridget is running after her four children, two dogs and the latest in entertainment news. Connect with Bridget on Google+, Twitter and LinkedIn.

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