Business gift giving isn’t exclusively a winter concept, but I always felt particularly pressured to go big during the holiday season.
Between clients, contractors, staff, friends, and family, I actually dreaded this tradition…and all the associated holiday parties.
Once I embraced the “present problem,” I found a new and easier way to make business gift giving far less painful. Here are my tips:
• Stay on budget. First of all, determine your budget and stick to it. Sure, it would be great to go all “Oprah” on your staff and fly everyone and their families to Hawaii, but if that isn’t in your budget, don’t kill yourself or go broke trying to make it happen.
As boring as it sounds, you need to be practical. Depending on your business, December might be a high-profit month, or the absolute worst (I feel for you, gyms). So don’t buy a gift based on what you WANT the profits to be, buy based on what you’re actually generating.
Yes, your personal training clients would all love massage gift certificates, but they wouldn’t love knowing those gifts put you out of business.
• Get personal. Yes, there is a time and place for a more generic gift—the logo cups, the fruit baskets, etc—but even those should have a touch of something specifically “you” and specifically “your client.”
I try not to send logo-covered items during the holidays. They usually come off as more salesy. Instead, I save these for client appreciation, milestone gifts, or just because items.
The thing about choosing a personal gift, is that it really shows how much you value and listen to your clients. Do you know your client hates bananas? Make sure those aren’t included in that generic fruit basket. Are they big sports fans? Maybe tickets to a game or team sports apparel would fit. Do they have five dogs? How about including doggie biscuits in your package.
It doesn’t matter specifically WHAT the personalization is, but rather that it exists.
So how do you get personal, even if you don’t know a person all that well? Here’s where you have to pay attention, or lightly cyber stalk (emphasis on lightly).
Does your assistant order a tall, hot, soy, no whip white mocha from Starbucks every single day? Maybe she would appreciate a gift card and a custom cup with her order printed on it.
• But not too personal. I don’t care if you work at a lingerie store, you shouldn’t buy a colleague a bra. Some gifts are just too personal and the last thing you want is to send the wrong message or come off as unprofessional.
Stay away from anything overtly sexual, political, religious, etc. If you wonder if it’s inappropriate, it is.
• Shop local. If you can, shop local! Visit your clients’ and staff’s favorite local spots and get a gift from there. It shows you value the community and you know something personal and special about your client.
• Shop early. I am always trying to get ahead on everything. Early is on time. The same concept applies to business gift giving. If I know an event (like a birthday, anniversary, or holiday) is coming up, I always keep my eyes open for possible gifts. And if I see something, I buy it, even if it’s for an event that’s months away.
The hardest part about this is how much I want to give a gift once I have it. If I find the perfect birthday card seven months before my friend’s birthday, it’s physically painful for me NOT to give it to her. That’s how you know it’s the perfect gift—if you can’t wait to give it.
But finding the perfect gift for everyone in a short timeframe (say, November-December) is excruciating! There is just no way I’ll find something meaningful, affordable, relevant, (insert adjective here) enough to satisfy me.
Tip: I make a list of everyone I want to buy a gift for (and I separate the lists between personal and professional) and I keep the list on my phone at all times. This helps me keep track of special events like birthdays and holidays and special people, like my top 10% of clients, staff, partners, family, etc.
• Don’t forget a note. Always, always include a note. And please, not just a note with your name and company name and nothing else. Yuck.
Adding something as simple as, “I hope little Timmy’s leg gets better” can really show your clients and staff (or whoever) that you honestly care and are aware of what’s important to them.
Moreover, if you just don’t have a budget this year for anything (can we say 2020?), a well written note can be all you need to show a client or team member how much you appreciate them.
I know everyone expects a gift during the end-of-year holiday madness, but I also want to emphasize that you should never feel obligated to give a gift. It’s just as important that you give a gift for the right reasons—for the joy of it, because you thought of them, to show your appreciation—as it is to avoid giving gifts for the wrong reasons– not to gain anything, not to win back a client, not to one-up a competitor, etc.
Like I said before, sometimes all you need is a note.
So don’t stress about gifts for clients and colleagues. It really is the thought that counts.
Do you have a story of a favorite corporate gift? Given or received? Tell me!