Have you thought about how giving business gifts, as we head into the end of the year, can strengthen your relationships with your clients and even your vendors?
Hopefully you’re providing services throughout the year that meet your customers’ needs, and you are also communicating with them regularly so they remember you when they need what you offer.
But in case you haven’t talked to them in a while, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve lost the relationship. Sending the right business gifts at the end of the year can provide several benefits.
First, they can be a timely reminder to customers as they plan for their needs in the coming year. Second, they are a low stress, meaningful reminder that your business is the right choice for their needs. And third, they’re a great opening to check on a client, see if you’re meeting their needs and understand how you can continue to serve them in the coming year.
What kinds of business gifts are appropriate?
What makes the right business gift? Here are a few thoughts. A business gift should:
- Be relevant to the person receiving it;
- Be about them and not you;
- Show that you put some thought into it; and
- Show how you value them and their business, throughout the year.
There’s nothing worse for a customer than getting a mug with your company’s logo on it. Where does it go? Most likely in the back of a cabinet. But a mug personalized with the person’s name, filled with their favorite candy and accompanied by a handwritten card? How much happier would they be to receive that, displaying it prominently and remembering you every time they see it?
It’s also possible to send gifts that relate to your business and have the impact you’re going for. Travel agents might give passport cases, while a construction company might consider a small toolkit that’s perfect to keep at the office.
How much to spend on business gifts
Think about how much you want to spend, and can spend, on business gifts. Gifts can be tough to find money for at the end of the year, when you’re also thinking about your operational budget for the next year. Don’t feel you have to break the bank to compete with other companies in your industry. Even a small token or a handwritten card lets customers know you’re thinking about them.
A good rule is to keep your gifts in proportion to the income you receive from a client. That’s not to say that one client is better than another. But you don’t want to spend all of your holiday business gift budget on a $1000 gift for a $1000 client. The goal is to make your clients feel appreciated. And to do a tiny bit of marketing. But there’s no need to spend too much and use it as a big promotional campaign.
Spending too much can actually get you into trouble. Be sure to check the IRS regulations on gift giving before you start shopping. IRS publication 463 addresses business gifts. Certain types of organizations have caps on the dollar amount of gifts they can receive, if they can receive them at all. For example, did you know that postal workers can’t accept gifts worth more than $20? Be sure to do your research, before spending time and money on a thoughtful gift that could end up being returned to you.
Business gifts for customers
If you have just a few clients to buy for, you might be able to customize their gifts. By asking questions and paying attention to habits, you and your team can gather some useful information about their likes and dislikes.
What happens when your business success provides you with a large number of clients you want to give gifts to? You’ll most likely have to choose more general items. This is where it’s helpful to remember your company’s brand. What do you stand for? What is your mission or vision and what gift fits them? What smaller gift can you give that will stand out, and be unmistakable as coming from your organization?
Business gifts for vendors
Don’t forget those individuals and organizations that provide services to you during the year, from your consultants and virtual assistants to your building maintenance workers and the previously mentioned postal workers.
Think about gifts that reflect your relationship with them. They could be the same as those you’re giving your customers or they could be smaller and simpler. They might appreciate a multi-flavored popcorn tin filled with their favorite flavors, which you would know from talking to them, but your favorite fruitcake might fall hard.
What about Charitable giving instead? Or giving “green”?
These days, there’s no reason to choose between giving the right gifts for your organization and supporting worthwhile causes. There are so many options for giving charitable, socially responsible and/or environmentally friendly gifts.
Some of your clients may feel overwhelmed with the amount of “stuff” they get at the end of each year. What about making a donation in their name instead? You and your company will be viewed as generous, and you might also get a tax write off.
Just keep in mind that what you view as the right cause may not be seen in the same way by your clients. Pick something more general, unless you’re certain the organization supports the same types of causes you do.
Important gift guidelines to remember
You may have clients and vendors who don’t celebrate with gifts this time of year. These individuals should not be ignored, but instead, think about sending a personalized note or consider other times during the year they might appreciate a gift.
It may be December already, but it’s not too late. You can still get your business gift list written, bought and out the door before the end of the year, if you move quickly. Don’t worry that you’re not spending as much as the big companies. As a small or medium size business, you can be much more genuine and personal, so take advantage of that differentiator.