The 10 Best Business Giftsand How to Give Them
Business gifts can help cement a relationship between your company and its customers or clientsor at least help them remember your name. But sometimes it's a chore to figure out what someone you don't know very well might appreciate as a gift. U.S. News has identified 10 popular business gifts with the potential to grow your businessand their potential pitfalls.
Cards and calendars. These are the most popular gifts from small-business owners to customers and clients. Fully 48 percent of small businesses planned to mail cards or calendars to valued clients, according to an American Express survey last fall of business owners. But just because everyone's doing it doesn't mean it's the correct choice for your company."If we're just talking about sending out a calendar with your company name on it, to me it says the lazy way out," says Alice Bredin, an adviser for Open, the small business division of American Express. "It's a pretty easy thing to send, and therefore it's going to show a very minimal amount of creativity and initiative on the part of the giver." Jeanette Martin, an associate professor at the University of Mississippi School of Business and coauthor of Global Business Etiquette, adds, "It's like one company gets on the bandwagon, and then they all do that. It's overkill."
But if you do want to send out company cards or calendars, try to make the tradition your own. "Giving a gift at holiday time is great, but a gift at another time of year might make even more of a splash," says Bredin, who recommends a midwinter celebration card. "Find something that is uniquely yours, and do not copy what every other company is doing." Pay attention to color choices when selecting cards, especially when sending them abroad. "There was a company that sent out Christmas cards, and they were all printed in red," says Martin. "And the only thing in Japan that is printed in red is funeral notices."
Gift cards. Eric Winegardner calls himself a "gift-card kind of guy." As director of product adoption for job search website Monster.com, he frequently sends gift cards to clients as business giftswith good reason.Gift cards or certificates allow the recipients to pick out what they want, provided you choose an appropriate restaurant or store. Some 29 percent of small-business owners planned to give cards or certificates to clients and customers, American Express found.
But recently, some of Winegardner's gift cards have been coming back to him with handwritten notes saying the company no longer allows employees to accept expensive gifts. Some companies have a ceiling on the cost of gifts that employees can receiveoften around $25or require that gifts valued above a certain amount be disclosed to management. And nowhere is the cost of a gift more apparent that when it's a gift card. "If you want to give more than $25, give four $25 gift cards," advises Winegardner. "It makes it so much easier for the person receiving the gift to say, 'I'll take one and give the rest away, and then I can sleep well at night.'" There are also tax incentives to keep the price tag under $25. The Internal Revenue Service allows a tax deduction of up to $25 for each business gift you give. Incidental costs like engraving, packaging, insuring, and mailing are not included.