5 Tips for a Foolproof Business Gift
Business gifts are tricky to give and to get. It's a delicate tightrope walk to give quality merchandise the recipient will enjoy without violating company gift-giving rules that often put a cap on the value of gifts employees may accept. Money aside, it's often hard to pick out a gift for someone you simply don't know that well.
Here are some ways to make sure your gift is accepted with a smile.
Include a handwritten note. No matter what kind of business gift you choose, make sure there is a personalized note with it, advises John Lostroscio, vice president of technology merchandising for Office Depot. Amid a daily deluge of E-mail and text messages, a handwritten card can lend charm. Be sure to mention the last time you talked or a project you worked on together to personalize an otherwise bland gift. "If you're just giving them a gift certificate, you should probably then pair it with a small gift or a card that explains why you chose this," advises Alice Bredin, an adviser for Open, the small-business division of American Express.
Add small touches. Office items and chocolates are common gifts in workplaces during the holidaysprobably too common. But you can make your gift stand out by, say, having a pen engraved, artfully wrapping the package, or otherwise personalizing the gift. Kim Land, vice president of Godiva Direct, likes to have a personalized ribbon added to the traditional boxed chocolate to make her marketing promotions, company banquet presents, and thank-you gifts stand out. "The more a gift reflects the fact that the giver has put some thought and energy into it," says Bredin, "the more appreciated it will be."
Personal, but not too personal. You want to give something that takes into consideration the recipient's personal interests, like a cooking utensil for someone who loves to cook. But you don't want the gift to be too personal. Eric Winegardner, director of product adoption for job search website Monster.com, has had female clients tell him, "I don't want creams and lotions. I want to buy my own scents." You should also stay away from perfume or lingerie. "Don't give anything like a gift certificate for a massage," advises Leah Ingram, author of Gifts Anytime! How to Find the Perfect Present for Any Occasion.
Check out company policy. "We have some ethics policies that prevent us from giving gifts above a certain amount," says Lostroscio about Office Depot, declining to name the exact amount. Some companies and organizations do not allow their employees to accept gifts at all, says etiquette expert Peggy Post. So, look into the gift policies of your company and the recipient's. "You can surely ask somebody at the company without asking the client," Post says. Call up the human resources department at the intended recipient's company and ask for an explanation of the gift policy.
Keep it under $25. The Internal Revenue Service allows a tax deduction of up to $25 for each business gift you give, which is a great incentive to keep the cost of gifts low. Incidental costs like engraving, packaging, insuring, and mailing are not included. Many companies allow employees to accept only gifts under $25 in value or require that all gifts worth more than $25 be reported to management. You don't want to be in the awkward position of having a gift returned to you because it was too expensive. "There can be a tendency to overspend," says Bredin. "I think that thoughtfulness goes a lot farther than a huge budget."
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