The 10 Best Business Giftsand How to Give Them
Company branded items. "Somebody doesn't always like to receive something with your company logo on it," says etiquette expert Peggy Post. But a company-branded item can be a great gift if it is something your client would like. It's also a great way to keep the name of your company and your phone number in plain view. "It needs to be a gift that the receiver is going to like and appreciate first and foremost," says Bredin. "If that is true with a gift and you want to brand it, that's great." About 24 percent of small-business owners in the AmEx survey planned to give company-branded or monogrammed items as gifts.
Bredin advises against giving away thoughtless company branded items like mugs and T-shirts. "If it's a mug with your company name on it, that's not really giving thought to the recipient, and it's not really in the true spirit of giving the gift." Post recommends making sure that all company-branded items are well made in tasteful colors with an understated logo that doesn't look like an advertisement. Winegardner admits that no one wants to receive a gift of the Monster-branded sweater vests they sometimes give away "It's important to separate your marketing from your gift giving," he says. "The point of giving is to thank you for your business, so try to be as personal as you can."
Food. You might prefer sugary, salty, or savory foods, but almost everyone likes to indulge in a favorite treat from time to time. The trick is to know what food your recipient will appreciate. Among small-business owners, 22 percent planned to give food as a gift. Bredin once had a vendor catch on to the fact that she loves Danish pastry. "I got a Danish that was the size of a wall clock. It was heaven on earth," she says. And the giver's thoughtfulness left a lasting impression. "I'm not going to ever hire the wrong person for the job just because they sent me something, but human nature is that you are more positively inclined toward people who are nice to you and take an interest in you," she says about the vendor. "All things being equal, I might be more inclined to work with them in the future just because I'll enjoy the interaction more."
For Leah Ingram, a gift of food produced tangible results. Ingram, author of Gifts Anytime! How to Find the Perfect Present for Any Occasion, sent a box of chocolates in December to a company she had not done business with in two years. In January, a project came up, and people at the company thought of her. "Perhaps if I hadn't sent that box of chocolates in December," she muses, "they would have gone with someone else."
Of course you'll want to be aware of food allergies and dietary restrictions. "Many Asian people have a lot of lactose intolerance, so milk chocolate is not a good gift," says Martin. And you never want to buy candy for a diabetic unless it is specially made for them. But you need not limit your food gifts to chocolate. You could also send a fruit basket, cheese, steaks, nuts, spices, olive oil, preserves, maple syrup, or any food the recipient has expressed an interest in. "Food rarely offends," says Bredin, "unless someone is trying to watch their weight and you give them a bunch of chocolates."