The 10 Best Business Giftsand How to Give Them
Donations to charity. Some companies like to contribute to the greater good by making a donation to charity on a client's behalf. About 19 percent of small-business owners planned to do so, American Express found.
But picking the correct charity can be tricky. "It's a great idea if you're pretty darn sure that the person who is receiving the gift feels the same way you do [about the charity], and you're very confident that the organization you are making the donation to is not controversial," says Bredin. But people differ in the charities they deem most worthy. "One of the traps that the giver can fall into is thinking, 'I'm into this organization, and therefore I'm giving gifts to you to that organization,'" says Bredin. Consider how someone would feel having a donation made to a charity in his or her name.
Some might cherish a donation to medical research, while others would prefer to focus on feeding the hungry. To make your gift have a strong meaning, you can personalize it. "If you know your client had a premature baby or your other client's mother died from breast cancer, then by all means make a donation to that charity," says Ingram. "Anybody who knows me knows I love animals. If they made a donation to the Humane Society, I would think that is so cool."
Plants. Whether a potted plant, a vase of flowers, or garden herbs, plants tend to make fantastic gifts. Michelle Bogan, a strategist at retail consulting firm Kurt Salmon Associates, says one of the best business gifts she has ever received is flowers delivered to her at home. "That was really nice to get flowers at home because that is something you would only normally get from family or a significant other," she says. But some people find it inappropriate to have flowers delivered at home, especially as gifts from a man to a woman. "It has to be clear that there's nothing else implied by it," says Bogan, who advises against sending roses as a business gift. "Roses can be misinterpreted."
Other countries may have different cultural norms concerning flowers. So, you'll want to look up a flower's significance in a foreign country before you send it. "If you're going to get in the flower-giving business, you have to know what you're doing," cautions Lillian Chaney, professor of management at the University of Memphis and coauthor of Global Business Etiquette. "In some countries like Japan and Korea, you would not give multiples of four of any gift, including flowers." The number 4 is associated with bad luck much like the number 13 is in the United States. You should also make sure a given flower isn't hazardous to kids and pets.
Many people choose potted plants over flowers because they tend to last longer. "If it is a perennial," Bredin says, "every year when it blooms maybe they will think of you."
Wine or liquor. Giving wine puts you in the illustrious company of kings going back as far as 5500 B.C. And the tradition of bestowing wine and liquor continues to this day (about 7 percent of small businesses planned to give wine or liquor), with a few caveats. You need to make sure that the recipient enjoys alcohol, isn't a recovering alcoholic, and has no dietary restrictions on alcohol.You shouldn't give alcohol in Islamic countries because some versions of the Koran are interpreted as prohibiting its consumption.