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TCMPiHoliday Corporate Gifts: How much is enough and how much is too much?


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When it comes to giving business gifts, there’s a fine line between creating goodwill and bad vibes.

If you’re expecting a resounding “Oh, thank you so much” response from everyone who gets a corporate gift from you this year, you may be in for a surprise. In the eyes of the receiver, a gift that seems “over the top” may be met with narrowed eyes and “What’s this all about?” attitude.  And a gift that seems puny may meet with “That’s all I get after all I’ve done for that company?”

So what’s a well-meaning company to do when it comes to budgeting for holiday business gifts?

First: Know your audience

The shorter your list, the more likely you are to know each recipient personally or at least have some knowledge of their customs, standards and interests. That means you can probably set a budget and select a gift that will meet with not only acceptance but pleasure.

On the other hand, the more removed you are from the people on your list the harder it is to choose a gift that rewards and pleases versus insults and angers. In this case, opt for more anonymous but meaningful gifts or strictly business items such as desk accessories, luggage or electronics-related products.  Alternatively, you could engage a professional shopper to help with ideas and suggestions.

Second: Understand the value of the recipient

While never an exact science, you can use mathematical formulas to determine budgets based on the value of a client, business partner or employee.

Surveys of small businesses show that the following table is typical:

Clients who brought you $15,000 in revenue = $100 or more per gift

Clients who brought you $10,000 – $15,000 in revenue = $50 – $100 per gift

Clients who brought you less than $10,000 in revenue = $25 – $50 per gift

When it comes to employees, most companies choose to give the same gift to everyone at holiday time. One small business survey indicates that gifts in the $25 to $50 range are appropriate for most employee gift programs. Rewards for performance, longevity or loyalty are more often reserved for employee’s reviews or anniversary dates.

Third: Pay attention to the emotional value of the gift as well as its monetary cost

According an American Express Open Small Business Holiday Monitor, “44 percent of managers surveyed said they intend to send clients gifts, with the average price of these gifts jumping to $740.” But just as surprising as the cost of the gifts is the reported “shift toward so-called unique gifts.” The report showed a steady increase in personalized, customized and well-thought-out business gifts.

Along with that trend is the decrease in promotional items such as logoed calendars, desk items and apparel. These items are rapidly disappearing from the corporate gift closet and are rightfully reserved for promotional activities, not for holiday corporate gifts.

Fourth: Keep in mind the reason for the gift

Corporate gifts are usually given as a goodwill gesture. They are meant to impart a feeling of mutual respect and appreciation. Naturally, there is a secondary wish that the gift will leave the recipient with fond thoughts of the giver. Nonetheless, business gifts should never, ever infer the promise of future business or smack of a reward for past considerations.

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