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Careful with your Corporate Gifts

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As the end of the year approaches, many business will be sending out tokens of their appreciation to their most valued clients and suppliers. These serve as a tangible “thank you” for doing business with for the past year, and can range from a day out driving a Ferrari, or a batch of branded diaries. My local Chinese takeaway hands out wall calendars to regular customers. One marketing company that I know of spends a fortune on handmade chocolates. If you are planning on sending out gifts on behalf of your business this year, it’s important that you send out the right sort of gifts.

First, there’s no point sending out a gift if the recipient will have to reject it or will end up in trouble with the taxman. Check to see if they have a policy for corporate gifts or hospitality. They may be limited to gifts that don’t exceed a certain value, or may say that gifts can only go to a named individual. Your gift is meant to be a gesture of thanks; don’t mess things up by putting the recipient in an awkward situation at their place of work. True, you may know that Jeff at your ad agency is a Metallica obsessive, but flying him across the world for one of their gigs could land him in hot water if his company says that employees can’t accept gifts with a value of more than £20.

Second, it may seem convenient to order multiples of the same gift, but that can seem impersonal, and will smack of disinterest if you are sending gifts to different people at the same company. Try to make your gifts as suited to the people receiving them as possible. Think about the personalities involved and their office culture, if you’ve had the chance to observe it. Also think about how important this business relationship is to you. While you might be able to fob off the office pool with a few cupcakes, once they are eaten, they will be gone and forgotten. A gift crafted to the personality of the person receiving it will reflect the thought you have put into it and will be more appreciated. As a result, you will be remembered.

Third, even if you are not delivering the gifts in person, do try to make your presence felt. Make sure that any message accompanying the gift is from you personally, rather than a standard statement, and make the notes handwritten if possible. This adds to the impression that you have taken time and care over choosing the gift and will again reflect well on you. To be certain that  your gift is received, splash out and send it special delivery. Even if the recipient isn’t polite enough to send a thank-you note, you will at least be sure that it was received.

So, who will you be sending gifts to? It would be financially crippling to send high value gifts to each and every employee at every company you deal with, and impossible to come up with a bespoke gift for each, so you will need to draw up some sort of list. Generally, you’ll be sending gifts out to your most valuable clients and suppliers, so choose those businesses without whom your own would collapse. One gift for the head of the company, and you can probably get away with something fairly generic for that. More effort should go into choosing the gift for the person you deal with most often, if that’s a different person; after all, your business relationship is with them. So while you can probably plump for a box of chocolates for the CEO of your marketing company, something a bit more imaginative for your account manager there would go down well. At the same time, don’t get too personal; these are business relationships, not necessarily friends. Clothing and lingerie is most definitely a no-no.

Gifts that I do feel are a bad idea tend to be things along the lines of diaries and calendars bearing your company logo. Yes, they’ll be a reminder of your businesss, but will they be appreciated? They can seem like the sort of thing you send out after ordering too many for yourself, and are now fobbing off on other businesses who have no real need for them. That also goes for gifts within your own company; people already know who they work for, they don’t need to be reminded. Rule of thumb: if it could make up part of a goodie bag at a trade show, it’s not a gift.

Remember, these are supposed to be corporate gifts, not bribes. Don’t go over the top, especially as times are still tough; you don’t want to make people feel embarrassed or compromised by your extravagance. Your corporate gifts are supposed to remind the recipients of you and to show that you have appreciated your business relationship with them. Get it right and you can probably count on a happy relationship continuing into next year. Get it wrong, and you could find yourself falling to the bottom of their list of priorities.

[Image by Hjwllms]


1 Comment

  1. You’re right about not wanting them to get into trouble with the taxman. I think many people forget that you have to report some types of gifts in your taxes. But I still would not mind taking a ride in the Ferrari.

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