by Emily Egbert
Everybody loves a gift, and your business associates are no exception.
The perfect gift can create new business relationships and strengthen established ties with clients and employees. Not to mention, your generosity can promote reciprocity. When you show your appreciation, people are motivated to return the favor. Sounds like a win-win, right?
But before you rush out and grab the first fruit basket that catches your eye, take a step back and consider the repercussions of a less-than-stellar gift. It may be the thought that counts when you unwrap an ugly sweater from your grandma on Christmas morning, but in business, a thoughtless gift could cast your company in a negative light.
Thanks for Nothing
Sometimes, giving the wrong gift can be worse than no gift at all.
An entrepreneur friend of mine once received a goldfish swimming in a plastic bag full of water from a client. It was a nice throwback to his youth but an awful gift for my extremely busy friend.
After the party, he had to run out and buy a fishbowl and food so the fish wouldn’t die, and then he had to find someone to take the fish off his hands. Luckily, my friend has a good sense of humor, but it was obvious that the giver didn’t think the gift through. Remember: A gift should never burden the receiver or cost him time and money.
When sending a business gift, it’s essential to avoid these three missteps:
- Cultural discrepancies: If you do business internationally, make sure you research the country’s business gift-giving culture to avoid offending or embarrassing your recipient.
- Romantic gifts: Perfume or cologne, personal care products, flowers, and fancy jewelry should be avoided. Your gift should be thoughtful, but it can still be professional.
- Conflict of interest: Many companies and government offices have policies that prohibit gifts or limit the dollar value of gifts that employees may accept. Check the recipient’s limitations before giving an extravagant gift, and always avoid giving cash.
Gifts Your Business Associates Will Love
To avoid offending the recipient or crossing professional boundaries, you have to know a little bit about the person you’re buying the gift for. And the more you know about him, the more you can tailor the gift to the recipient’s hobbies and interests.
Find out if there’s anything exciting happening in his life; major life events like a new baby or new home can spark ideas for a meaningful gift. Above all, choose a gift that matches the recipient’s investment in you.
If you don’t know the recipient that well, choose one of these items for an impactful and memorable gift:
- Books and magazines: Support your client’s personal and professional growth with a carefully selected book or a magazine subscription. If you’re unsure what to choose, any avid reader will appreciate a gift card to Amazon or Barnes & Noble.
- An e-reader: Kindles, Nooks, iPads, and other e-readers are portable and intuitive. They store hundreds of digital books and can travel with any on-the-go professional.
- An elegant desk set or fine pen: A business card holder, desk clock, letter opener, pencil cup, or picture frame are useful gifts your recipient can use every day. In the digital age, a beautiful pen is a real luxury, and it’s a great gift for more traditional clients.
- Hermès neckties: A beautiful, high-quality necktie is a unique gift any business partner or client will be proud to wear.
- Entertainment: If the recipient is a sports fan, invite him to play a round of golf, or buy tickets to his favorite team’s big game. Don’t make the rookie mistake of discussing business during the game. Instead, use that time to make a personal connection.
- A handwritten note: Personal notes are a rare and wonderful surprise these days. It’s an effective way to show your appreciation to a prospective client, existing customer, or valued employee.
- A welcome basket: To welcome a new employee, fill a gift basket with pens, notepads, a desk calendar, stamps, and mailing supplies — everything needed to make her feel appreciated and at home in her new office.
A gift can give you an edge with a prospective client, help you thank an existing customer for his business, or recognize a valued employee for working through the weekend. Choosing a thoughtful gift the recipient enjoys shows you care about the relationship and ensures he’ll think of you whenever he wears that tie or writes with that pen.
No matter the recipient, gift-giving is a cost-effective way to affirm relationships and forge closer bonds with those around you. Choose wisely, and you’ll see your thoughtfulness pay off.
Emily Egbert is the co-founder of HitUp, a newly launched business app designed to make giving and receiving business gifts simple and easy. HitUp is seeking to build its business relationships in the business gift-giving market. Inquiries welcome.
Seth Anderson | Courtesy of Emily Egbert