Buying gifts for people in your professional network is not the same as purchasing presents for family members, friends, and others in your personal life or social circles. When you know people personally, you can use your knowledge of their preferences to select thoughtful gifts that you know they’ll love. The same is not generally true of buying gifts for business partners, clients, vendors, and so on. And it’s a good thing, too, because you could end up spending a lot of time and money on corporate gifts if you shopped this way. That said, sending out blanket, generic gifts to everyone in your corporate contact list is not without its potential blunders. So here are a few basics to get you started.
You’ll want to start with a budget for corporate gifts for the year and then break it out by events (such as holiday mailings) and individual gifts. This will help you to figure out how much you can afford to spend on each gift item you send and keep you from overspending, which can easily occur if you’re not keeping track. The good news is that you can write off corporate gifts come tax time. But this doesn’t mean you should blow your budget in the meantime, especially since the returns for such expenditures are unknown.
One thing you’ll probably want to include in gift baskets or corporate gifts of any kind is something with your logo on it. Unless you’re sending out a package that is purely products for your contacts to sample, though, you probably shouldn’t put your logo on everything in the basket. If, for example, you want to include pens, paper pads, mugs, or something of the like, there’s a good chance recipients will use it, displaying your logo in the process. But if you include mouse pads, beer koozies, or other strange items unrelated to your company, they’ll more likely end up in the trash and recipients could resent the blatant self-promotion.
Items to Avoid
There are certain things you probably shouldn’t give as corporate gifts, namely alcohol, cigars, or other questionable items that could offend some recipients. You may also want to steer clear of gifts that are religious in nature. For example, not everyone celebrates Christmas or Hanukkah during the winter months. Instead, you may want to send out a generic holiday gift basket. If you happen to know that a certain person or office prefers kosher, you can certainly send a basket from Broadway Basketeers. But if you’re not sure, it’s better to send a generic option so as not to offend anyone. Also best avoided: gag gifts, intimate items, and foods that many people are allergic to (nuts, for example).
This is a big no-no when giving corporate gifts. Sure, it could save you some money. And you might even have received a gift you’ll never use that you are sure would be better suited to someone on your list. But if anyone catches on (say, if you accidentally send a gift back to someone who sent it to you), your reputation could be irreparably damaged.