This time of year, many of us stop to appreciate the people that are important in our lives. For small business owners, that includes our clients. They are, after all, the lifeblood of our business. But showing your appreciation of a customer isn’t always as simple as handing him a fruitcake.
On Small Business Trends, we put together a Business Gift Giving Guide, which also outlines others you might want to be generous to at year end. Here I’ll outline some tips that specifically relate to buying gifts for your clients or customers.
Spend an Appropriate Amount
Some small businesses provide a small gift that is the same for each client or customer. Others vary the gift on a case-by-case basis. If the latter describes your business, you may wish to set a budget based on how long you’ve had the relationship and/or the value that client delivers to your own business (such as revenues or strategic importance).
Don’t go overboard. A lavish gift could have the opposite effect from what you intended, and could embarrass the recipient. Remember, too, that some corporations and government clients have limits on the value of business gifts they can accept. Once the gift value goes over $25, you start bumping up against more and more corporate gift policies. Yes, you might consider spending a bit more on a special client you’ve worked with for years, who has spent tens of thousands of dollars with your company or where you have a close friendship – but most of the time keep it modest.
Give Something Thoughtful
If you are a consultant, you may have a closer relationship with your clientele than if you, for example, operate a retail store. If you are able, consider what the individual would truly enjoy. Is he a golf lover? Maybe a gift certificate to his favorite driving range would be appreciated.
If you don’t know your client well, aim for something middle-of-the-road that is a perennial favorite, such as a basket of holiday treats, a selection of special candles, or a gorgeous Poinsettia or potted Norfolk pine.
Watch the Liquor Gifts
Many people like to give wine or bottles of liquor this time of year, but be sensitive to the fact that not everyone imbibes. If you know the recipient does enjoy a glass of red occasionally, it’s probably acceptable to give a special bottle. But the rule of thumb is: if you’re not sure if he or she drinks, find another gift.
Aim for a Generic Holiday Message
Just as not everyone drinks, not everyone celebrates Christmas. So again, if you’re not sure if this is the case, it’s best to aim for sending the message of holiday cheer rather than specifying that this is a Christmas gift. Most people won’t be offended to receive a gift, even if they don’t celebrate Christmas.
Make it Easy on You
Rather than running all over town (or online) to find the perfect gift for everyone, consider using an ecommerce site like Harry & David that specializes in appealing holiday gifts. Or for something unique, order cheese from Amish country. You may be able to order multiples of the same item or even customize the gift with your company logo, and it’s a great time-saver too. Look for special offers and coupon codes this time of year.
Ideally, you’d be less stressed if you started your client gift shopping in November, but the earlier you do it this month, the more likely your gift is to get to its recipient before Christmas. Keep in mind the flood of people shipping gifts this time of year when you plan out your own shipping schedule.
Keep a list of your clients and their addresses to make this process simpler next year. You may also want to keep track of what you spent and what you bought each client so you don’t send a duplicate in future years.