October 31, 2016
Experts Corner

Six guidelines for business holiday gifts

Jillian Simms

Holiday gifts can be a simple way to strengthen relationships with key partners and business contacts. They can also be just one more distraction at the busiest time of year. Here are six questions to help you be certain that the gifts you send this year will be remembered and foster positive feelings.

1. Can the gift be shared?

Edible gifts can be a great way to include the entire staff, and it's likely most people will be able to partake. Make sure to include a card that can be displayed along with the goodies. A floral arrangement can be lovely as well — just be careful to send it early enough to be enjoyed before the office empties out for the holidays.

2. To whom should we send gifts?

A great rule for this is "suppliers are buyers." If your company supplies another company with a product or service, the holidays are an opportunity to show appreciation for their business. Of course, if you have a vendor, board member, partner or other professional contact who is special to you, a holiday gift is likely to be a delightful surprise.

3. How much branding is appropriate?

An overly branded gift can feel promotional rather than genuine. Subtlety is key, and some gift companies offer customized cards that are an unobtrusive way to include a logo. It's actually OK not to include any branding at all — just signing a card from your organization is sufficient. As long as folks can easily tell where the gift came from without being told, you're in the clear.

4. Where are the best gifts to be found?

Many nationally known gift companies provide lovely products. However, just a little bit of research can make your gift stand out among the popcorn tins and fruit baskets. A unique gift from a lesser-known vendor often feels more personal. Plus, the sense of discovery that comes with receiving a gift from a previously undiscovered brand or product can make your gift extra memorable. Sending gifts with Connecticut ties to companies elsewhere in the country is a great way to give them a taste of the charm of New England in the winter.

5. When should the gift arrive?

Arranging your gifts ahead of time can result in better deals and reduced shipping costs. Planning ahead also leaves time to collaborate with a gift vendor on something customized or a special order, which many companies — particularly smaller ones — will be happy to do.

By scheduling delivery of your gift in late November or early December, you can be sure it will not get lost in the shuffle. The holiday spirit will be fresh, and the staff won't yet be overwhelmed with end-of-year deadlines. Finally, don't feel that your company's gift giving must coincide with winter holidays. Acknowledging a large order, kind referral, business anniversary, or other milestone can be an effective way to strengthen relationships through gifts.

6. Is giving to charity on behalf of partner organizations a good way to go?

What could be more noble than making a charitable gift in your client's name? Though perhaps the purest of heart, this kind of gift presents several possible pitfalls. It's great to support a nonprofit or eco-friendly business with your gift, but be mindful of charities that could have the potential to be divisive when making monetary contributions as gifts. If you do have a clear idea of an organization or cause that is important to your partners, consider if the whole staff will have the chance to share in the experience of your gift. For example, do they have an active company message board or break room where they can post updates about the rainforest area you've supported on their behalf? Ensuring that more than one person at the partner organization knows about and is excited by your gift is key.

The holiday season offers a wonderful opportunity to reach out to your clients and remain top of mind. A simple, thoughtful gift will show your partners you value them and their business.

Jillian Simms is the founder of Gráinne Baking Co., a producer of handmade treats and granola.

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