For all the technology, forward-thinking, and innovation in the business world, sending a gift should be on the easy list, right?
If you think about it, corporate gifts cover many occasions, people, and places. Even with the purest motive, there’s potential to unintentionally mix up office politics, or sound like you’re brown-nosing or feigning emotion to make a sale.
Then there’s the gift itself. What sends the right message? What’s an appropriate amount to spend? If a gift is intended for an organization, who’s the right recipient? And what if you’re the intermediary, sending a gift on someone else’s behalf?
These are questions we hear a lot from our corporate account holders at Spoonful of Comfort. And while every situation is (and should be) as individual as the sender and recipient, there is an etiquette to corporate gifting.
Unlike the days of Emily Post, it’s hard to find an official source of the do’s and don’ts surrounding gift-giving in the business world. So here are our 5 W’s of corporate gift-giving (Who, What, When, Where, and Why) with principles to help guide you.
1. Why should you send a gift in business?
There are endless reasons to give a gift within or on behalf of your company. Holidays. Birthdays. Work anniversaries. Weddings. New babies. Promotions. Retirements. Sympathy. Get well. Good luck. Thank you.
All of these are acceptable and appropriate … as long as you are sincere. Your sole purpose for sending a gift should be to share a meaningful sentiment. (“Hey! I’m so happy to hear about the new addition to your family.” Or, “We are thinking of you while you’re in the hospital and wish you the best.”)
If instead your deep-down objective is to bring attention to yourself, earn some brownie points, or get a foot in the door, you’re not giving a gift, you’re advertising. People can sense it—and they may not appreciate it. Let’s be clear, advertising yourself or your company is not inherently a bad thing. But it’s a different thing than gifting. Don’t try to combine both in your message. (For example, you wouldn’t say, “Thanks for your business, we hope you’ll remember this when our contract comes up next year.” Ew.) Be judicious about your purpose. Be clear about your intentions. Be sincere with the sentiment your company is sharing.
2. Who should receive a gift?
Your business network likely includes a mix of clients, contacts, employees, vendors, partners, colleagues, and more. When deciding who should receive a gift, it’s useful to divide people into two broad groups: clients and employees.
When it comes to sending gifts on behalf of your organization, consider the purpose of the gift. If you are thanking a client for their business, send a gift to the company (not an individual) that can be enjoyed and shared by many people. If that client has one person who is the key decision-maker and point of contact for your business, it may be appropriate to send something to that person individually.
Put yourself in the shoes of the recipient. Is one person alone the focus of your gifting purpose? Would that individual feel recognized and valued, or potentially uncomfortable for being singled out? How would surrounding colleagues react?
Every employee, from executive to intern, may deserve a gift at some point. It might be to welcome them to the company, celebrate a work anniversary, recognize a job particularly well done, or to bid a tearful goodbye.
For many occasion-specific gifts, the recipient is obvious. You send a wedding gift to your co-worker, the bride. You send a thank you gift to the executive assistant who went above and beyond to make your presentation a success.
What about in-office gifting on holidays or birthdays? Etiquette expert and author Jacqueline Whitmore suggests keeping things level. Celebrating coworkers' birthdays as a group prevents people from feeling left out, or avoids putting someone on the spot for not bringing a gift when others do. This is especially relevant when giving to someone with more authority than you. Group gifts steer clear of perceived favoritism and can make gifting more affordable.
Again, it helps to be mindful of the core reason you’re sending a gift. That might affect your choice of recipient and the type of gift itself.
3. Where should you send a corporate gift?
Is it ever appropriate to send a business gift to someone’s home? Is it too personal to send a gift to the office? That depends.
It all comes down to the recipient. Your gift should suit their needs, preferences, and situation. What will be most comfortable and convenient for them?
You might think that gifts that support work relationships should be sent to the workplace. For the most part, this is true, and it could avoid eyebrow-raising scenarios. However, consider what works for the recipient.
If you are wishing a client a speedy recovery, a gift sent to his or her home will be seen and appreciated during recovery, not upon return to the office. An engaged couple may have selected a delivery address for registry gifts for their convenience. At Spoonful of Comfort, we deliver meals of soup—and often that means sending to less expected places where the recipient can use the meal: the hospital, a care facility, a family member’s residence.
If you’re not sure where to send a gift, ask someone in the company who is close to that person, like a manager, team member, or assistant. If they don’t provide a home address or other information, respect the recipient’s wishes for privacy. Rather than risk treading on someone’s personal space, ask a recipient’s co-worker if it’s appropriate for them to pass along the gift, or if not, shift to something that can be sent to the office and perhaps wait for the recipient’s return.
4. What should you give as a business gift?
First, choose a gift that is appropriate for the situation and the person. That’s often a matter of common sense, but don’t go on autopilot here. Does it send the right message? Are there cultural sensitivities or limitations? Does the recipient have any allergies (this might go beyond food or flowers; it can apply to fur, scented items, latex balloons, and more).
Next, be thoughtful. Can you give something that is meaningful to the recipient? Is it useful? Memorable? Can you add an extra touch that shows you are not just going through the motions, but really thinking about who that person is?
Finally, explain why you selected the gift and why you thought it would be appreciated. Help your recipient know you made an effort. Showing your personal investment helps build trust—what all strong business relationships rely on.
Here are some categories to spark some corporate gifting ideas.
Practical Corporate Gifts
These are gifts that would get a lot of use. Practical corporate gifts are things that could go into action at a person’s job or in their hobbies or lifestyle. These gifts might include:
- Water bottle
- Wireless mouse and keyboard
- Computer monitor
- Gift card
- Phone charger
Luxury Corporate Gifts
Luxury gifts might be given to an employee or client who has worked particularly hard and deserves extra recognition. Use style and elegance (and a little more budget) to show your appreciation with gifts like:
- Plush blanket
- A box of premier chocolates
- Wireless speakers
- New headphones
- A leather handbag
- Stylish portfolio
Personalized Corporate Gifts
To make a gift more meaningful, add a personalized touch. It might be adding a person’s name or photo or showcasing a favorite color, animal, or brand. Or, give something that’s applicable to your business relationship. Create something you’ll know they would love to get from you specifically, like:
- Photo album
- Handwritten note
- Personalized pen
- Food gift basket
- Spa gift baskets
- Golf clubs or other sports equipment
- Custom coffee mug
Unique Corporate Gifts
You want your gift to be remembered—so make it stand out. Consider ways to customize a gift, offer something unusual, or connect to a person’s emotions. Be creative with corporate gifts like these:
- Coffee table book
- Wearable and accessory swag
- Charity donation
- Online classes
- Custom calendar
- Desk plant or terrarium
- Office toys and knick-knacks
Finding the right gift can be a challenge, even with all of these corporate gift ideas. Fortunately, corporate gifting companies like Spoonful of Comfort can make it easier. With bulk orders and plenty of discount opportunities, you can find the right present for the right price.
5. When Should You Send a Corporate Gift?
Think of the number of birthdays, office parties, or moments for employee recognition you’ll celebrate in the office in any given year. All of these events are prime opportunities for corporate gift giving.
The most important thing to remember is to be consistent in your giving. If you recognize one employee for providing masterful training, be sure other employees get the same recognition. Inconsistent gift giving could lead clients or employees to believe they’ve fallen out of favor in the eyes of your company, or simply feel undervalued and left out.
Also be sure to send your corporate gifts with plenty of time to arrive if you're sending it by mail. “Better late than never” can only get you so far in the world of decency. Getting a gift to someone on time will add a lot of value to the gift giving experience.
Consider giving to clients more frequently—for traditional and unconventional reasons. Remember, authentic gifting isn’t to promote your company or relationship, it’s to show gratitude and deepen a business relationship. Here are some prime times you can give client gifts:
- Client Appreciation. Maybe you want to thank your client for being a part of your business, or you recently had a really good chat on the phone or in an email chain. Whatever the reason, when you feel genuine appreciation, let that person know! It reminds them how important their relationship is to you which builds loyalty and more desire to work with you in the future.
- Partnership Anniversaries. Make sure you’re tracking when you officially start work with a new client. Every year, send them a note and a gift to remind and thank them for their continued patronage.
- Client Birthdays. Birthdays are an obvious time to give gifts. But the simple act of remembering a birthday is an easy and meaningful way to show your clients that you really think about them as a valuable partner.
- Client Weddings. Your client tied the knot! That’s a huge life event that should be celebrated. Make sure to write down their spouse’s name so you can congratulate the two of them. When picking your gift, focus on giving something to your client without stressing about their new spouse. After all, you know your client best.
Employee gifts are a great way to boost morale within your workforce. Use them frequently and in unexpected ways to make team members feel valued within your company.
- Employee Anniversaries. Show appreciation for the time, value, and loyalty people bring to your organization. If a gift for every employee every year isn’t feasible, consider group celebrations or gifts that mark longer milestones like five, ten, and twenty years.
- Employee Appreciation and Recognition. Your employees like to be recognized for their excellent work. Plus, gift giving is positive reinforcement; you’re adding more incentive for producing quality work.
- New Employees. Getting gifts for your new employees is a great way to start the relationship. These gifts can be a sort of welcome package for the new employee, giving them everything they need to work effectively and efficiently.
- Departing Employees. For those leaving your company, whether it’s because of another job offer or retirement, show them how much they meant to you. You want to leave a good last impression.
- Employee Birthdays. Celebrate individual birthdays to help employees feel noticed and celebrated as a person, not just one of your workers.
- Job Promotion. Even though most job promotions come with a pay raise and maybe even a new workspace, it can be a good idea to give them a gift as a form of immediate gratification. Whether it’s a food basket or a new desk, it’s a way to make them more excited about their new responsibilities.
- Baby and Wedding Gifts. Another way to show you care about your employees as people is to show an interest in the details of their personal life. You don’t want to miss two big moments: when they get married and when they have a baby.
6. How much should you spend on a corporate & client gift?
Ah, the golden question. While there’s no one answer for everyone, here are a few standards to consider.
- Draw names for team holiday giving: one gift to give and receive.
- Set a common gift budget. Etiquette experts suggest a max of $25.
- Give a group gift to an employer/boss. If this person “has everything,” consider something his or her family can enjoy together.
Client/customer or vendor gifting:
- Be aware of tax deduction limits (currently $25/person in the U.S.).
- Weigh the value of that company’s contribution to your business.
- Avoid going overboard; it can give the impression you’re charging too much.
Forbes suggests these guidelines for corporate gifting based on the recipient’s position in the company. The majority of corporate givers make the most purchases in the mid-range for managers and director-level associates.
|Junior or Administrative associates||$50 – $65|
|Manager/Director level associates||$75 – $100|
|Executives and Most-valued clients||$140-$160|
Whatever price point you decide on, stick to the same gift value across groups. For example, spend the same higher-level amount on all your executive team gifts and a similarly consistent gift amount for each of the summer interns.
The golden rule for gifting has a lot less to do with price than purpose.
When you show sincere care to a person, it makes a connection and it is remembered. That might be as simple as writing a personal note. It might be choosing an extra touch to make a gift feel even more personal.
Marti Wymer started Spoonful of Comfort on the idea that people genuinely want to be good to each other. It’s as true in business as it is in personal relationships. When you concentrate on showing care to the people behind the company, you’ll create partnerships worth keeping.
Spoonful of Comfort has corporate specialists dedicated to business gifting. If you’d like advice or have questions about how we’ve helped other organizations handle corporate gifts, we’d be happy to share our experiences with you.