With the holidays now officially in full swing, what better time to reflect on those who make our workday worthwhile? Showing our appreciation to clients or business associates with an appropriate gift definitely goes hand-in-hand with the spirit of the season.

And according to the Advertising Specialty Institute’s annual corporate gift-giving report, that is what many of us plan to do this year. The report shows that about one-third of U.S. companies plan to send gifts to their clients in 2017, with the most popular gifts being food and beverages from nearly half of the gift givers.

And that should be good news for those of us in the food and beverage industries. But how do you determine the right gift to give?

Finding the most appropriate goodwill gesture can be a bit tricky. Not only do you want to show how much you value your relationship, but solidifying future connections is just as important. That’s why there’s much to consider when selecting the proper gifts for business associates.

Getting started

Just like you did for Santa as a child, make a list. And, yes, check it twice to make sure no one is left off. There is nothing worse than one client finding out another received your holiday greetings while they were not included on your recipient list

While you’re at it, think through any gift giving for clients in related industries, just in case they compare notes. It does happen. Who wouldn’t feel slighted by receiving a greeting card when a competitor got an expensive gift?

Once your list is well thought out and ready to go, it’s time to brainstorm and really make your gesture count.

A personal touch

Business gifts must be thoughtfully chosen, and that takes time. However, the payoff can be tremendous. Time well spent can make you and your company stand out from the crowd. While your marketing strategy should be part of the equation, gift giving should be genuine and heartfelt. After all, these folks are important pieces of the puzzle to your everyday success.

A meaningful gesture will long be remembered well after the holidays are over. And isn’t that what it’s all about as we move into 2018? Your goal should be to show your appreciation while building solid relationships with your clients.

Start by finding out how much your company has budgeted for end-of-the-year gifts. If greeting cards are the only gesture your company can swing, you can make them count by including a handwritten note with a personal memory from that year.

Sometimes the meaning behind the gesture will be just as meaningful, as well as appreciated. Hopefully, if you’ve planned ahead, you’ve made a mental note of a personal hobby or a work-related scenario that you could include in your gift selection or personal note. Clients will be floored that you were paying attention. Wireless ear buds for a marathon runner or a healthy gourmet gift for someone who has reached a personal fitness goal in 2017 would be greatly appreciated. Such relevant and meaningful gifts keep on giving.

While food is certainly a popular option, it’s smart to consider if the recipient has any dietary or religious restrictions before going forward. Edible gifts can be well received if thought through. Although I don’t know of many people who would do cartwheels for a fruitcake, I’m pretty positive they’d cheerfully receive a basket of fruit!

Beware of gift restrictions

It’s best to check ahead to see where your clients’ companies stand on accepting gifts, thus avoiding an awkward gift refusal from your clients. Chances are they’d love to keep it, but rules are rules.

Beyond your clients’ company limit on receiving gifts, there’s also your own company’s tax deductions to consider. And if your company’s goal is to get your brand out there while also recognizing client bonds, by all means do so. You’ll be a part of the nearly 70 percent of company gifts given this time of year that bear a company logo, according to the ASI gift-giving report.

Last-minute thoughts

Keep in mind the length of your relationship with your clients. New clients garner much different treatment than long-held clients with a long history. Both your and your clients’ company’s cultures should be considered when selecting your approach. A fun company definitely calls for a festive holiday gesture. A more conservative institution begs for a traditional approach.

Your clients’ religious celebrations, certainly, must be at the forefront when considering your gift selection. When in doubt, wish your client a great holiday season and a prosperous New Year.

If at all possible, hand your gift to your clients in person. A firm handshake and well wishes for the New Year will carry you well into 2018. A genuine gesture means a very personal touch that sets you apart in your clients’ eyes.

It’s natural to think of sending a gift around the holidays, but remember to be grateful and thankful year-round.  Send a gift at an unexpected time. Appreciate your business associates when they least expect it, and you will stand out.

With enough time and thought, business gifting can work wonders in building goodwill into the New Year!  Your return on investment will far exceed any monetary measure as you build rapport with your valued business partners.

Tariq Farid is founder and CEO of Edible Arrangements, which has more than 1,300 stores open or under development worldwide, selling creatively designed fruit arrangements as well as the brand’s signature Edible To Go fresh fruit smoothies, frozen yogurt, juices, and treats.
Outside Insights, Story