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10 Tips To Choosing the Right Corporate Holiday Gifts

Choosing the right corporate Christmas giftsOver the past 24 years, I have helped thousands of companies in selecting their holiday and corporate gifts. Some have told me to “just buy what you think people want—under $50”– because they were too busy. Some have ordered products because their spouse, child or neighbor mentioned it. Others have taken weeks in their selection process. This article is designed to help take the guesswork out of the gift selection process and to help you choose the right gift for your employees or for your customers. Try to incorporate as many of these ten tips as possible and your investment in time and in money will be rewarded many times over.

1. It’s All in the Presentation

Take the time to wrap the present, add a card (always hand signed) and present it properly. Presentation is often more valuable than the actual gift.

For employee gifts, hand them out at the holiday or office party or send them to each employee’s home. For customer holiday gifts, it is best to hand-deliver, when possible. If not, send them out just after Thanksgiving to ensure they will be received in time (or before they go out of town on vacation).

2. Look for Functionality

Choosing a gift that will be used will enhance its perceived value. Imprinted gifts such as high end stainless steel water bottles, wooden pen and pencil sets with the recipient’s name laser engraved or recycled USB drives are all examples of functional holiday gifts that will be appreciated and used again and again—keeping your company logo in front of them and ensuring brand recognition.

3. Leave Religion Out of It

Unless your customers are churches, temples, synagogues or mosques, leave out the religion in holiday gifts. It is not appropriate and can often be uncomfortable for the recipient or their boss. Enough said.

4. It is the Thought That Counts

Don’t think that the most expensive gift will help sway a customer’s affection. In some instances it might be better to give your Top 100 customers a $25 gift; other times it may be wiser to give your Top 50 customers a $50 gift. It depends on your objectives and the fact that you are remembering and recognizing them which really matters.

5. Make It Personal

Is it better to give the same gift to everyone? I often suggest giving the same gift to employees at the same job level, to avoid showing favoritism—whether implied or not. For customer gifts, it is best to divide your client base into three levels, with the best customers getting the more expensive gifts, the next tier getting a less expensive gift, and the third tier getting a lesser valued gift. For the top level, you may even go so far as to get individual gifts for each client based on their hobbies or interests, which you should know

6. Subtle Imprints Works Best

It is a mistake to engrave, emboss or print a large corporate logo onto a corporate gift. Subtlety is important, as to not cheapen the value of the gift. If you received a handsome wooden desk set or leather briefcase, would you display it if the logo was emblazoned too prominently? A small one-color imprint in the corner of the item would make for a much classier presentation and ensure that your gift will be utilized for a long time.

7. Just Say “No” to Gift Cards

Although some say cash is king, that doesn’t hold up for corporate gifts. First, it is crass and many companies forbid the exchange of cash (or cash substitutes) as gifts. Secondly, it shows no forethought or planning on your part. In addition, with the price of gasoline being what it is, a $25 cash gift or gift card will not even pay for a tankful of gas. After filling up, the recipient will never think about your kindness again—unlike a tangible gift which will be used throughout the year.

8. Watch For the Tax Implications

According to Section 274(j) of the Internal Revenue Code, enacted by the Tax Reform Act of 1986, employee achievement awards given to the same employee up to $400.00 in any year are not taxable when it is part of an established written incentive program. Length of service awards can only be awarded once for every five years of service. For other business gifts, companies are allowed to spend up to $25 per year per employee, tax-free for business gifts.

9. Make It Environmentally-Friendly

Today, many large companies are setting up corporate social responsibility departments and are even devoting a percentage of their business to environmentally-friendly companies. In addition, people tend to think more highly of companies that are actively promoting sound environmental stewardship. There are thousands of imprinted promotional products that are truly green—ones that are made from organic material, post-consumer recycled materials, gifts that can grow or are biodegradable –that can improve the image of your company. Visit the website www.ecomarketingsolutions.com to view these items by price point or theme.

10. It Is Not What You Want, But What They Want

I once had a customer for over fifteen years who was an avid golfer. Whenever I saw him, he was either swinging a real golf club, or going through the motions with an imaginary club. This was at trade shows, his office, at dinner, at concerts —all the time. As you could imagine, each holiday season, he wanted to give out golf-related gifts because, as he put it “everyone loves golf”. Despite my suggestions against golf-related gifts, over the years, he ordered for his employees and for his best customers, such golf-related items as: imprinted golf balls in handsome cherry wood cases, personalized putters, golf head covers, golf gift sets, etc. The funny thing is, for the most part, his employees and customers were not even golf fans; in fact, they were more interested in NASCAR than in golf. Don’t be so stubborn to think that everyone enjoys your hobbies or interests. It is shortsighted and arrogant.

This list can help you in selecting a holiday gift that will be appreciated and give you the maximum bang for your dollar. In this tight economy, choosing the proper corporate gifts makes fiscal sense and will help you to achieve a strong return on your investment.

Happy Holidays!

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Robert Piller is President of EcoMarketing Solutions LLC, a company that helps businesses promote themselves to their customers and prospects at trade shows using environmentally-friendly promotional products that won’t end up in a landfill. He is a frequent speaker and writer on issues of green marketing. He can be reached at robert@ecomarketingsolutions.com. You can also visit his blog at www.greenspotblog.com.

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