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How to avoid the annual panic around B2B gifting

Tom Stearns

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It’s that time of year of again – time for corporate holiday gift planning. Yes, planning – that’s the optimal word. Typically the word is panicking, because most people don’t actually plan their corporate gifts. If you do, congratulations, you can probably skip the rest of this article.

So let’s get right to it. If you intend to provide memorable corporate gifts to employees, clients, partners, vendors or anyone else, here are a few things you should be thinking about now:

  1. Recipients. Make a list of everyone who should get a gift from your company. This is like the personal list you make for the holidays. For example: kids, grandparents, close friends, teachers, and the mailman. You get the point. Apply the same approach to your corporate holiday gift list.
  2. Budget. What do you want to spend? Start by breaking it down by category. For example, you may want to give the board of directors a gift for $150 each while you may want to spend only $25 on the UPS and FedEx drivers. Now apply your budget to the list you already made. Writing all of this down will help you really understand how far your budget will go – or not go.
  3. The gifts. Here’s the big challenge. Everyone wants to give the ideal gift  but if your list is more than five people you’ve got some challenges.

A cash gift is out.

Cash might be okay as a bonus but it’s not memorable. It’s quickly forgotten in the wallet – usually spent on trivial items such as as groceries or gas.

Items with your logo on them? No!

This is not the time for overtly advertising your company. By the way, this is the biggest mistake most companies make.  “Happy holidays, Bob. We appreciate your hard work. We’d like you to advertise our company everywhere you go as a thank you to you!” What? Cheesy! This can backfire even worse with clients, partners or vendors. These kinds of logo’d items are fine for other parts of the year but at the holidays you should say, “thank you” in a meaningful way. Don’t worry, if you give someone a great gift they’ll do a whole lot of advertising anyway. “Nice sunglasses, Bob.” “Oh, thanks. Our paper supplier (insert your company name here) gave them to me for the holidays last year. Really nice of them. They’re a class act.”

Stick to great, brand name merchandise for holiday gifts.

But with this comes a whole new set of challenges. How do you choose the ideal gift? If you buy a female client some gold jewelry when she wears silver then your nice idea just made things worse. Gift cards are one option but unfortunately research shows that gift cards are often used like cash (utilities or groceries) or not used at all (sitting in that purse for six months). If they are used for merchandise it’s not associated with the gift giver.

The bottom line:
Don’t put off planning for this year’s corporate gifts. Start now.