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The Gift of Giving

Ideas for holiday gift-giving.

CPA Wendy Barlin didn't go with the same old fruit basket or box of chocolates for her holiday gifts--she chose a three-month Netflix subscription. "This is something people could actually use," says the 35-year-old Marina del Rey, California, entrepreneur. "It shows how my company can think differently."

Leah Ingram, author of The Everything Etiquette Book, says holiday gifts are a great way to build relationships with customers. She offers these tips for avoiding faux pas and standing out from the pack.

Make it personal. In addition to a handwritten card, try to give something that relates to the person's interests, says Ingram, like an item related to a favorite sports team or a hobby.

Do some homework. Don't just find out what the client's interests are--you should also try to find out if there are any company policies against receiving gifts. "My litmus test is if I can write it off," says Ingram. "The IRS allows you to write off up to $25 per business gift. Giving someone a [gift in that price range] probably isn't going to get them in trouble."

Tread carefully with alcohol. You might offend tee-totalers or inadvertently stumble on addiction issues, and some companies don't allow alcohol at all. Ingram suggests giving a set of sophisticated tumblers instead of a bottle of booze.

Gwen Moran is a freelance writer and co-author of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Business Plans (Alpha, 2010).

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This article was originally published in the December 2006 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: The Gift of Giving.

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