With all the other obligations you have this time of the year, selecting, buying and delivering the perfect business gift can seem like overload. So why bother? "Companies need to give gifts because it's a way of expressing a feeling. It keeps a business relationship alive," says Andrea Claster Greenspan, founder of Claster and Co. Inc., a gift service in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida.
But if someone is on your payroll or is a paid service provider, aren't they already getting something from you? "At holiday time, you're really giving gifts to show your appreciation for work well done, for business given and for dependability," explains Greenspan.
Certainly, you pay your suppliers on time for services rendered, but there are times when they do a little extra for you, rush orders, etc. "You don't want that responsiveness you expect from a good vendor to go unnoticed," Greenspan says. "Now is a great time to say thanks for being a team partner."
In addition to showing your appreciation, gifts to clients serve a more lasting purpose. "[Whether] your name is or isn't on the gift, [if] it's something they will appreciate, it will be a constant reminder of your company," says Amanda Hill, founder of Amanda Hill Gifts, an Atlanta gift service.
All right-now that we've agreed gifting is good, how do you begin? Start as early as possible. "Ideally, [start in] June or July, because depending on what you're looking for, there can be a six- to eight-week lead time [to order the gift]," says Hill. "If you're looking for quantity gifts, September or October is getting late."
Uh-oh. Well, maybe in that perfect world where your shirts never need dry cleaning and your car always has a full tank of gas, all your holiday shopping is already done, completely hassle--free. But in the real world, sometimes the last minute is the only minute--so don't panic just because you're getting a late start on this year's business gifts. "My main point in emphasizing shopping early has to do with the fact that most custom projects require approximately 60 to 90 days," says Greenspan. "[But] even with time limitations, you'll still get plenty of options to choose from."
|Want to Start Shopping Now?|
Before You Get Started . . .
Before you start shopping in earnest, be prepared. Begin by making a list of your gift recipients, including updated addresses so the packages can get to the correct place. You'll also need to set a budget-"the most important thing for your sanity," says Greenspan. Don't forget to include the cost of shipping and wrapping the gifts; that expense can add up quickly. Also, keep tax regulations in mind. You can deduct the value of a business gift up to $25 per person annually. There are some exceptions, however, so it's a good idea to be aware of the rules. Visit the IRS Web site and search "business gifts" for information on the tax implications of gifting.
Next, brainstorm some possible gift ideas. Lara Shriftman, partner in the New York City public relations firm of Harrison & Shriftman, relies on her staff to help come up with ideas for client gifts. "We sit down with all our account executives and think about what would be the right gift to give. Some people get so many gifts, you want to give something that really stands out," she says. It's also a good idea to keep your eye out during the year for interesting gifts that might fit particular clients, customers or employees. When you see something that seems like the perfect fit, make a note of it for future reference.
If handling the gift-giving duties yourself seems like an overwhelming task-and handing it off to an assistant seems like cruel and unusual punishment-consider using a gift service like Hill's. For a fee, they take care of buying, wrapping and sending gifts for you. "The number-one reason [clients use us] is to save time so they can focus on their core business," Hill says. "Other reasons are the gift resources we are able to access. Looking for new gift ideas is our business, so we are able to find a variety of items that would not be available in a department store."
When you're selecting a gift service, Greenspan says, you should ask for references, find out how many years the company has been in business and find out what type of shipping they use. Most important, you need to share a vision so you can be sure the gifts and presentation they choose convey the image you wish to present to the world. "Make sure their idea of holiday and design matches yours," she says.
Whether you're using a service or handling the giving yourself, always keep in mind the reason you're giving gifts in the first place. "No one is required to give gifts; it's purely a matter of generosity and respect," says Phyllis Davis, a business etiquette expert in Beverly Hills, California, and author of the forthcoming book E2: The Power of Etiquette and Ethics in American Business (Entrepreneur Press). "It's not the gift that's the thing; it's the spirit [in which] the gift was given."
|Preparing for the Holidays|
What to Give
Goodies for the travelers on your list
Rand McNally Chancellor Globe (800-275-7263): This 12-inch bronze globe on an elegant hardwood base will remind travelers of their journeys. Price: $130.
Gem-Dandy Trifold Wallet (800-334-5101): This leather wallet has two currency pockets and interior and exterior ID windows, allowing travelers to show ID quickly. Price: $32.
How to Stay Healthy & Fit on the Road by Joanne V. Lichten (Nutrifit): A pocket-sized guide that offers tips on eating healthy, exercising and getting a good night's sleep away from home. Price: $9.95.
Miles4Sale (866-630-8717): Through partnerships with American, America West, Continental and Delta airlines, this Web site sells frequent-flier miles in 500-mile increments for 4 cents per mile. Prices vary.
Squirt S4 by Leatherman Tool Group (800-847-8665): This tool attaches to a keychain and includes a knife, three screwdrivers and tweezers. Price: $39.
TDK MOJO 620: This digital jukebox plays up to 10 hours using two AA batteries; users can load song lyrics, logos and icons for viewing during playback. Price: $149.99.
Handspring Treo 270: A compact, full-color wireless device that integrates a mobile phone, Palm OS organizer, and wireless e-mail and Web-browsing applications. Price: $499 plus activation.
Veo Mobile Connect: This handy digital camera enables video instant messaging, video e-mailing, point-to-point videoconferencing and video album/gallery management. Price: $79.99.
Domaine Chandon (888-CHANDON): Chandon Riche is an extra-dry sparkling wine showcasing the characteristics of California fruit. Price: $17.
Mrs. Renfro's Gourmet Salsas (817-336-3849): The four-jar gift pack lets you select from six varieties, including peach, garlic and chipotle corn. Price: $19.
Heavenly Creations (847-342-7649): A gift box with handmade chocolates is just one of the sweets this company sells. Price: $12.
Chocolat Céleste (866-644-3823): The Grand Assortment from this chocolatier features 16 large truffles in assorted flavors. Price: $49.95.
Nike Golf's Forged Titanium Driver: Used by Tiger Woods, this driver is available with 275cc, 350cc and 400cc heads and a variety of shafts. Price: $369.
Hollywood Movie Magic (888-796-0676): Valid for any movie, any showtime at thousands of theaters in North America, these tickets cost $8 per ticket (up to a $12 value) with a minimum order of 500. Prices vary.
SpaWish (888-SPA-WISH): Get gift certificates redeemable at more than 750 spas nationwide. You select a dollar amount, and recipients use the certificate as they wish, getting anything from a full-body massage to facials and manicures. Price: minimum $50.
Toes on the Nose (714-513-1500): This surfwear company customizes Hawaiian shirts with company logos, either incorporating the logo into a custom fabric or embroidering a logo onto an existing design. Price: $44 to $60.
Treegivers (800-862-TREE): Have a tree planted in the name of someone on your gift list. They'll receive a certificate including their name, your name and the name of the state where their tree was planted. price: $29.95.
Slam Domino Set by Umbra, (800-387-5122): This 28-piece domino set is made of solid walnut with a matching case. price: $49.99.