Who To Give Holiday Business Gifts To

gift giving

Business Gifts For Clients, Employees and Service Providers

When it comes to Holiday cards, they should be sent to everyone on your list, whether you’re getting them a gift or not. Customize cards with your company logo through sites like Vistaprint, and order early so you have time to sign and mail them.

As for gifts, there are three groups to consider:  clients, employees and certain service providers such as your mail carrier. Build your gift list based on who helps make your company great:  from the cleaning person, to the intern in your office, to your best client.

We’ve broken down these guidelines for who to give business gifts to, into 3 categories:  gifts for clients, gifts for employees and gifts for service providers. So let’s get started . . .

Gifts for Clients

Start by assembling a list of clients.  As the business owner, to build your gift list for clients, you may need to connect with your sales department if you’re not regularly involved in working with clients.  Or you might just authorize your sales team to send gifts to clients on the company’s behalf.

The more customized the business gift, the more your client will love it. Avoid sending items that are merely  promotional (like pens or notepads with your logo on them) — they can come across as too crassly commercial.  For a gift that makes your clients feel special, focus on indulgent gifts that are sure to make your clients think of you every time they use them.

If you have a lot of clients, you may opt to provide a relatively low-cost gift that you can buy in bulk.  Nicely potted plants or gift baskets are two examples. One business we know sends each of its clients a bottle of wine private-labeled with a picture of the company’s staff on it.

  • Tip: Whenever you send a gift to someone at another company, check with the company (call its HR department) to find out if there are restrictions on receiving gifts, or limits on the value you can give.  For instance, it’s not uncommon in large corporations and government agencies for employees to be prohibited from accepting a gift over a certain dollar limit.  (See:  How Much to Spend on Business Gifts.)
  • Tip: Be aware of any inferences your gift might suggest, especially if you’re in the process of trying to get business from a client or prospect. According to Emily Post’s business etiquette site: “Never give a gift to an outside business associate who is either currently involved in a bidding process with your firm or receiving a bid from you or your company.”  You could be perceived as trying to influence the business unduly.

When possible, hand deliver the gifts to your clients for an added touch.  Or ship in plenty of time.

Gifts for Employees

If your business is more than a handful of people, here again it’s best to start with a list of employees.  Memory is not always reliable especially when you’re in the midst of a Holiday rush. It can be all too easy to overlook one person by accident.  A list will prevent that.

Employees like to be acknowledged at the Holidays – some have come to even expect it.  Many employees today appreciate a cash bonus — and for some companies that will be the solution.  But even if you can’t afford to give everyone a holiday bonus, you can at least give them some small gift that says you appreciate all their hard work.  A $25 gift card to a local restaurant may be all that you can afford, but even that will be appreciated.  Why?  Because you thought of those who work for you.

If you work with an assistant or secretary, it’s perfectly appropriate to give a gift as a token of appreciation. According to Emily Post, if your assistant has worked with you five years or less, a gift valued at $25 is appropriate, while a longer professional relationship warrants a more generous gift.

It should be obvious, but avoid gifts that are too personal, such as perfume, clothing and lingerie and jewelry.

  • Tip: It’s nice to customize your gifts choosing something specifically for each employee, but if you have many employees, consider giving the same gift to each.  This prevents hard feelings should employees start comparing notes, and one employee becomes aware of what another employee received.  The more people in the workplace, the more likely others will learn about Holiday gifts their co-workers received.

Gifts for Service Providers

These are the people who help you succeed in your business.  For gift giving purposes, the service providers we are talking about may include:

  • Personal trainer (especially if you are a public figure and your personal trainer helps you present your public persona)
  • Image consultant
  • Package delivery person
  • Postal worker (note: may accept gifts under $20 in value, but not cash or cash equivalents)
  • Virtual assistant
  • Cleaning service provider
  • Doorman (in big cities)
  • Driver/Limo Service

One reason to give service providers such as these a gift is to thank the person on behalf of you or your company for their efforts through the year.

Service providers often prefer a gift of cash or a pre-paid debit card, over another type of gift — especially service providers that typically receive cash tips when service is provided.  To personalize it, couple your cash gift with a small personal token of appreciation, such as home-baked cookies.

  • Tip: Be sensitive to cultural differences. Be aware that Jehovah Witnesses do not accept holiday-related gifts, and that assuming someone celebrates Christmas (as opposed to Hanukkah or nothing at all) may create some tension, even if your intent was in the right place.  While you may not know a client or service provider’s religious background,  you might casually ask ahead of time “do you celebrate Christmas?” That’s a way to gently probe.  Avoid asking their religious affiliation outright — that can be misinterpreted.

Be sure to check out the rest of our Business Gift Giving Guide.

2 Comments ▼

Susan Payton - Awards Communication Mgr.


Susan Payton Susan Payton is the Communications Manager for the Small Business Trends Awards programs. She is the President of Egg Marketing & Communications, an Internet marketing firm specializing in content marketing, social media management and press releases. She is also the Founder of How to Create a Press Release, a free resource for business owners who want to generate their own PR.

2 Reactions

  1. When giving gifts – one good intention is ALWAYS place a company logo on it – Especialy inexpensive items.. We are not talking Flat screen TV’s but staples and key tags. Items to keep YOUR business name in front of the client

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