You don’t have to wait for the holidays to send out business gifts. There are several different groups of people that might warrant gift giving. But if you’re wondering when to give business gifts and who to give them to, a general rule of thumb is to send gifts to the people who help make your company great.
In general, this includes clients, employees, and certain service providers. Read on for some tips about when to give business gifts and who you should send them.
Gifts for Clients
You should send something small to all of your company’s clients at least once a year. Gifts keep you at the top of clients’ minds year round, writes  Forbes contributor John Hall. And even as some company’s cut back in recent times due to the economic crunch, others continue to be convinced gift giving is important for maintaining relationships, reports  the Sacramento Business Journal.
If your company has a small number of clients, or a small number of clients with particularly large accounts, you should try to customize their gifts as much as possible. Pay attention to each client’s habits or get some information from the sales people who have dealt with them.
For instance, if a client orders wine during dinner meetings, wine is a safe choice. If you’ve met with the client over golf, then a small token from their favorite course could be more appropriate. These personalized gifts can make your clients feel like they’re special and really important to your business.
But if your business has too many clients for you to manage individual purchases, smaller more general items will do. Just avoid cheap promotional items like pens or notepads with your business logo. Even a handwritten card seems more genuine than these purely promotional items.
You should also cater the timing of the gift giving to particular clients. Some clients, for instance, might not celebrate Christmas. You can ask clients if they do, without any specific questions about their religion or beliefs. But try to cater your gift giving to your clients’ preferences rather than your own.
Alternatively, you might consider sending a gift to clients during another time of year. You could send a gift after the completion of a large project, a new product launch, or another type of milestone.
But be sure to avoid sending gifts during inappropriate times. For instance, if you’re currently trying to close an account with another company or are involved in a bidding war with a competitor, sending a gift could send the wrong message.
Gifts for Employees
Employees have come to expect at least a small token of appreciation from their employer at least once per year. This often takes place during the holiday season or at the end of the year, an annual holiday survey  by CareerBuilder explains.
Of course, most would prefer a simple cash bonus. So if that’s a possibility for your company, don’t forego it in favor of a token that only some employees might appreciate.
If you can’t afford sizeable bonuses for every employee, a small token like a restaurant gift card can still make them feel appreciated, suggests Salary.com . For most employees, you should stick to the same type of gift or at least gifts of similar value. But if you have one or two employees or colleagues who you work with more closely, like an assistant or partner, larger gifts may be more appropriate.
The most important aspect of giving employee gifts is to remember every single person. Co-workers are likely to exchange information and you don’t want anyone feeling under-appreciated or forgotten.
Gifts for Service Providers
Certain types of service providers for your business may also warrant holiday or end-of-year gifts. These can include virtual assistants, consultants, and even postal workers.
You may choose to either send gifts to these service providers over the holidays (taking into account their preferences and habits, of course). Or you could send a gift after a big project or period of time where they went above and beyond to help your company.
These service providers are also likely to prefer gifts like cash or gift cards. You can decide  on an amount based on how closely you work with the person and what types of services they provide.
But you can also personalize these gifts by adding a small token if appropriate. For instance, if you work closely with a virtual assistant and know his or her favorite type of candy or dessert, pair it with the cash or gift card. But you could be less likely to know the preferences of your postal worker, so cash inside a simple card may be a safer route.
In addition, ask or find out if they have any restrictions on gifts. Postal workers, for example, are only supposed to receive gifts that are under $20 in value. So giving a larger tip or item could lead to an awkward situation for both parties.
Gift  Photo via Shutterstock