Corporate gift etiquette: How to get it right

Here, we look at how to exercise judgment when giving a corporate gift.

As a small business or growing enterprise, there comes a time when you have to tackle the subject of corporate gift giving. It’s a grey area, littered with potential pitfalls and faux pas. There’s the risk of giving something too lavish, which can look showy, of being too modest, which can come across as tight-fistedness, or even of causing offence with an irrelevant or tactless choice. So how does one navigate such treacherous and murky waters, without becoming scuppered by one’s own good intentions?

Research their company policy on gifts

Some businesses tend to err on the side of caution and forego any sort of corporate gift-giving, while others will place a limit on how much their employees can accept. Ensure that the recipient of your gift won’t be placed in an awkward position if you choose to give them a gift to show your appreciation by checking their policy first. If they are beholden to their company’s rules and regulations, consider making a charitable donation in their name, instead.

Be considerate

The most thoughtful gifts are those that have taken the interests and passions of the giftee into consideration. For example, if your client has revealed a love of golf, football, history or cookery when making pre-meeting small talk, it’s likely that securing tickets for sporting events or buying a book on their favourite topic will show your diligence and attention to detail, and be well received.

Do be discerning

The best business gifts are always of high quality, and well-presented. A carefully constructed, artisan bouquet of flowers, or specialised hampers are a great option. You can find ones that are tailored to gender, age and season. Exotic plants, delicious foods and small bottles of alcohol are also great corporate gift ideas: however, they’re not for everyone. Some clients may have religious beliefs, allergies or diets which don’t allow for certain items, so give such gifts with caution. In this case, quality or boutique chocolate hampers work well year-round.

Avoid awkwardness

If you are bidding for the business of a client, bear in mind that a gift is never a way of securing a deal in your favour or winning a contract. Most people would feel compromised to be given a gift in the middle of a bid. However, once you secure the business, by all means, use a gift or a handwritten card to show your gratitude for being chosen over the other competitors.

Show attention to detail

Part of the wow factor of the corporate gifts is in their presentation, and this is one area in which you most definitely should not scrimp. Deliver corporate gifts in robust, appropriate and beautifully-wrapped packages for maximum impact, and avoid at all costs having logos, business cards or company letterheads as part of your presentation. Instead, select a tasteful card, and hand write it to show the personal nature of your gratitude.

Choosing the correct corporate gift can be challenging. Remember: understanding your clients’ needs and expectations, and surpassing these, is already part of your business. Gift giving is no different.

See also: Four gift ideas for your treasured clients at Christmas

Ben Lobel

Ben Lobel

Ben Lobel was the editor of from 2010 to 2018. He specialises in writing for start-up and scale-up companies in the areas of finance, marketing and HR.

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