The 8 Essentials of Corporate Gift Buying

Illustration of a group of people dancing with gift boxes in front of a Christmas tree.

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During certain times of the year, corporate gifts are a necessity—gifts to a new vendor, gifts sent as thank-yous for a client's business, gifts to employees and managers, and the list goes on. Give the wrong gift and it might end up shoved in a bottom drawer. Even worse, the wrong gift can offend someone. The good news is that there are ways to select gifts that are appreciated and strengthen relationships.

Buying the perfect corporate gift for your clients has never been easier with the availability of products online and retail. However, with the vast selection of gift ideas comes a dizzying array of choices. Before you set out to find the perfect corporate gift for your clients, know the essentials of corporate gift buying.

According to OPEN from American Express Semi-Annual Small Business Monitor, the top corporate gifts are:

  • Cards or calendars (49%)
  • Gift certificates for retail or restaurants (26%)
  • Company branded items (23%)
  • Fruit or food basket or charity donation (both 18%)
  • Flowers or plants and wine or liquor (tied at 10%)

Before you run out and buy the "tried and true" corporate gift, consider these eight essentials of buying business gifts.

Check Corporate Policies

Many companies and government offices will have a gift policy limiting the dollar value of a gift or prohibiting gifts. Be sure to check with your recipients to determine the limitations of gift giving so they don't have to return the item.

Determine Wants

Knowing what to buy a corporate client is the biggest challenge of business gift buying. It's difficult to know your clients on a personal level in many cases. The best bet is to call your customers and ask them what they like, their hobbies, etc., to give you a great idea of what to buy.

Consider Cultural Differences

Each country and culture will have its own rules for corporate gift buying. For instance, in China, a gift should never be wrapped in white since it symbolizes death.

Go for Quality

Any business gift you send reflects on the image of your company. Avoid lower quality gifts that can impair your image. Purchase quality products without breaking your budget.

Use Handwritten Cards

It's far too easy in this Hallmark age to simply send a card with your gift and signature. For a more lasting impression, add a handwritten note sharing your thoughts.

Spend on Packaging

As important as choosing the right corporate gift for your client is the packaging of the gift itself. Spend the time and money on the wrapping to reflect your value on client relationships. If you lack the talent for gift-wrapping or have no time, use the many gift-wrapping services available from retailers and shopping malls.

Deliver Personally 

If your business gift list isn't too large, consider personally delivering the gift to the intended party. A personally delivered gift will keep you at the top-of-the-mind with your clients.

Know IRS Deductions

Business gifts in the U.S.A. are tax-deductible up to $25 per person for the tax year. This doesn't include incidentals such as packaging or mailing the gift. The type of business structure (i.e. partnership) you have can be subject to different rules. Be sure to review the IRS Publication 463.

Corporate gift-giving is an opportunity to connect with your clients, strengthen ties, and share your holiday cheer. Adopting an attitude of giving will make the act of corporate gift buying less stressful and more fun.