Pros and Cons of Professional Gift Giving (and Gift Ideas)


Gift giving can be a challenge. While some say, "it's the thought that counts" with a gift, you want to avoid being the subject of a statement along the lines of, "What were they thinking?"

With the holidays approaching, you may be faced with the annual conundrum of figuring out who you should send gifts to and what the appropriate parameters are for gift giving. You aren't the only manager struggling with this issue.

Before you start shopping for those client and associate gifts, here are a few of the pros and cons of professional gift giving as well as some tips that can help you make the right choices this year. We've thrown in a few professional gift ideas to get you started.

Pros of Professional Gift Giving

If you're on the fence about sending a friendly gesture to clients this holiday season, it might make sense to explore some of the benefits of professional gift giving. These include:

  • Bridging Divides. Depending on your industry, you might not see all of your clients face-to-face with regularity. Regardless of where your business is based, you can send a gift to a client that will make them feel close to you even if they are hundreds or thousands of miles away.

  • Reinforcing Your Brand. Companies that value their brands get another opportunity to show clients that they have a strong commitment to lasting relationships. Some business gifting services allow you to add a logo. Instead of sticking yours on the gift, show how thoughtful you are and put your client's logo on it instead.

  • Keeps Relationships Open. You might have clients that are in different stages of buying, and others that you keep in touch with for follow-up business. When you send a gift, it opens the lines of communication and will give you fresh opportunities to talk business after the first of the year.

  • Sets You Apart from Competitors. There's a good chance that your client works with other companies, but not every one of them will reach out with a thoughtful gift this holiday season. People tend to do more business with companies they know and like. You can become a preferred partner by setting yourself apart from the crowd.

Cons of Giving Professional Gifts

Even as you get ready to go shopping or jump online to pick out some gifts, it would be prudent to use caution. While giving gifts to clients is a good idea, the potential downsides to doing this include:

  • They can be construed as bribery. While gift gifting is an age-old form of expressing appreciation, it is also associated with reciprocity. Therefore, an overly generous business gift could be viewed as more than just goodwill and instead an effort to gain favor. This is a fine line. In fact, some companies and all U.S. Agencies have strict policies about accepting gifts from business associates.

  • The gifts can miss the mark. If you give a gift that doesn't align with the recipient's interests or is too expensive, your misstep might overshadow your good intentions.

  • It's another item to put in the budget. Yes, you'll need to pay for the gifts, but that shouldn't be your only consideration. Before you decide that you're going to skip this exercise for now, it helps to think about the value of a new or retained client. KissMetrics did a wonderful job of breaking down the lifetime value of just a single Starbucks customer. It also provided formulas that you can use to do the same calculation for yours.

  • This is a confusing and stressful process! As if owning or managing a business isn't stressful enough, these business etiquette scenarios will continue to keep you on your toes.

Professional Gift Giving: Some Questions to Help You Make the Best Choices

While a thoughtful gift can make a positive impression on an important client, you also have the opportunity to damage business relationships with these gestures. This is pressure that no one wants to face, and you can easily avoid disaster by asking yourself a few simple questions in the midst of your gift-giving efforts:

  1. What is a "safe" gift choice? If you have to question whether or not a gift is appropriate or safe, look for something else. The best gifts won't take these unnecessary risks but will rather reflect the interests and tastes of the recipient.

  2. How can you find out someone's tastes or interests? If possible, scope out the recipient's workspace for items and photos that reflect interests and hobbies. Otherwise, see if a colleague or assistant will give you some insight in confidence.

  3. How much should you spend on a business gift? Gifts don't have to be extravagant to be effective, but skimping might not be the best choice either. Something thoughtful and personalized (i.e., not the same gift for everyone) will be most appreciated.

  4. Should employees give gifts to managers? Business gift giving should be lateral or from the top down, not the other way around. Subordinates should not be expected to give gifts to managers If you want to give something to your boss, keep it small.

  5. What if you were not planning on reciprocating a gift? Business gift giving is always optional. If you received a gift but were not planning on reciprocating, the best thing to do is to send a sincere thank you note.

  6. When should I deliver a gift? It's vital to remember that not everyone celebrates Christmas, so you'll want to remain sensitive to different religious beliefs. If you don't feel comfortable asking, you can simply deliver all holiday gifts at the end of the year.

What Gifts Should You Give This Year?

Believe it or not, corporate gifting is an exploding industry. Seattle-based Knack, a bespoke gifting company, reports that the market for non-cash business gifts has reached $125 billion annually. This is larger than the GDP of 17 U.S. states.

“…the market for non-cash business gifts has reached $125 billion annually. This is larger than the GDP of 17 U.S. states.”

What does this mean for your current gift dilemma? Essentially, there are now more choices than ever in unique and appropriate business gifts. This is excellent news.

According to Knack's founder and CEO Laura Jennings, what you give and how you present the gift matters. Not only should gifts be personal and memorable, but also presented well with quality boxing and packaging.

Still not sure what to give this year? Here are a few ideas you can steal depending on the tastes of your client and your budget:

  • Personalized Gifts. One of the best choices for professional gifts is to give something that's personalized (their name or logo, not yours). There are hundreds of ideas available at Personalization Mall.

    If you want to get super creative, use Fancy Fortune Cookies to send your client a batch of personalized fortune cookies.

  • Personalized Gifts from Amazon. Amazon offers a large variety of personalized gifts. You will see personalized gifts for the office, sports, tools and the home. If you have a sense of what someone is interested in, you will bring a smile to their face with such a gift.

    If you want more creative gifts on Amazon, check out the Ruggie Alarm Clock which requires someone to get out of bed and stand on it to turn off the alarm. 

  • Some Food. Speaking of cookies, who doesn't love to eat? There are a variety of other delicious gifts that you can send to a client which you can customize depending on their preferences.

    Graze Box offers healthy and even gluten-free snacks. Other options are Olive & Cocoa and Harry & David.

  • Tech Gadgets. Do you have a client that loves tech or is looking to modernize their life? Check out the many tech gadgets available from Amazon that make welcome gifts during the holidays.

    Your choices might include a Kindle loaded with books, Fire TabletEcho DotFire TV StickRing Video Doorbell, and other Smart Home devices.

  • An Experience. What do you get for a client that seems to have everything or someone that you just don't know that well? Since most of us spend entirely too much time working, taking time out for an experience such as a concert or play would be a nice retreat. If you aren't sure which experience will be suitable, it's ok to buy a gift certificate to a ticketing agency or local theater company.

    For example, you might gift someone an indoor skydiving session. Skydiving indoor replicates the thrill but mitigates the risk. iFly, a studio that has locations all around the country (and a few abroad) will go the extra mile and teach you how to skydive IRL. Check out to learn more. 

  • Gift Baskets. But not just any off the shelf gift basket! Take a look at the options The Gift Gourmet offers. You can have a gift basket custom made special for the recipient. Pick a theme and let Margaret do the rest. Margaret has been shipping gift baskets for over 20 years and knows the importance of each gift. 

A few notes about giving socially responsible gifts: While there is nothing wrong on the surface with giving a gift that is socially responsible, it's important to consider the reaction of the recipient instead of just your own values. Any gift made locally is always appreciated or even items that are crafted in a responsible manner. If you wish to give to charity, allowing the client to designate the beneficiary (what causes do they care about?) will make the gift more meaningful.

Now that the busiest shopping season of the year is upon us, business gift giving might not be at the top of your list, but it should still be on your mind. This is the perfect time of year to show clients and other associates gratitude for the value that they bring to your business.

Happy Holidays!



Topics: Customer Service Customer Relationship Management Business Culture