Etiquette & Ideas for Corporate Gift Giving

Etiquette & Ideas for Corporate Gift Giving

How to give business gifts & who should get them

The holidays are a great time to show your gratitude to everyone that helps keep your business running year-round. For small businesses, it’s also a great way to remind clients and customers that you’re there and open for business. To help you out, we’ve put together some gift-giving etiquette, ideas, common mistakes and helpful hints to get your business prepared for the holiday season.

Whether customers, clients, employees, vendors or service providers, corporate gifts are a perfect way of showing appreciation for the year gone by and cementing relationships for the year ahead.  According to a survey by the modern gift-giving website Knack, 77% of recipients of business gifts said receiving the gifts made them feel appreciated, and 67% believe that the gift demonstrated that the giver valued their friendship.

So remember, even if you’re just starting out or you can’t afford much, a small gift or even a handwritten note is essential for letting people know you appreciate their contributions to your business.

Most common gift-giving mistakes

Knack’s Business Gift Giving Satisfaction Survey found that 70% of business gift recipients reported having experienced negative feelings at least once when they got a gift from a business partner.

The top 5 reasons a client or employee didn’t like a gift?

  1. The giver didn’t put much thought into it
  2. The gift was cheap and made me feel unappreciated
  3. I didn’t like the gift
  4. The gift wasn’t relevant to me
  5. They made me choose my own gift

To avoid these business gift-giving etiquette gaffes, keep reading.

So who gets a gift?

In a perfect world, everyone gets a gift. But obviously, that’s not always possible. So if nothing else, a thoughtful, personalized greeting card should be sent or given.

Make a list of everyone that touches your business and needs to receive some sort of recognition. You can separate the list into sections depending on whether you’re giving a gift or card, and if you have different spending levels for different categories.

When giving corporate gifts you do need to make sure that clients, vendors, employees and service providers that might talk or socialize outside your workplace, all receive similar gifts. For instance, give the mail carrier and the UPS driver the same type of gift.

Take into account religious beliefs as well. Not everyone celebrates Christmas, so be sensitive to others with proper business gift-giving etiquette. Try sending a New Year’s gift instead. It’s a great surprise after the holidays and will make your gift even more memorable.

  • Employees: Your employees should receive the bulk of your love, as they are the ones that do the work to keep you in business. But your employees will talk, so if you can’t find an appropriate gift for all, then cash bonuses are a good confidential way to go and they allow you to reward more valuable employees with larger amounts.
  • Clients/Customers: The general rule of thumb is that you should give your clients a gift at least once a year, so obviously the holidays are an ideal time. VIP clients that send more to your bottom line might require a nicer gift than other clients. Too many customers?  Try an open house or a special coupon for some free product.
  • Vendors/Service Providers: If you have a different delivery person every day, then a special gift may not be necessary, but if you’re on a first-name basis with the people who deliver or provide services to you regularly, a small gift is always welcome.

Make sure and keep a record of all the gifts you give out, as well as the ones you receive to help with next year’s holiday gift planning.

How much should you spend?

First off, set your gift-giving budget. This should be done as part of your company’s yearly budget planning, but if you haven’t done it, make sure and do it before you start shopping. If you did put it into your annual plan, make sure it’s still feasible. You don’t want to drain your company finances by overspending on the holidays.

Don’t forget to include the cost of shipping and mailing in your budget. Make sure whatever gifts you decide on can be sent and easily delivered to your recipients in a cost-effective manner.

Also, keep in mind that some of your clients and service providers may have strict limits on the gifts they can receive. Many companies do not allow employees to accept gifts at all.

Before deciding on what to give everyone, do your homework. A quick phone call or email is usually all it takes to get an answer. Most businesses that do set limits, usually keep it around $20-$25, so that’s a good ballpark to keep in mind. However, spending anywhere between $50 and $150 should be an acceptable range as most vendors and clients don’t expect gifts valued higher than that.

Obviously, as your business increases and the bank balance rises, so can your gifts. But never go overboard.

Make it special or unique

Personalize your gifts to each individual whenever possible. Seventy-five percent of recipients in the survey said the factor that most influences their opinion of a business gift is the thought that went into it. More than 35% loved it when the gift was picked specifically for them. Another 35% like it if the gift included a personal message or was monogrammed.

Give something that aligns with the recipient’s hobbies or interests. For example, a gift card to their favorite restaurant or a book about fishing for the angler or a cookbook for a budding chef shows that you pay attention and appreciate them.

Obviously, if you have too many employees or clients this isn’t possible. In that case, take the time to buy a gift that everyone will find useful. But remember, just because you like something doesn’t mean everyone will.

Gift baskets of food, candy or alcohol are very popular holiday gifts, but make sure you’re sending something that everyone will enjoy. Need some ideas?  Check out 4 Low Cost Holiday Gifts for Clients and Customers for some inspiration.

In today’s world, with so many different allergies and diet restrictions, it’s a good idea to only give items you know they’ll like.  Or if giving for a group, send a gift basket with a variety of items everyone can enjoy. Include gluten-free, non-alcoholic and sugar-free items along with the rest.

Consider gifts like a charitable donation that can be easily personalized to each recipient. Find out what charity your employees and clients support and make a donation on their behalf. It’s a win-win for everyone involved.

Items like monogrammed leather portfolios or notebooks keep you and your company close at hand every time the recipient reaches for it. Just leave your logo off it. Your clients don’t want to be a walking billboard for your company.

Of course, we all know you’ll never please everyone. But making the effort will be greatly appreciated over sending a cheap, promotional product with your logo. If you sell your own products, see how to Turn Your Products Into Holiday Gifts for Clients.

Quality & values matter

Don’t cut corners when it comes to the gifts you choose. Make sure the gifts you give are the best example of that product, not the least expensive. One of the top mentions from respondents in Knack’s survey, when asked about the worst business gift they ever received, was “Cheap things with company logos”.

Also, buy items that are made in the USA. According to Knack, it was the top-preferred value attribute universally in 2018 with 37.5% of respondents preferring that attribute. Even better, it shouldn’t offend anyone.

Sustainable gifts and gifts that give back are also rapidly increasing in popularity. Especially among Millenials.

Don’t stop at the gift inside

A badly wrapped gift box decreases the perceived value of the gift inside. Whereas a beautifully wrapped present sends a message that there’s something of value inside and builds a memorable experience for your recipient when unboxing.

When you send a great-looking gift on the outside, as well as a quality one on the inside, it’s likely to be shared on social media. That means free advertising for your business and a great way your customers can help build your business.

Include custom printed cards and labels that the recipient will see as soon as they open the box, adding another special touch to the gift.

Don’t forget thank-you notes!

This is probably the most important of all business gift-giving etiquette. If you receive a gift, acknowledge it as soon as you can.

Take the time to send a handwritten note instead of a text or email. You can order custom, professionally printed thank-you cards that you can have ready to send as gifts arrive.  Just jot a quick note, add your personalized address labels and send before the holiday rush gets too crazy.

If you want to print your products yourself, Avery Printable Note Cards and Easy Peel® Address Labels let you design and print your holiday cards and labels from your business or home.

What’s the worst business gift you’ve ever received?  Or what’s the best?  We’d love to hear about it!  Let us know in the comments below.

Looking for some more holiday inspiration for your business? Check out 5 Holiday Marketing Tips to Boost Sales to help get prepared for the upcoming holiday rush.



  • Laura TerKeurst at 1:49 pm

    My boss ran a health company, centered around a strict diet and absolutely no alcohol. A vendor sent him a gift basket of wine.. that didn’t go over well…

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      Melanie Neff at 2:13 pm

      Oh no! With a little effort getting to know their vendors, that could have been avoided. That’s why I like the idea of personalized or monogrammed gifts. I got a monogrammed leather bag from a boss a long time ago, and still have it to this day. And I still remember what an awesome boss he was every time I carry the bag. So that’s the way people should think about their business gifts. Give something people will use!

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