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Business Gifts: How to Decide Whether to Give for Holidays or Not

Updated on September 11, 2016
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Heidi Thorne is a promotional products expert and author of SWAG: How to Choose and Use Promotional Products for Marketing Your Business.

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When the economy is challenging, small business owners and entrepreneurs struggle with the question of whether to give holiday business gifts to customers. Which ones have been naughty or nice? Should everyone get something? How about cards?

Let's get real. Unless they're family or very close friends, is anyone expecting gifts from vendors? Probably not. There are a few reasons for this. First, people are busy and getting goodies from vendors is a nice surprise, not a necessity. Second, in light of economic challenges of the past several years, many companies have either decreased or completely eliminated their holiday gifting programs for customers. This is becoming more of a norm than an anomaly. Lastly, people are becoming more sensitive to green issues (of the eco friendly kind) and many view unnecessary holiday gifts as wasteful.

Since the holidays are at the end of the year, conserving cash is a priority. Don't waste it on gifts that may be unnecessary or even unwanted. Here are some tips for making business gift decisions.

3 Ways to Decide Who Should Get Business Gifts

All that being said, giving gifts to top clients is a great way to thank them for their loyalty and support. But even then, some sort of ranking of customers should be used to make decisions on who gets gifts. One of the following strategies can be used to rank customers:

  • Percentage of Total Revenue. For those customers who represent a large percentage of total sales for the year, some gift is appropriate.
  • Top 10 Customers. Similar to using percentage of total revenue as a guide, a business can easily take the top 10 (or whatever number) customers in terms of sales and elect to send them gifts.
  • Dollar Value. Looking again at sales from each customer, a decision can be made to give gifts only to those who have purchased a certain dollar amount. For example, only customers who have spent $5,000 or more will get a gift.

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To Card or Not to Card

Many small business owners and entrepreneurs worry that because every customer is valuable, customers will feel slighted if they don't get something, even a card. Wrong! Remember that sending cards can be a significant expense. Good quality imprinted holiday cards can run up to a couple bucks each, plus postage and the cost of signing, stuffing and shipping out the cards, even if the business owner does them herself. Again, using one of the above decision strategies can help make the cuts on who should get cards.

Also consider that for smaller customers, a variety of lower cost greeting solutions are available. Online email broadcast services offer customized postcard mailings for cents, not dollars, each.

And don't forget email! This reduces the holiday spend to pennies each. Keep the greeting in the email, as opposed to "Click this link for our holiday greeting." Who has time to click that link? And if it really is a link to a funny or entertaining video, make the email and its subject line a good teaser of what they'll find when they click (example, "You always wanted to see Rhonda dance, right? Here ya go!"). Realize, too, that many people may note that an email is a holiday greeting and not open it. But yet they'll note that the business did send them a greeting so the email still has value even if unopened.

Getting Lost

Also consider that gifts given during the traditional holiday season can easily get lost in the shuffle. So consider giving business gifts at lesser holidays. Giving gifts around New Years, Thanksgiving, Valentine's Day, St. Patrick's Day and Halloween can gain bigger impact since they may be the only gift received at those times.

Giving gifts on other minor holidays may also be in line with the business' market, cause or industry. For example, an organization that supports moms may wish to give gifts around Mother's Day. However, exercise caution when selecting these holidays so as not to appear to be capitalizing on the suffering of others, i.e. avoid days that commemorate someone's death or a tragedy.

Disclaimer: The author/publisher has used best efforts in preparation of this article. No representations or warranties for its contents, either expressed or implied, are offered or allowed and all parties disclaim any implied warranties of merchantability or fitness for your particular purpose. The advice, strategies and recommendations presented herein may not be suitable for you, your situation or business. Consult with a professional adviser where and when appropriate. The author/publisher shall not be liable for any loss of profit or any other damages, including but not limited to special, incidental, consequential, or other damages. So by reading and using this information, you accept this risk.

© 2013 Heidi Thorne

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    • heidithorne profile image
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      Heidi Thorne 4 years ago from Chicago Area

      Hi epbooks/Elizabeth! For some groups, sharing an enjoyable outing is definitely preferred over getting and giving gifts. Thanks for stopping by and commenting! Have a great weekend!

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      Elizabeth Parker 4 years ago from Las Vegas, NV

      I work in a small office and we used to all exchange when there were a few more of us, but over the last few years, we just have a little party. This is definitely a helpful hub for those who are undecided and offers good advice!

    • heidithorne profile image
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      Heidi Thorne 4 years ago from Chicago Area

      Hi Careermommy/Tiralan! Using a Top 10 type gifting policy is common, I would say especially in smaller businesses. This year I switched to a postcard/email (customers get postcard, prospects get email) strategy for my larger group of very small customers and prospects. Used to do the hand addressed envelope and card thing. Way too expensive whether I did it myself or outsourced the work. This year, I was able to design my postcards online in about 10 minutes and the service handles the actual mailing. Done and done! My Top 5 get the goods. :) Thanks for chiming in on the holiday cheer. Have a great weekend!

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      Heidi Thorne 4 years ago from Chicago Area

      Yes, FlourishAnyway, there are many companies that have gift "accepting" policies in addition to "giving." And some industries, such as pharma, have even stricter gift policies (a whole other story!). I'm definitely in favor of "community" gifts that can be shared (I have some going to clients in the next week). Thanks for chiming in about holiday gifting! Have a great weekend!

    • Careermommy profile image

      Tirralan Watkins 4 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

      Heidi, your hubs are always so insightful. I love your ideas. I normally give gifts to my top 10 customers every year, but I'm liking the email idea for my smaller customers. Thanks for the tips!

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 4 years ago from USA

      You're right with the gift giving -- green issues, budget busting, customers not even expecting it. Many larger companies also have policies about accepting gifts that even include refusing them unless it's below a given value or can be shared communally like food. This is a very timely topic as we head into gift giving season!