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Your Guide to Holiday Gifting

Your Guide to Holiday Gifting

By Rieva Lesonsky, Guest Blogger
Published: November 3, 2015 Updated: November 3, 2015

It’s November—have you started thinking about what business gifts you will be giving this year? If not, it's time to get moving. Waiting until the last minute can leave you scrambling to select gifts in time, cost you more in shipping, and limit your selection. Here are some suggestions to make business gift giving go smoothly this year.

Who to Gift

Maintaining a list of gift recipients that you update each year means you aren't starting from scratch every holiday season. Choose whichever method works best for you—you might want to create a Group in your contacts, set up a spreadsheet, or use some other format. The key is to make it simple to share and update. Share your list with others in your company who need to have input into gift-giving, such as department heads or salespeople, and have everyone make sure the information regarding their gift recipients is current and correct.

Here are some people you may want to give gifts to:

  • Clients and customers
  • Prospects you are wooing
  • Business connections who have helped you in the past year, such as a colleague who refers a big client to you

Should you give gifts to your employees? This area can be tricky, as employees can feel resentful if they believe someone else on staff got a more expensive or more personal gift than they did. In general, it's safer to stick with holiday bonuses than to give individual gifts. However, if you'd like to add a more personal note to holiday time, gift certificates to retailers or restaurants that you know employees will appreciate can be a good way to go. So can small work-related gifts that help people do their jobs better, such as sleek business card holders for your sales staff.

What to Gift

It’s common to give different levels of gifts — for example, smaller gifts for service providers such as your UPS delivery driver, and larger gifts for longtime clients or major customers. Set a price range for the different levels of gifts and then create a budget, being sure to factor in extra costs such as shipping and giftwrap. Also be sure you understand that the IRS rules for tax deductions of business gifts.

Food is always a safe gift—if people don't want to eat it, they can re-gift it or share it with others. When choosing food gifts, keep in mind factors such as shipping costs (highly perishable products, such as seafood, cost more to ship); what you know about the recipients’ tastes (avoid sending steaks to a vegan); and seasonable temperatures at the client's location (if your Florida client is experiencing a heat wave, a pound of chocolates may not be the best gift).

Think Small

Another way to make an impression on gift recipients is to purchase your gifts from small businesses. There may be a longer lead-time when you are buying from small businesses, because they don't have the same scale as, say, purchasing something from However, by planning your gift giving ahead of time, you should have enough time to order more specialized gifts—at least for your most important gift recipients.

Here are some thoughtful ways to make an impression with gifts from independent businesses:

  • Look for gourmet food items manufactured using regional ingredients. For example, a business based in Vermont could give gifts of maple sugar or maple candy. A company in San Francisco could send sourdough bread.
  • Explore the many independent merchants who sell their products on Etsy. This is a great place to look for personalized, unique gifts.
  • If relevant, consider giving your own company's products or services as gifts. Of course, this won't work for every business (if your company manufactures air filters for cars, you're out of luck), but if you sell something that people would enjoy receiving, such as cookies, golf clubs or hand lotion, gifting your own products enables you to be more generous because the products will cost you less.

Follow Up

Don’t grill your recipients about how they liked the gifts, but do pay attention to what kind of feedback you get. If this year's gift selections are met with the sound of crickets chirping, you may not have hit the mark. On the other hand, if you get tons of texts and emails raving about what you sent, you've got a winner!

If you don't hear from someone at all, there's always the chance that your gift didn't get to them. To make sure no one feels slighted (and that you are getting the products you've paid for), always follow up with a tactful email ("I just wanted to make sure you received our ___________”) so you can fix the problem if it delivery wasn't made.

If this year's Christmas gifts turn out to be big hits, consider sending the same things next year. Developing a "signature gift" doesn't make you boring—it can make you memorable. Back when I was an employee, my team and I looked forward to receiving the same delicious cookies from one particular vendor every year.

About the Author:

Rieva Lesonsky
Rieva Lesonsky

Guest Blogger

Rieva Lesonsky is CEO and President of GrowBiz Media, a media company that helps entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses. Follow Rieva at and visit to sign up for her free TrendCast reports. She's been covering small business and entrepreneurial issues for more than 30 years, is the author of several books about entrepreneurship and was the editorial director of Entrepreneur magazine for over two decades