Image: The Italian Voice/Flickr
‘Tis the season of giving, especially to those who gave to you during the year. That is to say, clients.
Personally, I would rather give a gift someone delights in, not something they will absentmindedly stick in a desk drawer. But this giving philosophy brings up the delicate matter of expenses. For one, the IRS says that you can deduct no more than $25 for each gift given from your taxes. Secondly, you don’t want to bankrupt yourself giving nice gifts, nor do you want to appear as though you’re bribing your client.
Be selective who you spend the big bucks on (hint: they may have also spent big bucks on you), and save the cards and calendars for the people with whom you have more of a vague relationship. EBay has a good article on the topic here.
Below are 25 gifts that clients are sure to appreciate, in no particular order:
1. Engraved coffee mugs. Engrave your brand on the higher-quality travel mugs to make more of an impression with this traditional gift. For something different and unique, try engraved pint- or whiskey glasses.
2. Engraved pens. Again, quality is necessary to give this overplayed gift memorable. Spend some extra cash on exclusive pens for your best clients.
3. Books. Finding the right book for your client is easier than you think. What are the latest industry reads that she might not yet have read? If she commutes, get her an audio book. If she has kids, buy her a humorous collection about parenting. If she’s a foodie…you get the idea.
4. Jewelry. We’re talking about tasteful cufflinks, not diamond earrings. Other tasteful items might include tie clips, money clips, or trendy bracelets or necklaces (for women). Jewelry can work well if you know what to give.
5. Flowers or an Edible Arrangement. These gifts are a safe bet for female clients or males you know well.
6. Holiday gift basket. Go for wine and chocolate rather than Oreos and popcorn. Several retailers offer you the option to design your own.
7. Season tickets. This special gift doesn’t only cover sports teams. Operas, ballets, theatre companies, symphonies, and zoos also offer season tickets. Clients will appreciate this gift in a hard economy.
8. Golf or ski passes. Another version of the season ticket. You may even consider offering a gym membership, if you’re completely certain that it won’t send the wrong message.
9. Concert tickets. Not as pricey as season tickets, but delightful nonetheless.
10. Plants. These classic office gifts are easy to buy, but harder to deliver. Lucky trees, bonsai trees, and cactuses ship well. If you can deliver the plant yourself, try a philodendron, miniature palm, or Christmas cactus.
11. Gift certificate—retail. Everyone loves free stuff. Receiving a gift certificate to a clothing store, music store, bookstore, or sporting goods store is like getting something for free. Though gift certificate are impersonal, it’s hard to go wrong with them.
12. Gift certificate—restaurant. Find a high-end restaurant in your client’s city or town and buy a gift certificate for dinner for two. This gives you certificate an element of surprise, and shows that you’re willing to do a little more work to please your client.
13. Something homemade. Although chocolate chip cookies may be a little blasé, there must be something that you’re good at crafting. Greeting cards, seasoned hot chocolate mix, mulled wine mix, cinnamon bark, and other yummy holiday edibles are easy to make at home. If you moonlight as a sculptor, potter, metalsmith, painter, or other artisan, even better—send them one of your fine creations.
14. A self-published book. Sites like Blurb.com http://www.blurb.com/ allow you to easily design and publish books on-demand. They supply professional layout templates and materials; all you have to do is insert your words and images. These books can make marvelous portfolio/promo pieces for artists, designers, and photographers.
15. Fancy luggage tags. If you can’t afford to send Burberry tags, at least go for leather—everyone appreciates this small but handy gift. The Timberland Global Tracking tag is another good idea.
16. Universal Hybrid Solar Charger. Solio offers portable, eco-friendly, and stunning solar chargers form $25-$170. The magnesium version is gorgeous, expensive, and sure to impress.
17. Pet gear. Pet schwag is still trendy, despite the fact that the economy has made pets less affordable in general. Fancy dog- and cat collars are easiest to buy; if you know your client’s pet, try getting something you think will suit it best. People love to adorn their animals.
18. A gift certificate for your goods or services. This could include an evaluation, a consultation, a session, or a certain percentage off your client’s next requirement or order. Remember to label it as a “Thank You” or “Customer Appreciation” gift.
19. A donation to a nonprofit in your client’s name. Try to get them to share the name of their favorite nonprofit, then send them an official card or gift receipt from that nonprofit, if they offer it, indicating you’ve made a donation.
20. Calendars and cards. If you must. If you absolutely must.
21. Liquor. Wine and whiskey work well. For something a little different, get them something festive, like Kahlua or Lambic. Make sure they actually drink.
22. Bluetooth headset. If they already have one, upgrade them. If they don’t have one, introduce them.
23. Wireless mouse. Like the Bluetooth headset, everyone can use this little device.
24. Thumb drives/memory drives. Ditto here.
25. Digital picture frame. This is the gift that nobody wants to buy for themselves, but everyone thinks is cool. Your client will like it.