By Violet Davis

In some way or another, business is mainly about people: how you communicate, manage and relate to them. However, no matter how great a manager you are, corporate gift giving may still cause trouble. Budgets are on the rise but companies are having more trouble with what to choose, no matter the size of the business.

Promotional items make the perfect corporate gifts, especially in a B2B setting. They can be used to break the ice with a new client or attract new ones, to incentivize your employees, as well as to create a stronger bond with your existing customers. Besides, they’re also the most effective marketing method, as shown by The Center for Media Research.

Here are the most important tips to guide your choices:

What’s appropriate and what’s inappropriate in corporate gift giving?

There is no clear-cut answer for this beyond this advice: get to know your audience!

Whether we’re talking about holiday gifts, birthday gifts or simple appreciation gifts, the items must be tailored to the needs and taste of the ones that receive them. To do that, get to know the people with whom you’re working and the people that work for you. You wouldn’t want to give an elegant wine set to an associate that is a declared non-drinker, would you?

What typical mistakes to avoid?

Using promotional items as corporate gifts is a strong tool that can be extremely powerful in business because 85% of consumers remember advertisers who gave them promotional items, according to the Advertising Specialty Institute (ASI).

But a lot of managers prefer the one gift for all method, so they won’t spend too much time on the issue. The reality is that this does not work, and you might end up being perceived as offensive or thoughtless. These are the most common mistakes

  • Not tailoring your gift to the audience. You need to be considerate of the values or hobbies of the people who receive the gifts. If an elegant golf set will be well received by one person, it can be a disappointing gift for some else who’s never played a game in their life. In the same manner, a wonderful item made out of wood is not appropriate for someone who lives and breathes an eco-friendly lifestyle.
  • Not choosing the correct items – As studies have shown, most people keep promotional items for an average of eight months, depending on the item, after which they pass them along to others. This means that choosing the correct items, with the longest lifespan, will impact the way your company is perceived and the number of people that will be exposed to your branding. A Global Advertising Specialties Impressions study shows that bags, pens, outwear or health products make people feel better about your brand.
  • Not keeping track of your budget – If you have a limited budget, you need to carefully analyze your marketing strategy, so that you won’t get carried away and spend your entire budget on just a few expensive gifts. Don’t go for something too extravagant, but also avoid the cheapest items. There are plenty of quality, budget-friendly options from which to choose. Just do your research.
  • Not following the trends – Just like any other field, promotional items are also subjected to the latest trend. Design and architecture trends heavily impact the must-have promotional items. Highly desired design elements like textured materials, wood and copper appear in gift boxes, drinkware, and backpacks.
  • Going too informal by using jokes – It’s always a great idea to think outside the box and pick unique promotional items, but you should draw the line at gag gifts. Since opinions are always mixed on these types of items, sending out jokes as corporate gifts is not worth the risk of offending someone, no matter how funny it may seem to you. Especially when you consider all the cultural differences that might work against you.

Are Business Gifts Tax Deductible?

Generally, corporate gifts for customers, clients, employees and associates or partners are tax deductible, but within a limit of $25 per person, per year, as stated by the IRS, which does not offer the same leeway it did in 1962 when this threshold was set.

However, there are a few exceptions you can take advantage of:

  • Gifts for a business entity: The $25 limit is for individuals only, but gifts that are given to a company are not subject to this limit. (for instance your client’s organization, or your vendor’s company)
  • Gifts for a married couple: If you happen to do business with both spouses and you offer a holiday gift for both of them, the limit doubles.
  • Costs for personalization and engravement: The limit of $25 only applies to the items themselves. Other costs such as custom engraving on items or shipping are deductible over and above the $25 limit for the gift itself.
  • Gifts for employees. Although employees gifts have their own limitations, they are exempt from this rule.

However, if you want to make use of any of these exceptions, you need to track all the details: description of the gift, the cost, the date of gift giving and the business relationship with the people that receive the gifts.

Violet Davis works as a Communication Manager for Blueberry Ink. She is living and breathing corporate gift giving. The company started in 1999 as a B2B online seller of high-end promotional products and beautifully customized branded items. 

Business gift stock photo by SeventyFour/Shutterstock