Getting creative with holiday business gifts

There's a balance somewhere in-between seeming original and not going too overboard.

There’s a balance somewhere in-between seeming original and not going too overboard.

As the holiday season approaches, one thing on every small business owner’s mind what to give to say “thank you” to top clients. Gift-giving in the business world can be a real challenge and finding the perfect balance combination of appropriate, affordable, and memorable can be tougher than figuring out what to buy that in-law who literally has everything. Here’s a look at seven ideas for making your client holiday gifts stand out – without breaking the bank!

Food Gifts

Food gifts are a traditional stand-by when it comes to clients. Tins of cookies, gourmet cheesecakes, and other goodies are an easy, affordable way to say thanks, especially when your client’s office or store employs several people. While there’s nothing wrong with this tried-and-true – especially if you’ve hit on a special favorite that clients look forward to all year – customers are sometimes inundated with more sweets than they can manage and not everyone welcomes the temptation of even the most delectable desserts. If you want to do food gifts, consider something different, something that will last beyond the holiday goodie madness. A loaf of challah or other unique bread from the local bakery and a jar of interesting preserves can help you stand out from the crowd. If the bread can be frozen, mention it! That gives clients the option to pop it in the freezer and bring it out as a fun treat in January. Dried fruit, nuts, toasted edamame, and other shelf-stable items can be a nice counterpoint to cakes and candies and are also both long-lasting and sharable. A fruit basket is another healthy choice that wins raves. And don’t eliminate gift cards from consideration! Dressed up, a certificate for a ham, pizzas, or frozen casserole can make for a great office lunch or party item and consumer clients (individuals, not other businesses) absolutely love this kind of thing!

Swag & Personalized Gifts

Another perennial favorite is swag imprinted with your company’s logo. From pens to golf balls and stress relievers to tee shirts, business owners love giving gifts that will remind the client of their business all year long. Again, this isn’t a bad idea, but to really shine, make sure you choose an item that will be used regularly and is unique enough to catch your client’s attention. If you’re thinking of mugs, try a non-traditional color or a special shape – or both. Technology accessories can be a big hit, too. Earbuds and portable phone amps are hot as are cleaning gadgets and charging pads. Reusable grocery bags are very affordable and offer the added bonus of (hopefully) being carried around in public. Also, don’t discount the idea of giving the client something with his or her own logo on it, like a set of wine glasses for the office or a great tote. Your logo might not be the one they see every day, but they’ll definitely love the idea and they’ll remember that you put the customer first. If you’re a B2C business, personalization is a big favorite, too.

Team Up and Trade

If you have relationships with other small businesses, trading is one way you can make a great impression at reasonable cost – as long as you each have a product that interests the other’s clients. You can either trade and simply give each other’s item or gift cards to your clients or you can pair their item with a compatible one of yours – and vice versa. You might also get together with three or four related businesses who have shared clients to provide a single gift. This gives you the option of offering more than you could afford on your own while helping to build relationships with other small businesses.


Something to consider about gift-giving is timing. Most businesses hand out holiday gifts in December. If you want to stand out, you might think about choosing an alternative. You can stay within the same general timeframe by giving Thanksgiving gifts instead. Since “thanks” is built right into the name, it’s a perfect time to say “thank you” for your customer’s business. Another option is to wait for the new year. Healthy food options and other gifts can work well at this time and you can tell your clients that you appreciate their past business and are looking forward to starting a new year with them. Alternatively, you might choose a completely different time of year, such as the first day of a major season, your business’ anniversary date, or some other day or season that’s significant to your business or in your industry. One other idea is to give gifts on the anniversary of the day your client began doing business with you. It’s tougher to track and certainly requires a bit more effort, but it can be a show-stopper when done well.

No matter what you choose to give your clients – or when you choose to give it – make sure it comes with your sincere thanks for their business. A gift that feels like purely an attempt to assure future business, or one that feels as though the business owner is simply “checking a box,” is sure to fall flat. But a thoughtful selection, given with genuine gratitude, can brighten a client’s day and assure them that the relationship is important to you. And that’s really the point of giving, isn’t it?

Maggie Worth

Maggie Worth is a freelance writer and consultant with a PoliSci degree and 15 years in project management and marketing. An avid mystery reader, co-founder of the Southside Scribes writer's group and member of BWFC, Maggie lives in Fayetteville with her husband, Shane, and their "kid," Rowdy.

November 3, 2016