7 Rules for Client Gifts: Guidelines, Precautions & Tips for Business Owners

Samir Sampat

In the business world, you may find yourself in the occasional situation where you want (or need) to give a client a gift. To commemorate an occasion, to apologize for a misstep, or even just to thank them for their business, client gifts can be essential. However, if they’re not done well, they can come off the wrong way, leave a bad impression, or suggest a message you weren’t even trying to send. 

To ensure that you always hit the mark with client gifts, here are seven rules to keep in mind. 

1. Make it personal

You can’t just go around giving out the same 10 token “client gifts” to your clients time after time. It might have worked in the past and it might even be the way that you were taught, but it’s completely wrong. Today especially, people are demanding a personal connection and to feel like they’re valued. Therefore, if you’re handing out generic client gifts, you’re already missing the mark in both those areas. Choose a personalized gift for each client that makes sense and matches their personality. 

2. Make sure the gift fits the occasion

This kind of goes along with making it personal, but it’s also a caution of its own. If you are celebrating a new deal, you’d give a much different gift than if you were just thanking a client for their interest, for one example. When you take the time to put thought into it, this one should come fairly simply, but it’s worth repeating. 

Speaking of fitting the occasion, make sure that your gifts are never of a sexual nature, or even hinting at anything sexual. While it might be funny or seem “fine” to you and even your client, it’s a fine line between business and danger that you can’t afford to cross. Keep business gifts professional and you’ll never go wrong. 

3. It doesn’t have to be promotional 

Some of us are still stuck on shameless self-promotion. While that’s all well and good, it’s not necessarily a good way to go with corporate gifts. If you want to impress your clients, promotional items aren’t necessarily the way to go. It might be a good idea, but it isn’t always. You might gift them something that has nothing to do with your business—that’s fine too. Focus more on who you’re gifting to and what they’d like, and the rest will fall into place. 

4. Be careful with alcohol, tobacco, etc. 

Just as with sexual or inappropriate topics, your gifts should also not verge the line of alcohol or tobacco unless you know it’s a gift that will be appreciated. Granted, you’re not going to find many high-end cigars or alcohol gifts for the $25 deductible business gift amount anyway, but it bears mentioning. It’s about creating a professional image and making sure that you don’t send the wrong message. 

If you happen to know that your client of 10 years loves vintage cigars, you could probably find one of a reasonable price to share as a gift, but that would be an obvious choice. If you aren’t sure, just don’t give alcohol, tobacco, or other questionable gifts so that you don’t have to worry about salvaging your reputation or offending someone. 

5. Consider something useful 

It’s not that you should walk around handing out pens and other basic function items—take the time to think about how someone could benefit from the gift you give. Perhaps a coffee gift card will allow them to indulge their coffee habit without breaking into their own budget for a couple of weeks. Maybe you’ll gift the company a fruit and treat basket that provides a nice afternoon snack for everyone. The more people can use or benefit from what you’re gifting, the more they will appreciate (and remember) it, and your organization. 

6. Don’t overspend 

This isn’t just about your budget—it’s about the IRS. According to the IRS, business gifts are limited to just $25 for each person, per year. That means if you’re gifting an individual client, you can spend up to $25. If you’re gifting for a company that has 100 employees, you could spend as much as $2500 if the occasion allowed. 

It can be tempting to spend more on a gift when you appreciate a client or want to show them how valued they are, but you really shouldn’t go too overboard. Aside from the tax deduction rules, spending too much could also look like you’re trying too hard. 

7. Document every gift

In addition to not spending too much, you’ll also want to keep track of all the gifts that you give. This includes a description of what the gift was, how much it cost, the purpose/intent of the gift, and the date that it was purchased and/or given. The relationship between the recipient and the business must also be recorded, both for business records and for tax purposes. 

This is a great way to ensure that you never overdo it with gifts and that you’re not missing any important tax laws or guidelines based on gifting. It will also ensure that if there’s ever a question, you’ve got the facts right on hand, filed away for safekeeping. 

While you’re managing gifts, who’s fielding the leads and managing calls?

You’ve got a lot on your plate as a business owner. You might not have the time to take calls and follow up with leads like you wish you could—but that’s okay. You can get the assistance of a 24/7 answering service, as well as solutions for appointment scheduling, lead intake, and so much more when you partner with the virtual receptionists at Smith.ai. 

We can also help with outreach campaigns if you’re still in the marketing stages and will deliver it all with a custom strategy to manage every last detail. To learn more, schedule a consultation to discuss what the virtual receptionists at Smith.ai can do for your business, or reach out to us at hello@smith.ai.

Samir Sampat

Samir Sampat is a Marketing and Events Associate with Smith.ai. He has experience working with businesses of all sizes focusing on marketing, communications, and business development.

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