According to the 2012 American Express OPEN Small Business Holiday Monitor business owners are feeling more generous this year than last. More than half (57 percent) will be donating to charity, 25 percent will be giving employees larger bonuses and 40 percent plan to throw a holiday party (up from 35 percent last year).
In addition, the report states that 51 percent plan to give gifts to their clients and customers this year, up from 43 percent in 2011. Spending is up too—the average budget for client and customer gifts is $958, up from $827 last year and $740 in 2010.
But gift-giving can be hard. So whether you’re part of the 56 percent of small-business owners who say “Santa Claus” most closely describes their gift-giving behavior or the 33 percent who pick “Scrooge” as a gift-giving role model, help is at hand. Cassie Kreitner, the editor at the thegift.com, offers some insights and great tips. (Full disclosure: Cassie's also my niece.)
Rieva Lesonsky: If you are a self-described Santa Claus, what are some good suggestions for giving gifts to clients or customers?
Cassie Kreitner: Engraved or personalized gifts are always a nice gesture—like an e-reader cover, coffee mug or Govino wine glasses. Does your company have a lot of out-of-town clients? Send a local favorite from your area like popcorn, cookies, cupcakes, macaroons, or a cheesecake for the office. Or, arrange with your client's assistant to have breakfast delivered to their office one morning.
Gift baskets are also nice, but they can be impersonal and forgettable—by the end of the holiday season, they won't stand out from the pile [of gifts]. If you decide to give a gift basket, put thought into it. An at-home spa basket or a basket with coffee beans from around the world are better options than a traditional fruit or chocolate basket.
RL: What can a Scrooge give a client, without appearing too Scrooge-like?
CK: Remember, it really is the thought that counts, so showing appreciation in a personal way should be sufficient. Sending a holiday card with every employee's name, face and hand-written signature is a great way to show off your company culture and personality. Consider holding props or making funny poses if you’re comfortable giving that impression. An added bonus is that your client can finally put faces with those they’ve only communicated with over e-mail or by phone. The key here is to show you put thought into it.
If you want to give an actual gift, you can send something small that your company produces, a gift card either for your business or another one of your clients' companies for goods or services. You can't go wrong with travel accessories, like luggage tags, electronic adapter kits and e-reader cases, which can all be found inexpensively.
RL: Are gift cards an appropriate gift or is that considered too impersonal?
CK: Gift cards are fine, especially if it’s at least somewhat personalized. But don't give a denomination that they will have to contribute their own money to purchase, such as a $25 gift card to a spa. If that’s your budget, give a card for a nail salon, bookstore or similarly-priced option. If you know a client is a skier or fitness fanatic, a ski pass or gift card for a month's worth of yoga classes are thoughtful gifts.
CK: You can give a cool techie item, like bullhorn speakers or a Mophie keychain which charges an iPhone on the go after a short USB charge. It’s great for traveling or long days spent in office meetings. For something more personal, think about a personalized platter, which works as a serving platter, or an interesting inbox for an office.
What's your gift-giving style?