Business Gifting with Style and Strategy

The fundamental objective of gift-giving is to foster relationships between giver and receiver. A gesture to show the other party that we care.
Gift-giving in a corporate setting shows, in a sense officially, that you know and appreciate the people in relations to your business (these include both existing and potential customers, vendors, suppliers, employees and even management).

There’s an element of surprise that leaves an indelible and remarkable impression on the recipient.

In business gift-giving, the relationship is resting on goodwill, rather than one based on a reward-and-punishment system or a transactional exchange.

The business of business gift-giving comes with its own set of considerations which you should keep in mind, these includes:

  • When it’s appropriate to gift and to whom
  • Business gift-giving etiquette
  • Choosing the right gifts, for the right occasion, to convey the right message
  • Strategic gift-giving ideas

Other than showing appreciation to customers and attracting potential ones, Business gifts can also enhance workplace relationships between both colleagues and employers, all in all, bringing in greater revenue, productivity, performance, and loyalty.

I am not saying that one should nor can expect any returns, but as the saying goes, “Give, and you shall receive.” Clients, customers, or even employees who receive, often give back. Either in terms of future assistance, help in your business, sales or increase productivity and loyalty to the company/brand.

Why Are Business Gifts Important?

Have you ever examined what you feel when you give a gift? How about when you receive one?

Like all persuasive, social exchanges, there’s a psychology behind gift-giving that’s been at play since man first organized into civilized groups. Fast forward to today, of course, and the types and practices of gift-giving have changed.  

But the initial impetus remains the same: To create a bond.  

A Peek at the Psychology of Gift-Giving

One reason gifts are so effective is that they are an expression of gratitude. Researchers say that gifts are a symbol of spontaneous gratitude, thoughtful gift-giving can be more effective than a monetary token.

Renowned French anthropologist Marcel Mauss backs up this sociological and psychological view.

He focused his 1925 study, aptly named The Gift, on the conventions of exchange — why we do it, what we hope to feel, and why, exactly, gift-giving can be so fraught with social anxiety.

What he found is that the way everyone — businesses, their employees, and their clients — approach gift giving is complicated. And that complicated mass is ultimately a way to create the basis for strong relationships relationship.

In the case of business gift-giving, these relationships are all about internal workplace culture and external, client-facing brand culture.

And the rules of gift giving are as rigorous as the rules and etiquette for receiving.

“These…are systems of gift-giving that aren’t just about gifts but carry a legal, economic, spiritual, and moral significance that saturate the whole social fabric. [Gift giving] is neither voluntary or altruistic. There’s an obligation to give, an obligation to receive, and an obligation repay…[Gift giving] is a formal pretense and social deception.” — Marcel Mauss, The Gift

Leah Ingram, an etiquette specialist, backs up this view by translating the “experience of gratitude” to the tangible.

There are two very real reasons to buy business gifts…One is obviously to thank someone for their business. The other is to make sure you remain top of mind…”

Company Culture, Attracting Talent, and Gift-Giving

It’s often the giver, instead of the receiver, that reaps the greatest rewards from gift-giving.

However, many people view gift-giving as simply what you do — or is expected of you — when participating in a culture. And nowhere is that culture more apparent today than in businesses of any size.

Why? Because top talent is scarce on the ground.

Companies like Google, Facebook, and even smaller SaaS outfits are scrambling to offer benefits or perks to their recruits. These benefits build a culture that seems welcoming, progressive, and geared towards the employee’s professional advancement.

This attention to detail is all so that employees feel invested in and, in return, are willing and enthusiastic to give back to the bottom line through time, creative ideas, sales, performance, productivity, and more.

According to a Gallup poll, employees that remain satisfied and “engaged” outperform their peers for 147% in earnings per share.

Strategically investing in employees helps businesses retain the best candidates. And, In the workplace, appreciation and gratitude need to expressly communicate. The numbers prove as much:

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Notice that 64% of surveyed workers respond that they would leave their job to work for a company that clearly recognized contributions. It’s a very detailed requirement.

And this turnover issue is real: 40% of dissatisfied employees leave their jobs, and disengaged employees cost employers up to $450 – $550 billion in lost productivity, annually.

But as a means of expressed gratitude, then, business gifts can combat this trend, since they help in these areas:

  • Drive loyalty
  • Improve morale
  • Boost your reputation as an employee (being seen as an employer that readily prioritizes workplace culture
  • Supports employees so they feel drive to outperform peers and innovate on projects

So ask yourself: What does business gift-giving really mean for your bottom line?

Be selective. It’s okay (and sometimes necessary) to have a “cut-off” budget for employee gift-giving. You can use your own metric for justifying value (such as seniority/legacy, performance, notable achievements this year, etc.)

When To Gift, and Who To Gift To

For both employees and clients, receiving a gift is about recognition. When employees receive gifts, they feel as though their employers tangibly expressed gratitude for their hard work.

When clients receive gifts, it builds a relationship because there’s a sense of reciprocity and exchange. You’re thanking them for doing business with you, which inspires them to feel valued and return with repeat business.

A rather beneficial win-win situation, right?

Before sending out business gifts, however, take the time to decide when you’ll be doling out these tokens of gratitude. Who your receivers are also matters because, in the context of your business, roles justify reward types.


Insiders are those on the operations side of your business. Giving gifts to employees, supplies, vendors, and peripheral support staff (like janitors or the cleaning crew), can help boost morale, productivity, and overall goodwill.

According to the Millennial Impact Report, 53% of employees say that their top reason for staying with their companies is the fact that their passions and talents are recognized and rewarded.

Employees have come to expect rewards tied to performances, as well as unique gifts of recognition when:

  • It’s the end of the year, during the holiday season
  • A particularly large-scale or complex project closes, in both celebration and recognition
  • An employee has been at the company for a preset number of years, as a distinguishment for their service and loyalty
  • Employees earn promotions

Especially around the holiday season, a survey by PureProfile shows that the holiday season is an ideal time to give and receive because individuals are already in this mood. 15% of receivers don’t even mind what they receive!

For businesses looking to give employees a token of appreciation, items like gift cards (40%) can go a long way since 31% are hoping to receive this anyway.

The Middle Ground: Vendors, Suppliers and Support staff

Think about those individuals you want to say “thanks!” to, who don’t necessarily show up as part of your company’s payroll.

Maybe they’re even categorized as expenses — integral in their functionality but not a steady part of your workplace.

Ad-hoc IT specialists, out-sourced accountants and lawyers, couriers, and even consultants are crucial as service providers, of course, but they’re not quite employees.  

Do you go about the business of gift-giving in these situations?

In a word, yes.

But, there are some caveats. First off, certain positions like lawyers, doctors, specialist individuals can’t accept gifts beyond a particular monetary value (depending on industry guidelines).

Secondly, you want to base the value of your gift on whether or not you see a long-term relationship with this supplier or vendor. If you’re gifting them during the holidays, gift cards or practical gifts tailored to their profession (or their personal likes) are the best choices.

If you’re gifting them at the end of a big project, or to say thanks for going above and beyond, then gift vouchers, Thank you packs or even cash are your best bet.


When you think about outsiders, you instantly think of clients. As the bread-and-butter of your business, client relationships call for consistent maintenance.

Once a year, it’s good practice to give a small token of your appreciation to “outsiders” — and this includes both existing and potential clients.

However, the size (monetary value) of the gift and the type of gift should directly match the value of your customer/client may brings.

With insiders and the Middle Ground, your “gift” is a token of appreciation and gratitude.

But with “Outsiders,” the giving of gifts can serve an additional function: as a means of reciprocity and exchange, i.e. more sales/referral for the business.

There’s real significance behind your choice of gift, of course. If you can learn more about your clients’ personal preferences, that’s even better, because it shows genuine desire to understand them.

To enhance the meaning, you can also personalize or customize the gift, choosing details as personalised engravings, prints or embroidery on items that would be joyously welcome.

However, there’s an added dimension of strategy to client gift-giving — as with any level of client interaction. Giving out client gifts helps you to remain top-of-mind. It creates an incentive to stay on, bring in more business, and tells the client you value them.

While many Western-based companies and businesses choose the holiday season that falls at the end of the calendar year as the best time to give out gifts, that’s not a hard and fast rule.

Consider, for example, the significance of the Chinese Lunar New Year for Asian and South East Asian-based businesses. In Chinese culture, it’s customary to give a pair of mandarin oranges for good luck and hand out monetary gifts through a red packet or envelope.

Business gifting can include Hampers, Red packets and sleeves, orange carriers and many other unique items symbolic with New Year, Luck, Wealth, Health and even Studies. 

Cultures around the world vary their gift-giving season — and their gift-giving reason. For example, you can just as legitimately send your client a business gift when they complete a big project with you, or they reach a particular dollar amount in expenses.

You could also send clients a gift at varying times in the year, at a point that’s significant for them. Just reached a major growth milestone? That’s when you send them a gift? Expanded to a new location? ‘Tis the season!

Here are a few quick tips to keep in mind when gifting to outsiders:

  • Small doesn’t have to mean cheap
  • Gifting during the holiday is ok but make your messaging as holiday-neutral as you can
  • Always check compliance laws, especially if your potential contacts or clients are government officials.

Business Gifting Etiquette – 5 Strategic Rules

Rule #1: Avoid “Funny” Gifts

Humor, like art, is entirely subjective.

And, in a professional context, humor is tricky — it’s a valuable connector and it forges a warm and positive relationship between giver and receiver.

But humor is also about value: What one party values and finds humorous, the other may think of as crass or rude.

If you’re ever concerned about the interpretation of a gift, it’s best to consult with your HR department. In general, HR really should be involved with corporate gift-giving — both internally and externally.

Your marketing department may work together in the gifts decisions, especially when it comes to client gifts. But it’s also the job of your HR department to outline a cohesive guideline for you, the business, as a giver of external gifts.

This policy should also include rules on receiving gifts, as a corporate entity.

Rule #2: Keep Your Goal in Mind

This applies to both internal and external parties.

Internally, your goals with your employees could include:

  • Expressing gratitude
  • Rewarding performance
  • Recognizing talent
  • Incentive for innovation development activities
  • Creating a relaxed and friendly but professional workplace culture among co-workers
  • Fostering inter-team creativity and communication

You’ll notice that the nature of the goal steers your choice in a gift. For example, a goal of team-building might mean that your gift to your employees is to put together an afternoon out at an Escape Room event, or all-expenses-paid for a conference, out of state.

Rewarding performance could call for a award ceremony with trophies/medals and monetary incentives, or even an experiential gift — such as gift card for a spa day.

Recognizing talent, again, could include a gift of spending the day with a coveted mentor.

Are you seeing a theme here? Your goal should be in keeping with the nature of the gift — you don’t need to make it a one-size-fits-all giving. Not all employees will receive the same thing when the goal (or the time of year, for example) varies.

The same goes for your clients, business partners, prospects, and suppliers/vendors.

Likewise, goals for external parties could include:

  • Maintaining communication and excellent customer relations
  • Expressing gratitude for the business received
  • Attempt to convert prospects by highlighting how valuable they are
  • To incentivise returning clients/customers

Again, these goals —will guide you on the kinds of gifts that align with your strategic purchases.

Rule #3: Make it Tailored To Receiver’s Needs or Interests

As a test for understanding your clients and customers, you should be able to ideate the kinds of gifts which will evoke the most joy, surprise, or delight to them.

Many businesses take custom-made or personalized to simply mean slapping your logo on the item, making it huge to be seen from miles afar. While some gifts designs may suit such a strategy, most may make it less likely for your recipient to even use the gift — some may not even find it of value.

The best strategy? Choose gifts that form an emotional connection. This means it’s not just a preference for particular colours or a gadget over a gift card. Instead, you want to show your client you have a relationship — almost akin to friendship.

You know what’s meaningful to them and your gift choice should, as much as possible, reflect this significance.

The truth is that any business could gift a branded chef knife set or an engraved writing pen. But you’re going to only stand out when you go beyond preference, weaving meaning and significance together. Working with a professional gifting company to curate and craft your next gift may just aid you to achieve the desired outcome faster.

Rule #4: Group Gifts Call for Generosity

It is good to plan in advance your gift-giving campaign — especially when its for mass quantity gifting.

Mass quantity gifts are a little tricky because they all need to be of the same value. You’re not intending to single anyone out. Through this gifting action, the goal is simply to express gratitude — usually, at the end of the year or the close of a big project.

This might be a standard reusable tote bag, Bluetooth speakers etc, where each individual might get the same gift item as thanks.

There’s another way group gifts could go: It’s one large gift that everyone can partake in.

For example, if you’re rewarding your lean, but effective, three-person accounting team, consider a large gift — in value — that all three of them could avail of, such as a gift basket hamper or gift certificate for lunch.

Rule #5: Always Check for Compliance Laws

It’s not just your jurisdiction — compliance laws also mean for your industry and your clients’ industries.

There are certain rules and/or thresholds that are pre-established when it comes to corporate gift-giving. You need to make sure that both your total expenditure and those individual gift choices are appropriate, running by the letter of the law.

For example, Under Singapore’s Code of Ethical Conduct for Interactions with Healthcare Professionals, medical sales personnel are to limit their token of appreciation to maximum SG$100 per person only.


Planning for and buying business gifts is much more involved an endeavour than it seems. Many business owners get hung up on the legal and compliance issues.

As long as you have some kind of company policy in place regarding gift-giving, you should be fine. The true task begins when you’re trying to choose the right gift for the individual and the relationship you’re trying to build.

Of course, this guide is just a starting point. When in doubt, seek assistance from corporate gifts/business gifts companies, which can give you a structured and experienced headstart. Remember that It’s never the actual gift itself but the meaning and gesture that take over your receiver’s perception. So make the motion count!