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Xmas gifts? Bah, humbug!

It’s that time of year again when managers/owners of businesses give Christmas cards and gifts to other managers/owners of businesses.

The main reason for doing so – let’s be completely honest – is so that the person who gets the gift or card will think kindly of us and will bring us more sales, purchases or fresh business as a result. (Whether a bottle of cheap sherry is worth, say, a £20,000 PR retainer is beside the point!)

What concerns me is the sheer cost – sorry, “investment”- that businesses make in return for a client’s favour. Christmas gift expenses might pass invisibly through larger companies, but if you’re a small-scale enterprise, the cost of giving and distributing gifts at Christmas can take a fair chunk out of the month-end accounts.

They say it’s better to give than to receive, but do you buy pressies for the clients who’ve put a decent amount of business your way over the year (and who therefore probably don’t need a “sweetener” to stay loyal) or the new ones who’ve hardly spent a penny yet? Or do you give to those who are not yet clients in the hope that a Christmas card will galvanise them into becoming a customer?

And then there’s the question of who, exactly, should you give to within the organisation – the MD with who you may have may have no actual contact, or the department head who is your actual “reporting in” person, or the finance director who writes your cheques (promptly and without query, you hope), or the secretary/gatekeeper on whom you rely to forward your calls?

And what if you decide that the whole corporate gift giving game is too much had work and expense so you send nothing to nobody – will it really adversely affect future businesses?

What are other people’s experiences and advice on corporate gift giving at Christmas?

Comments (4)

Philip says:
December 11, 2015 at 10:13 am Reply

Interesting approach, David, and one that would encourage us to get to know our clients on a more personal level

Philip says:
December 11, 2015 at 10:12 am Reply

David Willox, video production, Southampton:
I learned from a colleague some years ago that there was a very simple principle to adopt to get this right. If you give a gift such as a bottle of wine to someone in a large corporation it will probably go into a pool and therefore is meaningless for the individual. If it is going to a small company MD it will not have any serious impact on his decisions. But how about doing it in the genuine spirit of Christmas – because you genuinely care about the individual. To do that you have to show that you have taken a little trouble. There are two approaches to this – identify something that is clearly of no use to the company of the recipient but of really personal interest to him or her. The second – because I am useless at identifying such things – is to make the gift myself. So I have made spiced nuts, chocolate truffles, Baklava even rumtopf and put it into small jars. It is personal, it is of little real value but it does embrace the spirit of Christmas.

Philip says:
December 9, 2015 at 9:56 am Reply

Oliver Gwynne, Digital Marketer at The Consulting Consortium, Leeds:
I’ve been on both sides. I’ve been taken out to dinner by suppliers when working for a company, and thought about giving a gift to clients. Generally i would say a card doesn’t hurt or cost you all that much, but I would be lying if I said I thought there was much come back from this greasing of the wheels.

Rob Young says:
December 9, 2015 at 8:16 am Reply

Rob Young, Executive Search, Leeds:
We don’t buy gifts – period.

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