What’s in the Box?
  By Debbie Cline

I love to receive presents, but I love to give them just as much. Presents can make us feel special and appreciated. Most of us know that gifting in the business world is different and can be trickier than buying gifts for our families and friends.

While preparing for this post, I spoke with people in various industries to get their perspectives on gifts they have received from vendors and clients. I heard some amazing gifting stories and tidbits including the following:

  • Worst gift – Whole ham (recipient was vegan)
  • Strangest gift – Toaster (recipient received no explanation, no note – just a toaster)
  • Dumbest gift – An empty cardboard box that had “think outside the box” printed on it
  • Most offensive gift – XXL polo shirt (recipient was a size M, beyond awkward)
  • Most useless gift – Pet food bowl (recipient didn’t have a cat or dog)

With a little time, guidance and personalization, you can find the perfect client gifts and realize the benefits of a closer relationship.

Business gifting is big business. Last year the market for non-cash business gifts was estimated to total $125 billion. Here are a few interesting findings about gift recipients from the 2019-2020 Knack Business Gifting Strategy Report:

  • 89% believe that business gifts bring people closer together
  • 83% believe that business gifts generate measurable positive ROI in addition to intangible benefits
  • 70% experienced negative feelings at least once when receiving a gift (top complaint? The giver didn’t put much thought into the gift)

Make it Memorable
One key to gift giving is to make it personal, not promotional. A client gift is appreciation, not advertising.

Choosing gifts with thought and care will let your client know that they’re getting a customized, personalized gift. C-suite executives are especially impacted by a gift that tells a story and facilitates a deeper personal connection, which 94% of top executives believe is important to business success. Gift cards for example, while appreciated, are not memorable and do not build personal relationships.

The most memorable and most important part of the gift is a personally-addressed note. This is hands down the single most powerful thing you can do to create a personal connection with your gift. 

Know When to Gift
Not every potential or existing client, nor every event merits a gift or appreciation. There are times when gifts are not appropriate, and it is important that a gift is never seen as a bribe. It is also critical to always respect the limits and rules set by the recipient’s organization.

As far as time of the year to gift, remember that clients receive the most gifts during the holidays. Consider sending a gift when they’re least expecting it. You will stand out and the happy surprise will have more impact. 

Know What to Gift
If you are still nervous or not sure what to gift follows these quick tips:

  • Make it Useful – Gifts that are useful are always valued. A practical gift that will get used is always better than a clever gift that will end up collecting dust or in the trash.
  • Quality Counts – Whatever you choose does not need to be expensive or luxurious, but it needs to be high quality. You are associating the product or service with your brand and that matters.
  • Consider Values – Selecting gifts from a woman, minority owned or local business for example, or gifts that are Made in the USA are always a safe bet.
  • Don’t Overspend – It is rarely appropriate to spend more than $100 – $150 for even C-level executives or the most valued clients
  • Presentation Matters – Unboxing is part of the experience and a beautifully delivered gift is not only appreciated, but shows your attention to detail

 Remember, the gift is great, but it is truly the thought that counts.

Debbie is co-founder, chief of customer success at Buzzy Rocket and yellow lab lover. From LA to London, she is well known as an expert in creating that certain elusive magic that drives explosive growth at the intersection of companies, customers and mobile. She has proven strategic vision, and isn’t afraid to get in the trenches. In fact, she’s been doing this at companies big and small for 25+ years. Her background includes executive level positions at both public companies and startups where she has proven over and over again that her passion, drive and results oriented perspective get it done. She is tenacious, loves the game changer and loves to win.


Debbie is co-founder, chief of customer success at Buzzy Rocket and yellow lab lover. From LA to London, she is well known as an expert in creating that certain elusive magic that drives explosive growth at the intersection of companies, customers and mobile. She has proven strategic vision, and isn’t afraid to get in the trenches. In fact, she’s been doing this at companies big and small for 25+ years. Her background includes executive level positions at both public companies and startups where she has proven over and over again that her passion, drive and results oriented perspective get it done. She is tenacious, loves the game changer and loves to win.

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