What Makes a Great Gift

I try to do something nice for my employees every year over the holidays. I like to show them we appreciate them and their hard work. I try to put thought into this and make the gifts something special for each of them. Finding the right gift is time-consuming and can be hard to do yearly. Last year, we were closing a hectic year, and we didn’t have the time to find gifts for each person on our team. We decided to get everyone a Yeti cooler and coffee mug accessorized with their initials. The results were immediate. They loved them. The gifts had a more significant impact than anything we had done in the past, and it took us a tenth of the time!

That realization begs the question, what makes a great gift? Gifting and recognition are essential parts of excellent work culture. There is no question that a company should, in some way, adopt a gifting strategy, especially during the holidays. Still, it can be a daunting task to decide the correct path or even how to execute it.

When the pandemic hit in 2020, my business partner and I had to pivot our business to survive. We were in the catering space, and when the shutdown happened, our company went away. We realized something crucial during this time. A business bringing food in for their employees is their way of showing recognition and appreciation. We realized we needed to broaden our focus in that area. As a result, we created Gift Admin. So what is Gift Admin? A corporate gifting platform that focuses on helping our clients recognize their employees and clients simply and thoughtfully through gifts, not just food! At Gift Admin, we have broken the art of gifting into three main categories that guide our clients and us to provide great gifts that are sure to wow.

Lots of research can be found about the benefits of gifting in a business relationship. According to one recent study that surveyed over 1,000 people, 75% of business gifters expressed a lack of confidence in selecting and giving gifts. To me, this is in part because they lack a plan or strategy in their gifting. Giving gifts solely because it’s the holidays will make it harder to plan out and be consistent.

While creating Gift Admin, we put a lot of thought into creating a strategy that guides our decision-making when approaching gifts! We call it our gifting ethos.

The Perfect Gift Has Both
Something to Wow and Delight Now:
Nothing is better than getting a gift that needs to be enjoyed immediately! There is something about getting a sweet treat or a great bottle of wine and opening it to share with friends (or enjoy it all by yourself). These gifts create an immediate impact.
Something to Cherish for Years to Come:
When you take something you received as a gift off of your shelf, it immediately reminds you of who gave you that gift. This is true the first time you use it and years later. These gifts create lasting impacts.

With this as our guiding principle, we feel confident in the gifts we curate, and it’s easy to take the next step.

Understanding who should be on your gifting list is crucial. I order my list as follows:

  • Employees 
  • The top revenue-generating clients
  • Up-and-coming clients (clients that were still growing with us)
  • All other clients
  • Partners/Vendors

Employees are first because they execute our missions and values while creating an excellent client experience. Our team never needed a significant gesture of appreciation, but I found that some recognition went a long way.

When it comes to clients, it may feel more important to recognize a good relationship or strengthen a newer relationship with gifts. This feeling brings us to the all-important ROI problem; when spending money on a client, it’s natural to think in terms of an ROI on the money spent. Still, I urge you to consider the ROI of a good relationship. I firmly believe that you do not need to buy gifts for every client you have, nor do clients expect this. I have had plenty of good relationships with people and companies over the years for which I did not buy gifts. In many cases, a simple card will send a strong message and make them feel appreciated.

What makes a great gift? Perhaps the better question is, what makes a bad gift? Years ago, I received a gift from an employee. It came as an email with a link to a webpage where I had to pick from a list of options I could receive. While I appreciated the gift and the thought, I felt it lacked sincerity. It felt that the person was giving me this because it’s just what you do. The employee did not consider the gift’s purpose and the recipient’s relationship (me).
The TV show Seinfeld explored the idea of an insincere gift when Jerry (the main character) gave Elane (a woman he was dating and friends with) $182 for the holidays. As they accurately determined, that might be ok for an uncle to give, but you should know the relationship and the purpose behind a gift before sending it out.

According to a research survey that studied business gifting, when asked, what makes a bad gift, the top 5 answers were:

  1. The giver didn’t put thought into the gifts.
  2. The gift was cheap and made the recipient feel unappreciated.
  3. The receiver did not like the gift
  4. The gift was not relevant
  5. Made receiver choose own gift

It’s impossible to make everyone happy, but consider your intended impact and work to make the gift personal or unique.

American Express does a semi-annual Small Business survey and the top business gifts according to this survey are:

  1. Cards or calendars (49%)
  2. Gift certificates for retail or restaurants (26%)
  3. Company-branded items (23%)
  4. Fruit or food basket or charity donation (both 18%)
  5. Flowers or plants and wine or liquor (tied at 10%)

This list is not impressive to me. It seems easy for your company to stand out and make a great impression on your clients by adding a little personal touch or something that showcases your business.

In the catering space, we would give food to our clients. We would put together gift baskets and then hand-deliver them to the clients that made our list. We delivered a holiday card with a picture of the entire team for everyone else, which seemed to work great for us.

So as this year quickly comes to an end, many businesses are left wondering how they create a memorable holiday celebration for their employees and clients. The question that plagues most of us is how can I stand out and provide recognition and a meaningful experience to those who make our companies so important? With a bit of planning and understanding of pitfalls to avoid, you can make sure that your gifts wow and delight, and you can feel confident that your business will stand out.