Who Should Your Business Be Acknowledging
Sunday, 1 December 2013 | Makro
Christmas will arrive before you know it which is why it is important to be as prepared as possible. Of course, Christmas preparations are not limited to your personal life, and should be extended also to include your professional life. If you’re the owner of a small business, now is a good time to think about how to address Christmas from a business perspective. After all, you’ll likely have a number of people to thank for their hard efforts and custom, as well as need to secure sufficient business contacts for the New Year. So who should your business be acknowledging this Christmas? To answer this question, let’s take a look at four of the six Ws: who, what, why and how.
Who And Why
First and foremost, it’s likely that you’ll want to say a massive thank you to your clients. The best way to do this is to include everyone. Favouring only the new clients may discourage your older, more loyal clients, while failure to recognise the new ones may result in a loss of business in the New Year. Over the last couple of years, small businesses have had to compete with each other and times have been tough. Acknowledging your clients, without whom, you wouldn’t still be operating now, is the ideal way to give your thanks and to affirm their loyalty into the future.
Your employees are likely to come a close second to thanking your clients. It can be difficult during stressful times to remember to show recognition to those who put in the gruelling hours to keep the business going. Take the time, at this festive time of year, to show your gratitude to your employees. After all, a happy workforce is a productive workforce.
During tough financial times, you may well have had to turn to a number of financial backers in order to set up your business. Those who are partners in the firm have been with you from the beginning and have seen your business grow to become what it is today. It is only right therefore, to show them how appreciative you are for their efforts.
And then of course, there’s you; the person in charge of the business, who has been there through the good times and bad and weathered the storm. You can expect to receive corporate gifts from clients, partners, and perhaps even your employees.
What And How
Now we’ve covered the range of people who will be receiving gifts and thanks this Christmas time, let’s take a closer look at what exactly is appropriate to give. There are many considerations to bear in mind; the recipient, the reason for giving the gift, your budget, how to make your gifts unique and how to ensure you don’t cause offense or breach any corporate gift policies.
Gift giving to clients and partners
We’ve covered the reasons why it is important to recognise both types of people but before you commence with the gift buying frenzy, there are some points that you should consider.
As a business, it is important for you to look on the practical side of things at all times, even at Christmas. Obviously you’ll want to secure future business with your clients, not only to meet your targets, but also to further strengthen the relationship you have with them. Offering them a discount on your services for the following three months will make them more inclined to stick with you.
Check the gift policy
A lot of companies have policies in place which severely limit the type and monetary value of gifts that they are able to receive. You can avoid a red-faced moment by checking ahead with the HR department of the company in question to see whether the firm can accept gifts or not. If it is against the policy to give individual gifts, you could always give something food-based that can be shared around the firm. And never forget how valued handwritten cards can be.
Quality is key
The gift you give represents your business, so making sure it is of a high quality is essential. You don’t want to look cheap to either your client or your firm’s partners. For that reason, when deciding on your gift, remember to put as much thought and care into it as possible. Consider how you’d feel if you were the recipient - this will help you to judge how close to the mark you are.
Know the recipient
This point really goes for all types of gift receivers. The last thing you want to do is to send a well-meant gift and cause offense. Make sure you’re well versed in which holidays the recipient celebrates and choose an appropriate gift. After all, if the receiver does not celebrate Christmas, it makes little sense to send a Christmas-oriented gift. If you’re unsure, send a generic type of gift instead.
Sell the gift
Take the time to explain face to face the reasons behind choosing the gift. This will help your clients and partners to understand your thought process and proves to them how much care and effort you have made. This in turn will strengthen your relationship with the recipient. The business world can be a cruel one, so finding a company that cares will really set you apart from the other firms in your industry.
Think before sending edible goods
One of the most common Christmas gifts is a food hamper. After all, everyone loves food, and filling a basket with fine quality food and drink is likely to go down a storm. However, before you do so, be sure to check the dietary requirements of the recipient. Don’t send meat to vegetarians, and avoid nuts and wheat-based products that will be unsuitable for those with allergies and intolerances.
Returning a gift
Generally speaking, you should never return a corporate gift. However, there are some circumstances in which you are forced to do so. If your company does not accept gifts of any kind, it is a good idea to call the gift giver, thank them and politely explain why you cannot accept it, before retuning it. You should only refuse a gift if you feel it has been given as a bribe or you’re unsure of the giver’s motives behind it. It is not worth risking your business’ reputation.
What to give as a gift
Here are some ideas of the gifts you could give to your clients and the firm’s partners.
Rather than sending a generic Merry Christmas greeting to everyone, take the time to order a set of personalised cards. Hand-write each one and tailor it to the receiver. That way, it’ll be obvious how much extra effort you’ve gone to, and how much the client or partner means to you personally. The great thing about cards is that they’re affordable and an easy gift to give, helpful for getting around any no-gift policy.
You may think that a gift card seems impersonal, but it can actually prove how well you know someone. If you’ve spoken in great detail about a favourite spa or golfing resort of theirs, a gift card for that service will be the ideal gift, and can be bought online easily and quickly. Make sure you hand-write the card it is placed in to show extra care and attention.
The purpose of giving a gift is to show appreciation and to cement relationships. For that reason, a great gift doesn’t have to and shouldn’t be flashy and expensive. Cooking up a batch of homemade delicious food treats, such as festive cinnamon biscuits or Christmas cake will show that you’ve taken the time to be different. If your office is an international organisation, consider whipping up some treats from around the world.
Everyone loves food, and by giving a foodie gift, you can show thanks in a way that you know for sure will be appreciated. Don’t fill a hamper with any old food however; put careful thought into each item. Perhaps include some indulgent chocolate, fine wine and good quality cheese. This gift can be given to a single person or as thanks to an entire team. Just remember to consider food allergies and intolerances as mentioned above.
Boost business with unusual client gifts
If you have a lot of clients, you don’t necessarily have to give a specific gift to each one. There are other ways in which you can use the festive period to encourage client loyalty and boost your business now and in the near future.
Before you start to send out your entire supply of company branded pens and mouse mats, put time aside to consider the best type of branded gift for each client. You don’t want them to see your gift as an easy way for you to get rid of anything that was cluttering up your storage room. As long as the product is worth less than £50, there will be no tax to pay and it will be classed as “conspicuous advertisement”. Alternatively, you could send them a sample of one of your products or services in which they have previously shown an interest. This may encourage them to invest in said product or service in the future.
Guarantee delivery in time for Christmas
Everyone wants to ensure that their gifts will arrive way before the big day so that they have time to hand them out. By offering guaranteed delivery in time for Christmas, your clients will have more of a reason to trust in your services and to use you over your competitors when ordering gifts for Christmas. Anything that saves the client time and hassle will be greatly appreciated at this stressful time of year. Just be sure to make it clear when the last date and time is for ordering to be eligible for the guaranteed delivery, and when the person can expect to receive their order.
Recognition of staff on a budget
During financially tough times, the staff Christmas party is often the first thing to be scrapped. This is a great shame as hosting a party is the ideal way to reward your staff for their hard work throughout the year. That said, if you are one of those businesses operating on a smaller budget than usual this year, there are still plenty of cost-effective ways in which you can show your appreciation.
Organise a meeting between you and your employees and explain to them the reasons why you will not be able to hold the annual get-together this year. Ask if they have any other suggestions of ways they would like to celebrate Christmas with the whole office. You could then put those ideas to a vote so that everyone’s in agreement.
Keep things informal
You don’t have to organise a huge party - you could still go out for after-work drinks. You could even cut the last working day before Christmas short and ask everyone to bring a few bits of food and drink to share. You will find a wide variety of food hampers in store close to Christmas time. Purchasing a few of those will ensure that there is plenty of tasty food and drink to go around, without the expense of hiring a venue and paying for a huge three course dinner and bar tab. Put on some music and you’ll have a low-key party ready-made.
Look for discounts
There are loads of websites out there that offer discounts on food and drink bills. Use a group deal website to get the best saving for your company and treat everyone to a big night out for less.
Say thank you
Not enough companies remember that it’s the little things that make all the difference to a happy workforce. Go around to each member of staff, shake their hand and offer a sincere thank you in recognition of everything they’ve done for you and the company. Show that you’re interested in your employees by asking about their plans for the holidays. This will prove that you don’t just see them as people there to do a job, but genuinely value them as a person.
Okay so you can’t afford to buy every member of staff a gift. No-one has to miss out though. Organise a Secret Santa and set a limit of between £5 and £10 to ensure that everyone can get into the festive spirit without having to break the bank.
Organise a decoration competition
Set up an inter-office competition - ask each cluster of desks to decorate their section of the office to look as Christmassy as possible, with a prize for the most festive.
What to give the boss
If you’re an employee at a small business, it’s likely that you’ll have developed quite a close relationship with your boss. When it comes to Christmas, no-one should be left out of the gift giving. We spend so much of our day at work surrounded by our colleagues that it seems only right to include them in the gift giving too. You may find it fitting to club some money together as a team and buy a better gift for your boss, rather than buying individual presents.
Here are five Christmas gift ideas to give to your boss.
By personalising a gift, it doesn’t matter what you choose to give, but rather, the thought behind the gift and the time taken to make it unique will make it special. If you’re a close-knit team, take some comedy photos and order a personalised desk calendar for your boss with a funny photo for each month. This will raise a smile each time they look at it and will show them how much you love to work for them.
Does your boss always have their nose stuck in a book during lunch hour? If so, buy a book that you know they haven’t read and one that is to their taste. A classic title is always a winner when it comes to books -use it as a talking point.
This is a good budget gift that can easily be kept on the boss’ desk all year round. It will also enable them to personalise it with a photo of a loved one and keep them smiling throughout the day.
Select a box of fancy individually wrapped chocolates to give to your boss. Although it’s only a small gift, it will show them that you’re thinking of them and that you’re acknowledging what they’ve done for you throughout the year.
Bottle of wine
If your boss has recently returned from a holiday and raved about the quality of the alcohol, why not source a bottle of wine or beer from the country or region that they visited. Be sure to choose one from a place that your boss enjoyed visiting so that it will bring back happy memories. Alternatively, you could choose a hamper combining this idea and the one above. Fill it with indulgent treats that you know your boss will enjoy, and show them that you want them to have a truly relaxing Christmas.
What to avoid
Now that you’ve got a firm idea of what you can give as a gift, let’s take a closer look at the type of gift that should be avoided. One thing you should always bear in mind when gift-giving is to keep everything on a corporate level. While some of the recipients are likely to be your friends as well as colleagues and clients, in this capacity, you should look upon the scenario as business-like as possible.
Here is the type of gift you should avoid:
Me, Myself and I
The worst type of gift is one that centres on you. If the only reason you have to give the gift is to make yourself look better, then you really should think twice. Steer clear of anything too flashy or expensive, particularly when gifting clients and the boss. You don’t want your gift to be seen as a bribe, and you don’t want to look like you’re trying to earn brownie points.
Regifting last year’s present
Do you still have a pile of gifts in your desk drawer, unopened from last year? If so, the last thing you should do is give these gifts to anyone in a professional capacity. Doing so, you may risk giving back the very same gift given to you the previous year. Not only will this look thoughtless, it’ll be seen as ungrateful too; hardly the image you want to portray to your business contacts.
Christmas is not the time of year to hurt someone’s feelings, no matter how unintentional. For example, if one of your colleagues has worked really hard to lose weight, the ideal gift for them should not be a mountain of chocolate. It may be that this person has an emotional relationship with food, and a gift of this sort could lead to them feeling hurt and eating it all at once, only to feel worse the next day. You should definitely avoid giving something that will result in bruised egos.
Christmas can be a stressful time of the year, but the earlier you start preparing for it, the better the outcome will be. When it comes to acknowledging clients, employees, and the boss, you should remember that while giving a gift is one solution, there are also plenty of other ways in which you can show your appreciation. Seek to cement and strengthen current and new relationships, and reward others for hard work, and you really can’t go wrong. I’ll leave you now with a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.