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Growing Your Business with Corporate Gifts – 7 Mistakes to Avoid at All Costs

Corporate gifting is a great idea…but there are also a number of pitfalls. Here’s how you can avoid these embarrassing situations.


Corporate gifts are essential to building and maintaining healthy business relationships. Gifts can help promote positive feelings for your brand. Your clients and employees appreciate your gratitude, as expressed through corporate gifts. That’s how these gifts can strengthen and grow your client and employee relationships.

On the other hand, gift-giving can go wrong. Despite the prospect of building loyalty and brand recognition, gifts can also turn out to be a waste of money. If a gift doesn’t promote client engagement or employee loyalty, it simply doesn’t do what it’s supposed to.

When Gifting Goes Wrong

Not all gifts are great, as you probably know. You’ve likely received a gift that meant nothing to you. You might even have felt offended by the obvious lack of thought behind it. This is true for corporate gifts as well.

Gifting can sometimes go totally wrong. A certain gift might have the exact opposite effect than the giver intended. Even if well-intentioned, it might end up damaging the relationship.

In truth, gift-giving takes time, planning, and dedication. Even more important, it requires you to know the other person. This is why communication is so important.

The fact that you can’t think of a good gift for someone can be an indication that you should work on your relationship with them. Try to get to know them better by initiating a conversation, for example. People will appreciate this, and you may get a better idea of what to give them.

Whatever you do, keep in mind that there’s a whole lot that can go wrong with gifts. Knowing what can happen beforehand can help you avoid those awkward situations.

The Mistakes

There’s the mediocre approach to gifting…and then there are the blatantly bad ones. A bad gift can absolutely ravage your relationship with a client or employee. Make no mistake, a damaged personal relationship will take its toll professionally. Here are the seven most common mistakes in corporate gift-giving.


1. An Insulting Gift

Among the list of things that can go wrong, the worst is having someone construe your gift as an insult. Of course, this was probably not your intention at all.

For instance, you might think that fancy deodorant is a perfect gift for someone. You may think, “Okay, let’s buy something that he’ll be able to use on corporate trips.” However, the recipient may perceive it as a hint that you think they smell terrible. This is definitely not the type of message you wish to send. It may not be what you had in mind at all, but that doesn’t matter if your client/employee thinks otherwise. 

The same goes for all personal hygiene paraphernalia, such as toothbrushes. The heart of the matter is that you should avoid any gifts that might give someone the wrong idea.

2. A Too-Cheap Gift

In some instances, buying a cheap gift as a token of appreciation can be a good idea. There’s nothing wrong with sending your client a care package. However, you don’t want the gift to appear “too cheap.” The definition of this will depend on the occasion and your relationship.

For instance, let’s say a long-term client is having a baby. In this case, branded mugs and pens wouldn’t reflect well on you at all. The client may think that you simply looked around the office and grabbed the first thing you saw. 

In some instances, buying a cheap gift is worse than not buying anything at all. You might be better off forgetting about the occasion, rather than give the wrong thing.


3. A Too-Expensive Gift

There are situations where spending too much money is worse than nothing at all, too.

For instance, let’s say one of your employees is doing a great job and you decide to get them a really expensive gift. This is not a good idea either. A gift is never going to replace a bonus or a raise. The person might think that this is all the appreciation they’re going to get for their hard work and long hours.

For a consistent high-performer, a proper bonus or raise is the way to go. They’ll probably work even harder in anticipation of their next raise or promotion. That’s way better than giving away a new iPhone or something of that nature. This type of gift can actually lower company morale, and may put the recipient in an awkward position every time they use it around their co-workers.

4. An Overly Personal Gift

You may like an employee or client as a person, which is perfectly fine. But you shouldn’t openly advertise your favorites. Just like buying expensive gifts, this can go horribly wrong.

For instance, imagine you have a client who’s a golfing enthusiast, so you decide to buy them a gold club. If you do something like that, you’d better personalize your gifts to all your other clients, or they’ll feel slighted. 

On the other hand, some gifts are simply inappropriate. For instance, don’t buy your employees clothes or shoes, which can feel too personal. To begin with, they’ll wonder how you came up with their size. If you got it wrong, that’s even worse.

5. Ignorant/Assuming Gifts

Even if your intentions are good, you may know absolutely nothing about a person’s restrictions or beliefs. Giving a box of candies to a diabetic employee would be a good example. You also have to keep everyone’s religious beliefs in mind, in addition to dietary restrictions. 

On the other hand, you should never assume. Too many things can go wrong here. For example, you may assume somebody is pregnant based on her appearance. So, you take the initiative to buy her some baby pajamas. What happens if it turns out that your client is simply a bit on the heavier side? Find out for sure and don’t assume.

6. “Humorous” Gifts 

An expression of humor is all in good spirits, right? 

Maybe in a perfect world. 

Giving a gag gift that makes people laugh at the expense of someone else can go very badly wrong. You don’t want to find yourself in a position where you’re the only one laughing. You also shouldn’t risk giving a humorous gift that might appear insulting. Even if the recipient is known for their self-deprecating sense of humor, it’s probably not worth the risk. 

7. Forgetting about Someone

This is definitely one of the least desirable scenarios you want to find yourself in. Imagine being in a conference room where all the employees are receiving their personalized gifts…and then looking at one and realizing you’ve completely forgotten about them.

It happens. It doesn’t have to be mean-spirited. But it’s definitely something that person will remember for a long time. Not to mention that it can be embarrassing for everyone concerned.

If you’ve decided to give everyone identical gifts, make sure that you get a couple of extras, just to be safe. If you’ve decided to go a bit more personal, get a list of all the employees and check off their names as you go.

Be Careful with Corporate Gifting

The selection of corporate gifts is definitely something you want to plan carefully. There are a whole lot of things that can go wrong. Don’t go too cheap, too expensive, or too personal. Don’t leave anyone out, and never assume. Be careful with humorous gifts and make sure that you don’t end up insulting someone.

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