The holidays are a great time to show your appreciation to clients and employees through tasteful, personal gifts. It's also potentially a time to offend, disappoint, or waste money on forgettable or impractical gifts. Here are few tips to help you make your best impression:
  1. Avoid Trinkets. Gimmicks like a key-chain flashlight or combination pen/laserpointer/turkey baster may look nifty at first, but they quickly become relegated to a dusty desk drawer. The holidays deserve gifts with a personal touch. Think quality, not trade show freebies.

  2. Edible May Not Be Preferable. Although food gifts used to be very popular, it's now almost impossible to find something that will be palatable to everyone on your list. Most people have some restrictions on their diet due to allergies, religious observance, political views, or Robert Atkins. Once you rule out dairy, nuts, gluten, carbs, sugar, and any kind of meat, the only option remaining is to give everyone bottles of water with pretty red bows. (Not sparkling water, some people don't like the bubbles).

  3. Know Your Limits. Be aware of your clients' corporate gift policies. Many companies do not allow their employees to accept gifts over a certain value (or any gifts at all) in order to avoid conflicts of interest. As a result, you find almost no such conflicts in business today.

  4. Make a List. Check it Twice. Whether giving gifts to clients or employees, you don't want to leave anyone out, or waste money sending a gift to the guy who left the company last month to open a bed & breakfast in New Guinea. Carefully prepare your list in advance of purchasing your gifts.  However, no matter how meticulous you are, there will always be at least one person you forget.  Be sure to add a cushion of at least 5% to your holiday shopping list ... it's better to have extra than not enough!

  5. Don't Over-promote. Be careful not to turn your gift into a sales pitch.  A t-shirt with your 12" logo on front and back will come off as a little self-serving. However, a quality gift like a micro sherpa throw blanket with your logo in the corner is much more tasteful.  Or you can leave off the logo entirely and enclose your gift with a note and business card.  For employees, on the other hand, custom embroidered gifts are always a hit — giving them the opportunity to show pride in their company (if your holidays are cold, think hats, earbands & scarves!).
Your holiday gifts make a statement about your brand. Choose corporate gifts that reflect the quality of your organization, and that will be used and enjoyed long after the holidays are over.