Gifts for Customers: How to Get It Right


Whether it’s the holidays, you’re improving your customer service, or you’re trying to formulate a retention program, gift-giving can be tricky — especially if you aren’t familiar with the etiquette.

Don’t worry, we’re here to help! Our guide to corporate gifting has the scoop on when to consider getting presents for clients, gift-giving etiquette, and some of our top gift ideas for VIP clients.

Can You Give Gifts to Customers?

Absolutely. Gifts can be a great way to show clients you appreciate them.

But if you’re still not sure if client appreciation gifts are the right move, here are a few signs that could help:

  • You have faithful clients who have supported you via repeat business
  • This is one of your big clients, and their business is a major part of your revenue
  • You have the money to do so
  • You want to build some serious word-of-mouth for your business

Think it’s time to give gifts to your clients?

Keep in mind that there are some etiquette tips to follow — a lot of it depends on your industry too and what is allowed by each particular business. Generally speaking, these guidelines should help you successfully give the right gift to your clients, and at the appropriate time.

Best Practices for Business Gifts for Clients

1. Make sure it makes sense for your business.

The type of industry you’re in determines a lot about if and how you do gift-giving to customers. If you offer a service that people don’t need frequently (such as being a handyman or running an auto shop), it probably doesn’t make much sense to send customers physical gifts in the mail.

It does, however, work well to offer discounts. This might include:

  • A coupon for the customer’s birthday
  • Reduced rates over a holiday weekend
  • Offering savings by bundling services

If your business is retail and you want to show appreciation to your frequent customers, it makes more sense to give a small physical gift as a token of appreciation — whether it’s because it’s a holiday or to emphasize how grateful you are for the people who support local small businesses.This could include:

  • Free samples to cross-sell other products
  • A complimentary gift with purchase

If your profession means having a closer relationship with your customers, it may make more sense to send a personalized gift. You spend a lot more time working with them, so it’s not out of place to show a gift of appreciation for their consistent business with you. Some examples:

  • A realtor could give closing gifts for buyers for housewarming
  • A consultant might send a personalized gift basket to their customer after completing a project

Whatever you decide to do, just remember that gift-giving should make sense for your business, as well as for your relationship with the customer.

2. Avoid putting your brand on the gift.

If you are giving someone a gift they can unwrap, don’t put your business’s logo or name on the gift. You might think company logo gifts are a good idea, but depending on the customer, it might not come across as genuine.

A lot of people will most likely toss things that feel like obvious promotional gifts rather than genuine ones, and you don’t want someone finding your brand in the trash.

Make the gift all about the customer — if you want to go the customization route, put the customer’s name on the gift, and leave your business out of it.

3. Resist going cheap.

If you’re going to the lengths of giving physical gifts to customers, don’t go the cheap route. By that, I mean the type of gifts that are mass-produced for a cheap price, such as a drink koozie or a flimsy lanyard.

If you’re trying to impress your customers or land a deal with a potential client — and you’re using the gift as part of building those relationships — you’ll want to show you went the extra mile. Cheap client appreciation gifts often come across as just that — cheap.

This doesn’t mean your gifts need to break the bank — just take extra care with their quality. Thoughtful yet affordable gifts can include:

  • A box of gourmet chocolates from a local confectioner
  • Gift cards to popular cafes and restaurants

Put yourself in your customer’s shoes: Would you enjoy receiving that gift?

4. Avoid bribery.

Incentivizing a customer with a gift may seem like a good idea. In reality, people can see right through bribery gifts, which can be a major turn-off. Additionally, even the best intentioned gifts could get rejected if your client has a strict gifts and entertainment policy and anti-bribery policy.

If you’ve already prepared a welcome package for customers, that’s OK, but try to avoid it when trying to acquire more customers — especially when you’re in the middle of negotiations of any kind.

If you are, however, a retail shop owner and are offering promotional gifts when a customer spends a certain amount of money, that’s typically OK, because it’s clearly a shopping reward. If you do that, it’s likely smart to limit how often you offer that promotion throughout the year.

5. Be mindful of holidays.

Unless you explicitly know that a customer celebrates a holiday such as Christmas, it’s best to avoid specific holiday gifts for customers.

For example, if you give a Christmas gift to someone who celebrates Hanukkah, that will come across as insensitive and may turn your customer away.

If you are in the mood to give a holiday season gift, don’t make it about a specific holiday such as Christmas. Deliver it with the message about warm wishes for the holiday season. Make the gift’s wrapping paper winter-themed and maybe about the new year.

6. Sometimes holidays are a holi-don’t.

Don’t let your thoughtful presents get lost in the already gift-heavy holiday shuffle. Customer appreciation gifts can and should be given any time of the year — no holiday required.

Consider non-holiday gifts for clients celebrating:

  • The customer or client’s birthday
  • A business milestone or anniversary
  • A random token of your appreciation

The advantage of breaking away from holidays is that the customer will feel more surprised and appreciated. Just make sure you follow these guidelines, and you’ll be golden.

Gifts for Customers: Ideas and Tips for Small Businesses

Etiquette is only half the battle. Knowing the right gift to give can be tricky — fortunately, we have suggestions that are likely appropriate for just about any business.

Gift cards to local businesses

Grab an assortment of gift cards to local restaurants, florists, coffee shops, or anywhere else you think is worth highlighting to your customers. Not only will it be a great surprise for your customers — it will also help you support fellow small business owners and boost the local economy.

Food platters

It’s always a fun idea to give food platters to your best customers, especially if you know what their tastes are. Just make sure the food platters are delivered to them when you know they’ll be home — you don’t want the food to go bad!

A donation in their name

This is a great idea when you don’t want to be bothered with shopping or ordering gifts, but you still want to do something nice for an important customer or vendor.

Just try to avoid any donations specific to political or religious organizations, as this could inadvertently put you in hot water with a customer or vendor who doesn’t want it in their name.

A succulent plant

Thanks to their low-maintenance ways and ability to blend into any office, succulents have become a gifting hit. Plus, succulents and air plants don’t have to be watered often, making them a great gift for customers who have little time on their hands. They’re usually fairly affordable, easy to ship, and don’t require frequent watering.

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Pauline Germanos

When she’s not writing for SB, Pauline runs an intuitive healing business… and is still writing as she types up psychic readings! As she was raised by entrepreneurs, she knows what it takes to be a small business owner.

Pauline writes on a number of topics such as small business owner resources, marketing, and customer service and retention.