The Fine Art of Corporate Gift-Giving

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It's still summer, and it's hard to realize that the holiday season and the end of the year are approaching soon. But business owners need to look ahead to the winter holidays and plan for that annual issue: gifts for clients and business associates.

Corporate gift-giving is an established part of doing business, but it's not always a simple matter to do it well. Fortunately, there are some established guidelines that apply quite generally.

• Corporate gift-giving should make the participants feel good about their role in the company's life, whether as a valued business associate or a valued client. The gifts should let them know that they are appreciated. The gifts should be reliably uniform, with variations only to suit special circumstances. You do not want customers comparing notes and wondering why one got an authentic basket of fruits and fine wines while another got a box of generic chocolates.

• Gifts delivered in person should be prearranged. Dropping in on a busy client or associate who's in a meeting or consultation can be awkward and embarrassing. Check your recipients' schedules so you arrive at a convenient time. Or simply arrange for shipping with delivery on an appropriate date.

• Choose a gift at an appropriate price level. You do not want to overdo or under something that has a definite business significance. A handwritten card is better than an obviously cheap gift; a particular lavish or obviously expensive gift is inappropriate if your clients and associates know you've had a tough year economically.

• Gifts given during the holiday season should recognize different cultural and religious traditions. Specifically Christian or Christmas-oriented items are not appropriate gifts for Jewish or Muslim clients or associates, but similar gifts can vary for these traditions: wreaths, for instance, can come with decorations in Hanukkah colors of blue and silver or gold. Evergreen table arrangements are simply seasonal and most designs are appropriate for any cultural tradition. Many evergreens firms will custom- design a centerpiece for you and your recipients that reflect the specific traditions you specify.

Wreaths, swags and centerpieces of fragrant evergreens, specifically designed and selected for your gift recipients with your particular needs in mind, are the ideal answer to any gifting situation. They're shipped fresh and fast, and they're the whole holiday season and usually longer. There's simply nothing like their fragrance and elegance. And the whole point of corporate gifting is to say "Thank you. We appreciate you." Evergreens says "Thank you" as well as anything we can think of. Sometimes a little bit better.