What should I avoid when choosing a business gift?

    Published: 06-16-2009
    Views: 13,586
    Business Expert Nancy Mitchell provides tips on what to avoid when choosing a business gift.

    Nancy Mitchell

    Nancy R. Mitchell is an established protocol and etiquette consultant and advisor with more than 30 years of experience in the field. Currently, she is an adjunct faculty member at George Washington University, where she developed and teaches protocol courses to Event Management Certificate Program students in the School of Business and Public Management, and at Stratford University, Falls Church, VA. She serves also as protocol and special events consultant to the Library of Congress, the world’s largest library and cultural center. For 23 years, Mitchell was Director of Special Events and Public Programs at the Library of Congress where she and her staff were responsible for planning and managing over 400 events each year. She coordinated the institution’s major special events, visits of heads of state and other foreign dignitaries, fundraising galas, conferences and meetings. As the Library’s chief protocol advisor, she served as liaison to the White House, U.S Department of State, the Congress, the Supreme Court and other government agencies, foreign embassies, academia and corporations. Mitchell owns The Etiquette Advocate, Inc., a firm providing etiquette and protocol training to corporations, universities, embassies, government agencies, non-profit organizations and individuals. She is the etiquette consultant to Engaged! magazine, has been featured on Good Morning America, Fox 5 News, WTOP Radio and National Public Radio, and is quoted on matters of etiquette and protocol by the New York Times, Washington Business Journal, and the Washington Post. She is a co-owner of the firm, Protocol Partners-Washington Center for Protocol, Inc., and is a member of the Protocol and Diplomacy International Protocol Officers Association and the Women Business Owners of Montgomery Country (MD).

    Host: What should I avoid when choosing a business gift?

    Nancy Mitchell: Avoid gifts that are too personal, remember you have a business relationship with someone, it may be close but it is still a business relationship. You would not want to give articles that are too intimate such as clothing, such as jewelry, red roses because of the connotation that red roses are romantic. You would not give a gift that is too expensive for the relationship, if you are a very small company and let us say you are giving a gift to a client, you are not going to spend so much that the client wonders where is this money coming from, is this a practical way they are using their money. Think about the proportion of the business you have done with that person, what they have generated for you and spend accordingly.

    You are also going to avoid gag gifts, sometimes your humor is not the humor of the recipient. Think about that, something that s funny to your company or to you may fall flat when you give that to somebody else. Think about giving gifts that truly reflect your relationship in business. Try to know the person, try to know their interests throughout the year, let us just take the example of a client throughout the year working with that person you have picked up some signals from them. Do they like to travel? Do they like to cook? Are they avid golfers? Are they readers? Do they love music, classical music? Perhaps you can tailor your gift to that particular interest, you would not want to choose something that just goes completely against their interests or their beliefs. So, you want to show that you know that person, you thought about this buy giving a gift that relates somehow to them. Something you want to avoid too are giving items that have your company logo, you may have an occasion to give those gifts, but in many, many cases that s marketing. It's getting the name of your company out their, it is not selecting something that says, I thought about you, I care about you, I care about your relationship. Another pitfall is when you have international colleagues, clients make sure that you understand the cultural differences, their countries, customs, their religious customs and choose a gift accordingly, something that is a wonderful gift for somebody may fall flat with someone else, when you have offended them because you have not observed their cultural differences and what's important to them in their country.