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Budget–Conscious Gift Giving

The tight economy has made many small businesses watch their budgets and rethink their gift giving strategies this year. It is important to remember that gift giving is not about how much you spend, but the thought and care that goes into giving. Thanking your clients and business partners with a holiday gift remains among the most effective ways to help enhance your company's image and build a lasting relationship.

Use the ideas below to jumpstart your holiday gift giving plans without breaking your budget.

Prioritize your gift giving

If money is tight, look for ways to cut back on who you send gifts to or how much you spend on each gift. Take time up–front to prioritize your gift list and determine your budget. This allows you to put the greatest amount of effort into those clients and partners who have helped your business the most. That doesn't mean ignoring those previously profitable customers who didn't work with you this past year. Instead, consider other ways to stay in touch with them such as personalized holiday cards, calendars, or other small seasonal "tokens".

Make gifts more personal

Any gift that reflects your understanding of the recipient's personal tastes and hobbies is meaningful, regardless of its price. Gifts of this kind send the message that you pay attention to and care about your business contacts' interests. For example, if you know that a client is a big golf fan, book a tee time for him or her. If another customer loves gardening, put together a seed and gardening tool kit.

Consider charitable contributions

Making donations on behalf of the people on your list can be a meaningful way to say thanks. The amount of the contribution doesn't matter, since the thought behind it is the true holiday message. When giving to charity, be sure to observe some basic etiquette guidelines. Avoid political or religious themes and stick with organizations that do not openly affiliate themselves with a specific point of view. If you know the causes or groups that your business contacts support, give to these organizations on their behalf.

Promote products from other small businesses

Support the small business community by purchasing gifts from new and emerging companies. Many small business support groups create virtual "malls" or catalogs where members can display and sell their merchandise. Many of these products may be affordable, and demonstrate your commitment to helping other small business owners.

Give the gift of time

You can give the gift of time to business contacts by choosing something that will reduce the time it takes them to handle a common task. For example, you might give complete sets of gift–wrapping supplies, including paper, ribbons, tape, tags, and scissors, so recipients don't have to go to the store or hunt through their homes for these items. Or you might provide them with a 2003 calendar and record important dates and events in each month before you give it to them.

Use your creativity

You can also make a low–cost, high–impact gift by investing your own time in it. You can make a traditional gesture like baking holiday cookies, or go a step further by putting together a book of your favorite holiday recipes. Another option: mix and burn a CD of holiday music. The key is to focus on something that you share with your customers and partners. You may find that this annual holiday treat becomes a client collectible with a true lasting impact.

The previous content is provided by OPEN: The Small Business NetworkSM from American Express.


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