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Choosing the right holiday gifts for your clients

As the holidays and end of 2010 come over the horizon, many businesses are starting to feel a new pressure: what kind of gifts should they give their clients or customers?

It's a question that causes more discussion and conjecture than you'd expect because every business has different types of clients with different interests. It means that a blanket approach to gift-giving may not work or be appropriate. As a result, the process can take more time and thinking than expected.

Unless you take the one-size-fits-all approach, or decide to make a donation to a charity, the first step is to divide clients into "buckets." Each bucket could be divided according to how much a client spends, for example.

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For larger clients, a good gift might be a basket featuring wine, cookies, coffee, chocolate and other treats that say "Thank You," and can be enjoyed by a number of employees. Another option is to buy a more personal gift for an individual - something that aligns with their needs or interests. It could be tickets to a sport or cultural event, a spa treatment or some books.

For medium-sized clients, a nice bottle of wine could do the trick, or even personalized cookies or cupcakes for the office. It may not be an expensive proposition, but it's certainly a nice gesture. Meanwhile, smaller clients could be sent a personalized holiday card.

The gift-giving exercise is, in many ways, as much art as science. It requires some thought and a good sense of what the clients would enjoy.

From the outside looking in, it looks something that could be done in an afternoon. But the reality is taking your time to decide on a good gift is a solid investment. It's a great opportunity to show clients that you appreciate their business, and that you have taken the time and effort to express your thanks.

Special to The Globe and Mail

Mark Evans is a principal with ME Consulting , a content and social media strategic and tactical consultancy that creates and delivers 'stories' for companies looking to capture the attention of customers, bloggers, the media, business partners, employees and investors. Mark has worked with three start-ups - Blanketware, b5Media and PlanetEye - so he understands how they operate and what they need to do to be successful. He was a technology reporter for more than a decade with The Globe and Mail, Bloomberg News and the Financial Post. Mark is also one of the co-organizers of the mesh, meshUniversity and meshmarketing conferences.

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