gift present

Gift or Giveaway: What the Difference Says about Your Customer Relationships

‘Tis the season, once again. For many businesses, the holidays prompt a bulk order of the same item for their customers, or a pre-printed holiday card signed by employees, whether those employees and customers know each other or not.

When it comes to customer gift-giving, it’s helpful to know the difference between a giveaway and a gift.   


Associated with trade-show “swag,” a giveaway is a branded item ordered in large quantities. The primary purpose of a giveaway is promotional: it’s less about the recipient and more about your business.

Giveaways make great, well, giveaways. During the holidays, a travel mug or notebook imprinted with your company logo can feel impersonal unless you create an intentional and personalized giving experience. Here are a few simple ways:

  • Deliver the item in person to express your appreciation for your customer.
  • Include a personal note from your company’s key contact for your customer.


Some of the best gifts can’t be wrapped in paper and tied with a bow. One of my favorite quotes by leadership and motivational speaker Jim Rohn is, “Give whatever you are doing and whoever you are with the gift of your attention.”

Rohn’s quote is a fail-proof guide for both business and personal interactions. It also points out two fundamental qualities of a gift: a gift has thoughtful, personal intention behind the giving, and a gift can be intangible.

I’m sharing one of each of these gift qualities from my personal experience:

  • One holiday season, I received a small travel bag a with a supplier’s company logo. It was a useful item, but what made it special were my initials embroidered on the front flap, and the handwritten note that accompanied it.
  • I attended a year-end networking event with a client. He was talking with a business associate and invited me to join their conversation. During our small talk, my client’s associate spotted a high-profile company executive that he knew. My client asked if I had ever met the executive. I hadn’t. My client turned to his associate and said, “Tom and Elizabeth would probably enjoy meeting each other. Why don’t you introduce them?” My client followed up on this intentional and inclusive gesture with a personal note, appreciating the help I’d given him during that year.

An intentional, personal gift of attention will continue to have an impact long after a holiday card is recycled or the logo has faded from a koozie. What are you giving this year, and why?