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Thoughtful Thanks: Tips For Gifting Your Channel Partners This Holiday Season

Around this time of year, you may be brainstorming about appropriate holiday gifts for your channel partners. What can you bestow that’s neither too personal nor too generic, of high quality without costing a month’s profits, and likely to be enjoyed without ending up in a corporate closet?

It’s true that all gift giving is somewhat subjective, and the perfect gift can be an elusive thing. Still, you might start with these suggestions for finding meaningful business-to-business presents that convey true appreciation without sending the wrong message.

How should you approach giving holiday gifts to your channel partners?

  • Ensure appropriateness. Respect any gift-giving limits or rules set by the partner organization, ensuring your gift won’t be construed as a bribe of any kind. A lot of companies set value limits on gifts as well, like $25 or $50, so it’s important to know those details.
  • Solicit ideas from your employees. Brainstorm with your team; they may know of new gift possibilities of which you were unaware.
  • Relate gifts to company culture. Rather than picking something generic, try to come up with something memorable that expresses your brand or company personality in some way. For example, a company founded in the 1950s might compile its own CDs featuring curated 1950s music, or a firm known for its work-life balance might offer gift cards to an area entertainment venue.
  • Personalize when possible. If you know the recipient well enough, try to give something related to his interests or hobbies. If not, you can still make your gift more memorable by engraving or otherwise adding the recipient’s name. “If you show you took extra time to tailor the gift to the recipient, they’ll appreciate your thoughtfulness,” notes Ian Altman in Forbes. “If you throw something over the fence when everyone else is doing the same thing, don’t be surprised if it ends up in the trash.”
  • Be all-inclusive. When choosing the same gift for all partners or giving across an entire company, choose presents that can be enjoyed across a spectrum of ages, genders, religions and backgrounds. Stay away from anything promoting a certain ideology, anything pretending to be one-size-fits-all or anything likely to appeal only to certain generations.
  • Choose quality over cleverness. It’s better to send something that’s staid but high quality than something original but borderline tacky. “When it comes to gifts, businesses routinely try to figure out how little they can spend,” advises Altman. “If everything in your business is ‘first-class,’ don’t be the low-bidder when it comes to showing your appreciation. Sending nothing might be better than sending something.”
  • Think about usefulness. Can you envision the recipient using your gift, or will it likely be donated to a thrift store within the next month? “The best gifts are those I can and will use throughout the year,” advises Peter Gasca in Entrepreneur. “Skip the cheap office supplies or novelty gifts that will break easily or are just plain gaudy.”
  • Avoid too much branding. Experts disagree about the appropriateness of adding a small, subtle brand mention to your gift, but most think it’s tacky to plaster on a giant logo. That turns it into less a gift of appreciation and more of a marketing vehicle.
  • Consider sustainability. Because that’s a big deal in today’s corporate world — especially among younger generations — you might choose a gift that’s consumable, earth friendly or at least recyclable.
  • Showcase local goods. Draw attention to the assets of your home base (and help local business) by gifting local partners with some of the town’s best products.
  • Prioritize presentation. Whatever you decide to give, make sure it’s wrapped up in a classy way with a high-quality box, tissue, gift wrap and a handwritten note.

It’s worth devoting some thought to your gifts to channel partners. Take time to consider your choices and whether they’ll represent money well spent.


Having a robust channel incentive program in place is a good way to keep your relationships with your channel partners as strong as possible. Want to know more? Let’s have a conversation!

About the Author

Ingrid Catlin is Director of Marketing at WorkStride, a company dramatically changing the world of channel incentives, employee recognition, and rewards programs. Ingrid has spent the last 12+ years working with B2B software and consulting organizations on marketing strategy, demand generation, marketing automation and marketing operations. She has a Master's degree in International Relations from the University of St Andrews and an MBA in Global Business, Leadership and Strategy from Rutgers Business School. Twitter | LinkedIn