We’re moving into the gift-giving season for many of us. Whether you celebrate Christmas or not and whether it’s fair or not, this is the time of year that a lot of folks send out their corporate gifts. Here’s the thing, though: If you are sending out the generic corporate gifts to everyone on your list, then it doesn’t count for much more than an email or a phone call on your networking scorecard.

( For those who still don’t keep a networking scorecard, I hope you still understand the dilemma)

The thing is, if a gift is largely interchangeable, then it doesn’t do much to strengthen the connection between you and that other person. The gift doesn’t say “I was thinking of you in particular and I sent you this gift because I knew that it would have a special meaning to you.” Rather, a generic gift says “Happy non-denominational end-of-year holiday to you, whoever you are”. Let’s face it, you could do that just as easily with an email.

For a gift to count as more than just a light touch — for it to deepen and strengthen the relationship, it must be personal. It has to tell them that you are thinking of them and that you wouldn’t give this to anyone else but them It says you went to the trouble to pick it out based on who they are (which you know because you asked questions and paid attention to what they said).

Now, don’t get me wrong, gift-giving is a wonderful practice. I encourage it, especially when I’m the recipient. Just be aware that, while it’s the thought that counts, the substance makes it count for more.

Photo credit: Ian Barnard