By Darren Leigh, Founder, Leighmans.com
Corporate gifting is a valuable business practice that delivers the goods in more ways than one. As part of a considered marketing programme it can help to create new relationships, enhance existing ones and offers a cost-effective way to recognise clients and key members of staff in a meaningful way. It’s a two-way street paved with tinsel, what you sow, so shall you reap.
Gifts vs. incentives
It’s important to make the distinction between a corporate gift and an incentive. Both have their place in business, but are very different animals. An incentive programme is used to reward defined levels of activity like sales targets or attendance, whereas a corporate gift is far more subtle and should be viewed as a long-term process of relationship-building. It’s vital to ensure your recipient doesn’t feel like they’re being bribed or expected to jump through hoops, instead, they should feel valued and appreciated. In this way, the spirit of goodwill will turn full circle.
The five golden rules
1) Give gifts they actually want
Indulge in some forward planning and get to know your clients, customers and staff throughout the year. When the festive period approaches, you’ll have an idea of what they like, hobbies etc. and can incorporate this into their perfect present. Go for quality – spend the maximum your budget will allow. It pays dividends in the long run because whatever you give reflects back on your image. Research by the BPMA (British Promotional Merchandise Association) found that promotional products were twice as likely to make people feel appreciated, when compared with all other forms of advertising put together (print, online, direct mail and TV).
Make it useful, something clients will reach for on a regular basis (like a pen or a unique USB stick) and when they do, they’ll think of your company with a warm and cosy glow. Avoid cheap, useless items, which will be thrown in the back of the drawer or binned on receipt, quicker than you can say ‘Santa’s Sack’!
2) Compliance & culture
Some companies will have a gift policy limiting certain types of gifts or maybe the upper value of them and in some cases, gifts are strictly forbidden. It’s worth a call to HR to check this out to ensure you don’t end up with egg nog on your face. This will also give you the chance to work out an alternative way to make clients feel special. The same goes for culture – different countries and cultures have their own unique take on gifting, for example in China if you wrap a gift in white it symbolises death, so well worth undertaking some simple research to avoid a festive faux pas!
Even when you’ve done your research, finding the ideal corporate gift these day is no mean task. With literally thousands of suppliers offering every kind of gift and experience you can imagine, how do you choose the perfect present? Individual personalisation is key. Every wise man and woman would be well advised to focus on the personal touch this festive season. When a gift includes someone’s name, initials or something meaningful to them, it transcends the ordinary. Not only does it make the recipient feel good, but it reflects well on the gift giver too. It may well be the thought that counts, but sometimes you have to spell it out in words – engraved, embossed or screen-printed.
Indulgent products are the order of the day for Christmas gifting – popular choices include keepsakes and luxury items, like sleek Cross pens, luxurious leather notebooks, sparkling crystal awards & drinkware, innovative gadgets, sumptuous hampers and delicious chocolates & confectionary. Gifts don’t need to cost an arm and a leg to be special, that’s the beauty of personalisation and high quality branding.
4) Spread the festive cheer
You have a limited budget but need to buy gifts for everyone in the department. Instead of resorting to the cheap, useless route, go for something the whole office can share. It will raise morale and lend some sparkle to the week before Christmas. Hampers, confectionary, chocolates and fruit baskets are fantastic crowd-pleasers. But if you really want to indulge in one to one, think about small but perfectly formed notebooks in a range of colours, creatively-branded with a personal message – think clever or classy rather than cheesy, unless your client is in the business of fromage.
5) The fairy on top
Finishing touches maketh the gift. If you’ve opted for personalisation, you’re nine tenths of the way, but including a hand-written card and delivering personally, is a nice extra touch to ensure you stay top of mind with your best clients.