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Holiday Business Gifts

Holiday Gift-Giving Is Still Alive and Well
By Cliff Quicksell Jr., MAS

Holiday (and other) gift-giving is a long-standing and generally accepted business practice. But like anything else, you have to plan accordingly to be effective.

There is much controversy of late surrounding the notion of giving corporate gifts during the holidays or gift-giving in general.

For some corporations, it's a must, for others it's taboo. Is it an effective way to say thank you or is it perceived as payola?

The first thing to do when selecting corporate gifts is to make sure you have a knowledgeable individual who's working with you on your behalf. Your counselor has the resources and ability to locate disseminate and articulate your requests in the form of research through the right vendors, and then get back to you in a timely fashion.

Nothing is worse than to have ordered your year-end gifts and be anticipating their arrival, only to realize on December 1st that they won't meet the date.

Comfort Level
Corporate gift-giving affects the image of your company much like the vehicle you drive. When you purchase a car, you want to make sure the company meets all the qualifications that satisfy your comfort level, and that the "after-market" service is there as well.

While most professional organizations strive to excel in the area of customer service, some do not. In the event a problem were to arise, wouldn't it be comforting to know your counselor would stand behind you?

Questions To Address
While being prudent about costs important and necessary, don't be shortsighted in thinking you re going to be able to get grand results for the cheapest price. More than likely, it just won't happen. There's no question that something along the line will suffer when you make price the only issue.

Here are some questions you and your counselor should address:
  • Who is the target audience, specifically?

  • What is its makeup from a demographic point of view?

  • Do you have a budget in mind per individual?

  • Will the budget be based on tenure? Sales results? Goals achieved? General principle?

  • Have you ever given holiday gifts before?

  • Were they successful?

  • What was the least successful?

  • What is your company's policy on gift-giving and receiving?

  • Is there a ceiling or limit as to how much you can give per person?

  • Have you inquired from your client list or database list you plan to send these gifts to what their company policy is on accepting such gifts?

  • Have you ever considered giving a gift at a non-traditional holiday time?

  • How many pieces do you feel you will need?

  • What is your timeframe for delivery?

  • Have you ever, or would you consider, special packaging of the product and/or gift-wrapping?

The more answers you have, the more targeted your gift-giving will become. Knowing the answer to these questions is also going to help your counselor provide you the very best product for your marketing dollars. Understand too, that this is truly a form of marketing. But while holiday gift-giving is a form of marketing, it must be handled more subtly.

Knowing Your Client
While we all enjoy giving our clients and customers a token of our appreciation for the past year's business, it's important to understand exactly what each of your clients' companies' rules are concerning gift-giving rather than to jeopardize your position or the position of your contact.

The reasons some firms shy away from gift-giving vary. Some believe it's an unfair influence on either the marketing or purchasing manager, thereby jeopardizing the integrity of the individual receiving the gift. But done right - with awareness and sensitivity to policy and protocol - gift-giving is one of the best relationship-building tools out there.

It's Time To Go Shopping
The promotional products marketplace is absolutely bursting at the seams with holiday gift-giving ideas. To get a good feel for what's a good gift to give your clients, just take a peek in your local department store. See what's hot, moving and is the 'in' thing.

Keep in mind when purchasing holiday gifts, they need not be gray and plastic; it s OK to have fun with your clientele. All year long, they work hard, too. They're serious about what they do. If you do have the ability to give a corporate gift at the holiday season, make it festive, make it unique, make it different, make it something that someone will want to keep.

Do the recipients remember where the gift came from? Do they remember how it was delivered? Was the thought memorable? Take a moment to think about yourself; what excites you? What would you consider different, unusual and memorable? What would motivate you after receiving your gift to pick up the phone and say, "Thanks a lot for the gift; it really different and unique."

When giving food products, remember that it's important to try to give something the client can use after the product is consumed. For instance, if you give chocolate truffles, instead of a standard cardboard box, they might be given in a special wooden box that can be used on someone's desk for rubber bands or paperclips.

Additionally, you can personalize a greeting or message by laser engraving a nice wish on the top such as, "Thank you for your continued business." Such messages can resonate long after the product has been consumed.

If your preference is to give cheese, why not consider a nice cheese board to go along with your selection? It, too, can have a lasered inscription or a personalization of the recipient s name. Or perhaps, a cutter that is personalized with the client's name. You can see that when the final morsel of cheese or last apple is eaten, your message and gift lives on.

Think Outside The Box
Most everyone believes that gift-giving is best during traditional holiday times such as Christmas, Hanukkah or birthdays. Why? Who made it a rule that they limited to those times? People almost come to expect a gift at Christmas or the end of year; it's what s considered normal. But being different can be highly effective.

Why not be bold and set aside a date that's important to your company, such as the anniversary, or the day you began doing business with your client? Give gifts to all of your clients on your anniversary date. This is a reflection of your commitment to them, again thanking them for one more year of continued service and loyalty.

This tactic will almost certainly turn a few heads. Imagine how it would be perceived by your customer when, out of the blue, she receives a gift reminding her of the anniversary date and thanking her for her continued loyalty and business.

When holiday gift-giving becomes an automatic or conditioned response, it loses some of its impact and sincerity. It can almost become a semi-begrudging requirement at that point. Being different and making the gift process unique to your company says volumes compared to your competition.

Along the same lines, have you ever considered giving a Christmas gift to your vendors? What do you think their response would be? Shocked? Indeed, but remember your company couldn't survive without the dedication and commitment from professionals. Sending a vendor a gift from your company as a thank you for all they've done can definitely make a positive statement and will not be forgotten.

Birthdays And Beyond
All too often we have a tendency to forget the people in our organizations and those of our clients and vendors.

With the advent of new software that can help manage multiple databases, the possibilities are almost limitless. Imagine again how a coworker or secretary of a client or vendor firm would feel if, on their respective birthday, a gift found its way to their desk, nicely wrapped a long with a thank you and/or birthday wish. Would it have impact? Undoubtedly.

Think back to when your bank, an airline or restaurant remembered your birthday or anniversary. When the gift came from out of the blue, was it memorable? People are creature of habit and we all like to feel good. When someone remembers us, that makes us feel good inside and more importantly, good about the sender. Productivity is increased, awareness is improved and moral remains high.

To Personalize Or Not
There are a number of views on this subject, and it really depends on several questions: What are you trying to accomplish? Who is the target audience? What is its level of expertise and/or contact with your firm?

Remember, a holiday gift should be a subtle thank you for your clients. Anything flamboyant or gaudy could be perceived as a bribe or tacky. This gift is a reflection of your firm, so proceed with caution. Your clients are bombarded at year-end with all sorts of marketing paraphernalia, print media and promotional products. Now is the time to say thank you in a very subtle way.

On the other hand, when dealing with your vendors, if you choose to use an anniversary or holiday gift for them, placing your logo on the item would be more appropriate. If, for instance, you decide to give a nice golf or wind shirt, there are ways to embroider a piece like this so as not to draw attention to your logo. Try a tone-on- tone embroidery or sew a small version on the sleeve. If your logo is conducive, place it on the back of the jacket.

There are manufacturers that can create custom liners in jackets where they can do a step-and-repeat of your logo, which almost appears as a design. It s clean and classy, yet has accomplished your advertising goal. What about a golf umbrella with the name of your company printed on the underside, so it appears only when the umbrella is opened? Or a new technique using water-reactive ink, making your company name appear only when it rains.

These examples are subtle but still get your message out. Glassware and crystal can also take a subtle approach by using a frosted-etch imprint. It's ink, but has the effect of etched glass, and gives the product soft appeal and high-perceived value. Your counselor can help you with such examples or make other suggestions as well.

Packaged And Wrapped For Appeal
Packaging a holiday gift can give it higher perceived value in the eyes of a recipient. Packaging and wrapping a gift says that you've taken more time and consideration in its selection. Beyond that, it s exciting when people get the opportunity to open a gift as opposed to it simply being handed to them.

There are several different packaging ideas your counselor can assist you in finding. For instance, if you re going to give a nice golf shirt, why not have it packaged in a decorative cookie tin? Or if you re giving a jacket, why not provide a nice wooden hanger with the recipient s name laser engraved on it? You might even consider adding a nice garment bag with the recipient's name. Such things can complete the package and give what is considered a nice gift a much higher perceived value. Remember your goal for gift-giving should be one of marketing, but it should never be overbearing.

Giving To Employees
Employees do appreciate recognition as a thank you for a job well done over the course of the year. There's no question that a nice gift, albeit modest, would be well-received by most employees as an end-of- year gift or during an anniversary celebration. During an anniversary celebration, one of the most effective ideas is to get the recipients the same thing something that would denote the milestone or event that everyone would understand and appreciate.

When it comes to holiday gift-giving to employees, consideration might be made for a varied mix via many catalog programs your counselor can provide. These programs are simple and basically take the worry off your shoulders when selecting gifts for employees. Simply put, the catalog program is based on the dollar volume that you want to spend per person.

Catalog sheets are printed with your company name and logo. Information on how the recipient can get the product can be tipped in or bound within the catalog. The client or employee can select the gift he wants. These catalogs are typically distributed with an order form that s then sent directly to the manufacturer and a gift is sent to the recipient at his home. More times than not, the catalog prices include not only the product, but also all shipping and insurance.

Timing Is Everything
Make sure you give yourself adequate time to get the product into the recipient's hands. During holiday times, factories are swamped with orders to process, shipping companies are overloaded with deliveries and in some cases, inventories run very low. You would do well to forecast your needs and place the order early on, so that it makes it into production. Waiting until the last minute is disruptive and, in most cases, very costly because of rush charges and overnight delivery. To be safe, July/August should be the time for planning such projects, with orders to be placed no later than September for delivery by Thanksgiving. That way, you can strategically send gifts out so their first received, giving you a leg up on your competition.

The art of gift-giving isn't complex, but it can be tricky. Remember, the gift you select is a reflection of your company, so ask your counselor to assist you at all levels in your research and final selection. Finally, be creative and dare to go where others will not. You'll be amazed at the results.

COPYRIGHT © 2003 The Advertising Specialty Institute. All rights reserved.
Cliff Quicksell Jr., MAS

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