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Promotional Products as Business Gifts

Business Gifts: A Critical Corporate Consideration
By Douglas Heath, CAE

The art of gift-giving is as old as mankind and is still recognized as an effective way to demonstrate friendship, show respect and foster a positive relationship, whether between countries, corporations, or individuals.

Gift-giving is as old as civilization. Every society and culture has used it as an expression of friendship, to express a desire to work more closely together, to show the value of a relationship, or just to say thank-you.

For generations, people have used gift-giving to express in a tangible way the importance that the giver places on the relationship of the two parties. Business gifts have evolved from this tradition as a way for companies to help establish and maintain positive working relationships.

Why Give Business Gifts?
There are many ways to say thank-you or to let someone know how special he or she is to your company. But one of the most effective methods is to use a business gift. Imprinted business gifts constantly remind clients of you and your company.

Business gifts can also say thanks for someone referring business to you, getting a re-order or a new order, or making a positive impression to a prospective new customer. They work wonders in mending a bad relationship caused by a mistake or error, or simply to reinforce the importance of the client and her business to you and your firm.

Business gifts can also be given to mark a holiday, birthday, promotion or congratulate a client on a special event. They're effective in recognizing an employee for longevity, an outstanding accomplishment or unique idea, attendance, or increased productivity.

Study Reveals Power of Gifts
Dr. Richard Beltramini, a professor of marketing at Wayne State University in Detroit and president of the American Marketing Association, conducted a study in 1998 that showed how important business gifts can be in increasing sales and improving relationships with customers.

Beltramini divided the salesforce of a company into three separate groups. The first group presented their clients with a letter and a gold plated scissors/letter opener set worth $40. The second group sent letters and $20 silver-plated sets and the third group sent only a thank-you letter. The results dramatically demonstrated the impact of including a business gift.

Those who received the gold and silver gifts were 43 percent and 23 percent, respectively, more satisfied with the company than those who received only a letter of thanks. Gold and silver recipients' intent-to-buy ratings were 66 percent and 33 percent higher than the letter recipients were. Even six months after the gifts were distributed, sales for the silver and gold groups were 4.2 percent and an incredible 400 percent higher, respectively, than sales for the letter-only group.

While both gifts had an impact on behavior and attitudes, the gold (more expensive) was far and away a better motivator.

"The most important thing with a business gift is tying it in with your overall marketing communication strategy," Beltramini says, suggesting that owners should place as much emphasis on gift giving as on logo, signage, business cards, and advertising. Indeed, they should make gift-giving a part of the company business plan.

Who should get gifts?
Business gifts are appropriate for anyone your company considers important to its past, current of future success. There's no limit to who you should consider as a business gift recipient.

Business gifts are also effective motivation tools for employees. They make your people feel appreciated and show that you consider them critical to the firm's success. To current clients, you make a statement that their business is important and you don't take it for granted. For prospective clients, gifts let them know you want their business and understand the importance of developing a positive relationship.

In addition to employees and customers, there are others whose ongoing relationships are critical to your company. For example, most of us have key suppliers or vendors we depend on to help us meet unexpected deadlines or support us from time to time. Also, the image we project to community and political leaders is critical to creating goodwill or establishing a positive image for our companies. Again, a business gift is the logical and appropriate means to accomplish our objective.

Is there a best time to give gifts?
Many think about giving business gifts only around the holiday season. While the holidays are appropriate, there are many other times when receiving a gift may have an even greater impact. Some examples:
  • To celebrate the anniversary or founding of your or their business

  • At the end of the fiscal year to say thanks for contributing to your firm's success

  • Special dates such as national holidays, birthdays, or anniversaries

  • At employee staff or recognition meetings

  • Anytime someone refers business to you

  • On a client's birthday

  • To acknowledge a promotion or job change

  • To recognize extra effort by an individual, team, or department

  • Occasions such as a birth or graduation

  • To express sympathy over the loss of a loved one or colleague.
And, of course, don't forget simply doing it out of the blue. Receiving a business gift that's totally unexpected brings greater visibility for the sender and his company. Think of the impact of giving a business gift anytime you want to say thank-you.

There are a few tips involving gift-giving that can prove helpful. For one, keep track of the gifts you've given clients so as not to ever duplicate one. Second, record the reaction to the gifts, so you'll have a feeling for which ones worked best with each customer group. Third, develop a tracking system so you can make sure gifts are send at the appropriate time. Finally, maintain an inventory of your gifts so you won't run out at the wrong time.

Selecting the proper gift and having a recognition program in place is very important to the success of your gift-giving platform. Promotional product counselors have access to nearly any type of gift you might want to give. They can also help you select the right gift at the right price for the right occasion, as well as develop a program tailored to your company's unique needs or provide new ideas to strengthen an existing program.

Is there a best type of gift?
No one type of product is right for every occasion or better than another. The key is to select a gift with the recipient in mind that fits the objective you hope to achieve. Many companies use a variety of gifts to fit the correct setting. Food might be appropriate to thank a group of people or to recognize a particular holiday or season of the year. A desktop, sports or personal item could be used to acknowledge new or repeat business. Wearables might commemorate a special event, company sports team or just promote a firm's new logo.

Again, this is where promotional products counselors can play a valuable role in matching a specific gift to a specific purpose. They have knowledge of the many available products and experience with which ones are best suited for your objectives.

Should business gifts be imprinted?
This really depends on the gift and it's intended use. The goal of giving a business gift is to: a) create a favorable impression of the sender, and b) be a constant reminder of you and your company. Whether to include your company logo should be determined by how the gift is to be used, and if doing so will diminish it's utility. For instance, someone who receives a crystal vase may be more likely to use it if it doesn't have a logo on it. But if the logo is kept subtle or replaced on the item by personalization, the gift will likely be used as intended. Imprinting can also be done via an attached tag, accompanying literature, or on the gift's packaging. Remember, not putting a logo on a gift doesn't necessarily mean the recipient won't think of your company every time he uses it or looks at it. Like they say, it's the thought that counts.

To reiterate what's key, business gifts remain effective and should really be a part of every company's overall marketing plan. It's equally important that the right gift be selected to achieve the impact you desire.

There's a world of items that can, depending on the circumstances, make the perfect business gift for the occasion. And there's never a wrong time to say thank you with an appropriate gift. Whether imprinted or not, the bottom line is that business gifts leave a lasting, positive image of you and your company.

And that, in turn, can have a positive effect on your own bottom line.

COPYRIGHT © 2002 The Advertising Specialty Institute. All rights reserved.
Douglas Heath, CAE is a business consultant and professor at the University of North Texas' Hotel and Restaurant Management division.

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