Getting Down to Business Gifts
Gift-giving. It's ingrained in our cultural consciousness, a key ingredient in the jambalaya that is modern society, right up there with apple pie, Justin Timberlake and fantasy football. We give gifts for birthdays and anniversaries, at weddings and graduations, on holidays both major and minor. It's a custom that speaks to our nature as social beings. We have a primal need to show our loved ones how much we care—and oh yeah, we like getting free stuff too.
That's good news for distributors. Businesses of all sizes need gifts for their employees, rewards for incentive programs and giveaways for their corporate events. The market is there, but it's up to you to make the sale. Read on for seven tips to get you started.
1. Make sure clients know you sell gifts
Not sure where to start selling business gifts? Try your regular clients. You might have customers who have been buying from you for years, but don't realize you can help them with gifts or incentive programs. "Many times these opportunities are missed because the end-client is not aware that the distributor has these capabilities," said Ken Tymula, national sales manager for Sterling Cut Glass, Erlanger, Ky.
"Reiterate to your client your capabilities," he added. "No distributor should be labeled as [just] a T-shirt or pen company."
2. Find the right fit for every budget
Luxury items like watches or crystal awards are great for corporations or larger companies, but there are plenty of options for smaller businesses with tighter budgets. "Business gifts do not need to be expensive," said Brian Padian, vice president of sales for Logomark, Tustin, Calif. "In fact, you can spend well under $5.00 and have some very nice selections. Some of those ideas include cellphone holders, tablet holders and some of the exciting new smartphone stylus pens."
Tymula pointed to scaled-down versions of more traditional business gifts. "Gifts and incentives like small candy bowls, jars or crystal/glass coasters often work when budgets are being monitored closely," he said.
3. Focus on function
Want all the class and perceived value of an award, but with a little more promotional shelf life beyond just, well, the shelf? Try something functional. "Overall we see useful items being selected: bowls, vases, paperweights and even barware or stemware," said Tymula. "These products are so popular because of their functionality, and additionally they can be used for home or office."
4. Take a risk
Just about anything can be used as a business gift, as long as it is presented the right way. For example, your client may never consider giving away personalized leaf blowers, but he might if you pitch it as an incentive for "blowing away the competition." "Always be thinking of a unique item that you can show customers, even if you think they won't like it," noted Justin Seamon, sales representative for Louisville, Kentucky-based Louisville Slugger. "You would be surprised at how often someone would be interested."
5. Look for low minimums
A company using promotional products for marketing purposes will often need large quantities of pens, magnets, lanyards or whatever else it is buying. But if it's a small company that needs gifts for its 10 employees, don't go in expecting a 500-piece order. "I think the secret about business gifts for a newer distributor is to focus on the low minimums," Padian advised. "Big companies and small companies alike buy gifts. The smaller companies may buy fewer, but they still buy."
6. Go easy with logos
Products used as gifts or incentives won't always require the same degree of logo exposure needed in standard promotional items. Padian noted that big logos can be overpowering and could devalue a gift item, so unless your client asks for big company branding, scale back the logos for a classier look.
7. Foster repeat business
Aim for more than just a one-time sale. Follow up with clients and learn their timelines for gift-giving or incentive programs. Or, try sending creative thank-you gifts of your own to keep your business top-of-mind and provide ideas clients can use in future promotions. "If it is an incentive program, it can last for years (continued repeat business), and if it is a business gift, it may occur once a year with the potential to repeat," said Tymula.