Show the Love
Fact: The Center for Work-Life Policy recently reported that the proportion of employees professing loyalty to their employers dropped significantly from 95 percent to 39 percent from June, 2007 to December 2008. The study also noted that trust in employers by employees sunk from 79 percent to 22 percent over the same period.
Let's not mince words: These have been tough times for employees in the workplace. If folks have been lucky enough to have a job throughout this great recession era, they're working harder than ever before and are doing it for less compensation. Savvy employers realize a little recognition goes a long way. A simple award or gift that says, "We appreciate your effort," could mean the difference in retaining their most talented staff members, versus those employees hitting the job boards and jumping ship at the first opportunity.
If you have a client that is a savvy employer, this is your opportunity to start selling awards and recognition products and programs. For less-savvy clients, now is the time to sit down with them and explain the why's, how's and what's of awards and recognition.
In a Q&A session, Promo Marketing spoke to leaders in the awards and recognition world for their tips and trends for selling award and recognition programs. Speakers included:
● Mike Ablauf, category manager, awards, Leed's, Polyconcept North America, New Kensington, Pa.
● Adam Stone, field sales manager, Leed's, Polyconcept North America, New Kensington, Pa.
● Robin Kerr, business development representative, Leed's, Polyconcept North America, New Kensington, Pa.
● Adam Van Witzenburg, president, National Gift Card, Crystal Lake, Ill.
Promo Marketing: What are the latest trends with regards to awards and recognition promotional products?
Brigid Hines: Trends include art pieces that can be displayed in an office or home setting and products that are functional, such as high-end writing instruments. Acrylic products are increasingly popular due to the quality and clarity coupled with budget-friendly prices.
Robin Kerr: In addition to traditional crystal awards, I have seen many companies selecting art glass, which is a little more decorative and potentially more flexible in terms of where it's displayed. Companies also sometimes select an item that is not a standard "award," but something functional and individualized to the recipient. Many high-end products could be be positioned as awards while also being useful to the person receiving it.
Adam Van Witzenburg: In the gift card world, the latest trends continue to be open loop products like American Express and Visa. They seem to be the easiest products to use, given the fact that they are universally accepted and can be customized to fit a company's needs. Virtual gift cards or e-codes have become the newest and most promising trend in the gift card market and the awards and recognition promotional market. They are easy to deliver and use at the various retailers that offer them. We have also been noticing a lot of growth in the mass merchant area, such as Walmart and Target gift cards.
PM: What is your best advice for a distributor selling into this arena?
BH: This product group is an annuity and comes with a high repeat factor each year so distributors have a great ability to build relationships and work with a client for years on their awards and recognition programs. Selling awards has less pricing pressures and there are several unique awards to choose from, giving the distributor better profit margins.
Mike Ablauf: When customers are looking for standard crystal, acrylic, etc. types of awards they are choosing their supplier because of price, speed of delivery and reputation as a supplier. When looking for more of those recognition-type items, the customers are really looking for something exclusive or different. They want their piece to stand out from other awards or recognition items the person may have received in the past.
Adam Stone: Go after the business, sounds cliché [but it's true]. I hear many distributors walking away from the award business. They're often scared of the detail involved, [such as] making a mistake with names. Moreover, the [turnaround] times are quick and you run the risk of missing an event or in-hands date. Remember, the quantities can be low, but the margins are high.
AV: My advice would be to listen to the customers, find out their goals for their programs and build out innovative solutions that fit their necessities. In the gift card area, keep a narrow selection of cards. Don't try to offer too many cards because fulfillment issues may arise.
PM: With the job market down and employee morale at many companies low, are you seeing an upswing in sales for companies wanting to retain good employees, or is the award/recognition segment down?
BH: While corporate budgets have been reduced or eliminated when it comes to awards/recognition, there are companies that have a reputation for keeping employees happy and motivated. They have embraced this segment and use awards/recognition to improve company morale and productivity.
MA: Recognition-type pieces are growing as a market segment, I believe that this is in response of companies wanting to recruit and retain top talent.
AV: The negative downswing in the economy actually helped gift cards since companies looked for new ways to incentivize and reward employees.
AS: It goes with out saying people like to be recognized for their efforts. No matter the price point, people are always pleased to receive a gift. The current work force is comprised of what many call the "trophy generation." They (and I), need an award and/or recognition for every little thing done in the work world. Awards are the perfect option. They're offered in all sizes and price points and are easily displayed for everyone else to see.