The Power of Positive Reinforcement
Surprisingly, business gifts, much like lipstick, nail polish, spa goods and other luxuries are not tanking with the economy. Companies might be cutting back on resources, employees and even electronics, but they are not cutting back on awards and gifts. Recognition of good work is an integral part of corporate infrastructure. Eliminating business gifts is like taking thank-yous out of the workplace. Everyone performs a bit better with some encouragement.
To keep top performers at their best, companies are rearranging their employee promotions and finding a way to give back at a lower price point. Below are three different categories that show you how to sell business gifts at the discount companies now expect.
The traditional idea of household-themed business gifts is typically centered around higher price-point vanity items like picture frames, barware and electronics. "The trend moved away from corporate-type gifts like poker sets and cocktail shakers to household items that typically get used on a day-to-day basis, like coolers and blankets," said Neal Harper, chief operating officer, Logomark, Tustin, Calif. These more practical housewares are usually used for larger promotions. "A mass company gift is intended to create brand awareness through many different channels using the same item," said Harper.
When it comes to decorating housewares and awards, Harper noted that finished metals like brushed aluminum and stainless steel are solid materials for corporate gifts. "When presenting a business gift that is laser engraved, the logo enhances the finished product when done in a more subtle manner," he said. "Laser engraving as a decoration method will always add to the perceived value of a product making it that much more effective as a business gift."
Engraving a logo adds awareness and class to the company, but awards are for specific people so sometimes further personalization is required. "The impact that personalizing a gift brings is quite different from merely branding the product alone," said Harper. It adds value to the gift and distinguishes the recipient. "Personalizing a product that is not used by the recipient is a lost opportunity when the goal is ultimately to make a greater impact," continued Harper. The risk of personalizing an unused gift encourages end-buyers to spend more money on personal awards.
These expensive gifts might seem like one-time purchases, but Harper insisted they are not. He urged distributors to push program selling in this area. "What many distributors are unaware of is how often their customers go to retail outlets to purchase awards," he said. Distributors can grab this missed revenue by assuring their clients they can provide gift items regularly. To help stay in the front of your clients' minds, Harper suggested working on several projects at once so they'll think of you when an award ceremony comes up.
Even with the impact of the electronic market taking hold of most niches, sales for watch gift programs are strong. "Companies that truly understand the benefit of corporate gift programs keep them going even in tough economic times," said Mark Abels, president, Selco, Tulsa, Okla. He noted that the size of programs or amount of gifts may fluctuate, but the programs remain. He commented on the continual appeal of jewelry, specifically watches, in a computer-crazed world. "Watches are personal items that make a statement about the individual," he said. "When it is given as an award, it becomes a symbol of achievement and most people appreciate the recognition and enjoy showing it off."
According to Abels, the current trend in watch sales is larger watches. Silver and stainless steel remain the most popular color and material. Also, matching male and female styles are preferred for business gifts. The difficulty with matching styles and buying jewelry in general is finding the right fit. "Most metal bracelets come oversized so the recipient can either size it themselves if it is close or have links removed," explained Abels. Even though a perfect fit would be preferred, most end-buyers do not want to take on the extra expense. "We have tried programs to pre-size watches but most buyers did not think the extra tracking and cost was worth it," said Abels.
The extra cost may not be worth it because the watches usually cover a large group of people. "The most popular program is employee service award," said Abels. Service awards usually cover a larger group, if not the entire company. Abels offered an example of such a promotion. "My favorite goes back to 2005 when a company was restructuring from Chapter 11. They gave watches to the 800 employees who survived the restructuring on the day they emerged from bankruptcy," he said. "I guess they were able to show the creditors committee the value of business gifts."
"Business gifts will always remain an important part of the business cycle," said Billy Bauer, marketing manager for Royce Leather Gifts/Emporium Leather Co., Secaucus, N.J. The benefit of leather gifts like the ones Royce Leather sells lies in the extended exposure. "[When] a corporate logo is beautifully debossed on a leather product, the logo is visible, providing marketing exposure for a very long time," said Bauer. He mentioned debossing, foil stamping and diamond engraving on brass or silver plates as popular imprinting styles on leather goods. Like Harper and Abels, Bauer encourages personalization on business gifts. "Adding initials and names to products clearly makes the product special, unique and individualized," he said.
Bauer listed a few promotions Royce Leather Gifts/Emporium Leather Co. did where personalization was key. "An envelope photo holder was used for a high-profile professional basketball player's dinner invitation with the basketball player's initials debossed on the envelope folding," he said. This idea works well for corporate event invitations to make the invite stand out. Another promotion he presented is fitting for programs that reward workers who travel. "Passport ticket holders were used as gifts for the executive crew for a high-profile movie launched in Italy from the movie star and director of the film."