Your Guide to Seasonal and Holiday Promotions
The holidays are a time for family, friends, laughter, pumpkin pie, Frank Sinatra and multiple viewings of “Die Hard.” But we can’t discuss the holidays without focusing on one huge component: gift-giving. With the holiday season heading our way, distributors need to shift their selling focus to holiday and seasonal promotions, and it needs to be done in a timely fashion. After all, nobody wants to be a Grinch. To keep on top of the holiday schedule and to help your clients stay on the Nice List, we spoke to two experts about everything you need to know for 2018 holiday promotions.
Distributors know the value of gift-giving for boosting morale, giving thanks and spreading cheer, but holiday gifting also provides distributors a chance to take advantage of end-of-year budgets.
“At the end of the year, many companies have residual budgets that need to be spent,” said Alex Cullor, director of marketing for Gold Bond Inc., Hixson, Tenn. “They are willing to make purchases that they may have been hesitant to do earlier in the year. With the economy in its current upward-moving state, there are many opportunities to get some additional spend from your clients.”
Cullor suggested distributors recommend employee gift incentives in order to help increase engagement for their clients.
We often scoff at the early arrival of seasonal commercials and merchandise on store shelves, but for holiday promotions, the earlier you can start getting everything in order, the better.
“For Q4 gifting, we recommend late summer [for distributors to get started],” said Brandon Brown, vice president of marketing for SnugZ USA, West Jordan, Utah. “Our gift collection catalog was released in June to give our distributor partners plenty of time. Decisions may not be made until later in the year, but getting the ideas out there is never a bad thing. Also, gifts can be given all year, so having a conversation may provide other ideas for events throughout the year.”
For Brown, it’s pivotal that distributors pitch their ideas early enough to avoid certain pitfalls.
“Pitching ideas too late [is a common mistake],” he said. “Either the client has already decided on something, or the supplier runs out of inventory of the hottest items for the year. For seasonal items, be sure to communicate with the supplier to ensure they have inventory. Also, gift sets take longer to produce, and rush production may not be available. Give yourself and the supplier enough time to produce and ship the gifts to ensure the client is not paying additional rush charges and the product arrives on time.”
Cullor agreed that end of summer or early fall is the sweet spot for getting started on your holiday promotions. But he also mentioned that gift promotions can always be shelved for another holiday if the timing doesn’t work out right away.
Yes, it can be said that every business and market could benefit from an increase in gift-giving, but our supplier respondents had some creative suggestions for generating leads.
“There are a number of industries that are buying during the holiday season,” said Cullor. “Think about banks, nonprofits and hospitals that give away incentives to their employees. It’s a great time of the year to talk to your clients about company welcome packages and corporate gifts. We have also seen an increase in requests for onboarding kits this year.” Brown also mentioned that the real estate, spa, health and fitness markets are also solid markets for the holiday season.
Distributors working with their clients on their gift-giving promotions need to be informed about what seasonal options are hot sellers. Brown provided some ideas that SnugZ has seen end-user success with.
“Leather, handmade unique items are doing very well,” he said. “Also, dye-sublimated apparel, vintage wooden games, candles with high-end retail scents, essential oils
and spa-related products, and barware, such as whiskey stones and flasks are getting a lot of attention.”
Cullor agreed that, these days, it pays to stand out.
“With many millennials entering the promotional market, brand recognition and unique products are what they are drawn to,” he said. “Add innovation and usefulness to the mix and that is something that end-users are looking for.”
He also offered some ideas for holiday and seasonal packaging or bundling.
“Think outside the box and consider custom kitting,” he advised. “Add a number of unconventional holiday items, and present them together assembled within a bottle or bag. Not only does it provide something unique to your customer, but it also helps you avoid being bid against.”
Holiday gifts also provide clients with an opportunity to increase brand awareness. Brown suggested distributors look to products that can be used multiple times, like candles, mugs and leather journals, for opportunities to score brand impressions.
While it pays to give special attention to the items that are trending, there’s one key selling tip distributors should keep in mind: Listen to the client. It’s important for distributors to establish an open relationship with their clients where they’re asking the right questions, getting the right information and putting together exactly the right promotion for the client’s holiday program.
“Find out what your clients are passionate about,” said Cullor. “What does this purchase mean to them or their company? What are they hoping to accomplish? Showing your interest in being a thought partner with your client will go a long way in landing that big order.” Brown also had some guidelines distributors should follow for the pitching process.
“Do your research,” he said. “Make sure you have a bunch of ideas. We typically will have a variety of gifting ideas, but sometimes you may have products from different suppliers that can be bundled. Every customer’s needs are different, so the more products and themes you have put together to pitch, the better.”
For successful holiday and seasonal promotions, distributors should pay careful attention to their clients, the schedule and the packaging. But don’t forget what gift-giving is all about!
“Gift-giving is the universal way to celebrate holidays, milestones, anniversaries, birthdays and more,” said Brown. “Why is it so rewarding for both the giver and receiver? Simple. It allows people to connect. It gives us a sense of satisfaction to share in that with someone special. [End-users] want what’s on trend, and they want to have an experience while opening it.”