From Halloween on, the two remaining months are a mad dash to the year’s finish line for both individuals and businesses. Third-quarter reports are in, shifting the focus to fourth-quarter earnings, the year’s bottom line, inventories, taxes and plans for the new year. Meanwhile, a holiday extravaganza of parties, outings, mixers and gifts goes full bore. Amid it all is the seemingly unavoidable dilemma of corporate gifting. Business can be tough, but gifting in business settings doesn’t have to be.
Making the List
Some companies admit to spending hours agonizing over what to give and who to include while others hope the holidays slide by, attracting as little notice as possible. Nevertheless, the holiday bustle will swirl, with tokens of appreciation acknowledging entrepreneurial partnerships, client loyalty and jobs well done. As the gifts fly, how to stand out becomes the name of the game. Partners, clients, vendors and employees are all giving and taking. Piles of boxes and bags appear in lobby reception areas and crowd corporate credenzas. Does anyone even remember who gave what? If you do it right, they will – and they will appreciate it, too.
Even the Best Intentions
Above all else, the number-one gifting offense so often cited is to do nothing at all, with spending too much immediately following. Complete absence of greeting or sentiment conveys cavalier disregard, but overdoing can be equally destructive to a business-based relationship. It may shift the balance of power, making recipients feel uncomfortable. They may have to pay taxes on your gift, and in many cases, professional ethics may preclude acceptance. Some other business gifting mistakes to avoid include:
Making the gift list exclusive.
Being stingy with quantities.
Giving trinkets or “nothing” gifts.
Sending items sourced from a recipient’s competitor.
Opting for gifts that are too specific: for example, items that are gender-specific or involve hygiene.
Not checking recipient company policies.
Best Business Gifts
Overwhelmingly, everyone, regardless of position, income level or gender appreciates gifts of food. Treats can be enjoyed and shared either within the workplace or at home with family and friends – particularly if the gift is something the recipient might not normally have access to or might not splurge on for themselves. The ability to break out something modest yet extra-special for guests to enjoy is an undeniable treat. Even if the foodstuff was something that they, themselves, did not eat, gift recipients expressed pleasure at being able to share it with those who did.
Return on Gifting Investment
No doubt you may wonder whether the return is truly worth the trouble of a little something extra. Does it really matter? More importantly, can you increase client retention through the perfect client gifts? Can vendor gifts really ensure priority service? Will employees really return the favor with enhanced performance? The numbers say yes:
Employees. A Forbes study evaluated the effectiveness of employee incentives based on tenure versus recognition of merit. Employers’ thank yous for effort significantly enhanced business performance. In fact, “Companies that scored in the top 20% for building a ‘recognition-rich culture’ actually had 31% lower voluntary turnover rates!” As for rewarding tenure, the prevalent practice had no impact at all on business success or employee retention.
Clients. A Harvard Business Review analysis of client retention highlighted that actual “relationships” are reserved for friends and family, not brands. Only genuine expression of shared values earned customer loyalty. Minimal earnest, authentic recognition consistently outperformed contact overexposure, which can actually drive clients away. The advice was to regard customer attention and client retention as “precious.”
Vendors and Suppliers. A study published in “Performance Improvement Quarterly” cited its “most dramatic finding” as “a 48% increase in the performance of teams who were offered incentives compared with a 19% increase for individually based programs.” Rewarding the teams that make your business successful will only benefit your business.
Making Corporate Gifts Memorable
The question quickly becomes not whether to gift but:
How to ensure recipients remember that you were the one who gave them that special something.
How to ensure they’ll want to receive it again.
The answer is simple: Distinguish yourself.
1. Hand Deliver
Personal visits to deliver even simple gifts bestow upon the recipient a share of your most precious asset – time. Clients, vendors, partners and employees all know the value of even a few moments when minutes and seconds equate to dollars and cents. Present clients or vendors with your corporate gift at their place of business rather than waiting until they come to yours. Take the elevator down a few stories to travel the floors and distribute some holiday cheer to your employees in person. They won’t forget it.
2. Say the Words They Want To Hear
Physical gifts are wonderful, but receiving verbal acknowledgement is too often a rarity. Expressing thanks in no way diminishes authority. If anything, it makes it stronger, drawing on and strengthening recipients’ intrinsic willingness to please. Keep it short, sincere and tailored to the people you’re acknowledging. “Thank you for always returning my calls. I rely on you.” “Have a good holiday. You deserve it.” “I’m glad you’re here. Happy Holidays!” Sharing goodwill is actually quite easy, and giving encourages giving in return.
3. Make It Part of a Fun Event
Make the gifting pleasant or fun – evoke emotion – and your recipients will remember it. Don a Santa hat for gift delivery, or pair your gifts with an outing or party. Offer a token gift in celebration after you seal a deal – but not before! Make it a mystery that stirs curiosity. In one workplace, the “mystery gifter” visited during off hours at seemingly random time intervals, leaving one small item to simply appear for scattered recipients over the course of weeks until everyone had received one gift. Enlist a few elves, and you can have even vendors and clients guessing.
4. Keep It Inclusive
Even the most successful individuals rely on others in their pursuit of success. Teams consistently outperform individuals because no one wants to disappoint everyone. If everyone is treated as part of the team, everyone can feel good about what they received. When you visit that vendor, bring enough for everyone. When you treat clients, be sure to remember all your loyal customers. If you want to individually reward top performers, keep personal incentives separate from public gifts. Gifts and incentives are different creatures.
5. Give Unexpectedly
Timing is often everything. The most memorable gifts are often great ones but – equally important – great ones you never expected to receive. Receiving something early can kick off the season. Sending late can work, too. Send a note or unique card with greetings for the new year and give recipients something to look forward to after all the decorations are stored and days have slid into business as usual. Celebrate Louisiana tradition, and make Mardi Gras a time to remember. Some gifting experts even suggest avoiding holidays or keeping holiday acknowledgements small and instead selecting another date entirely for the “big gift.”
6. Make Cards Fun or Meaningful
Sometimes, you simply cannot give everyone the gift you wish you could give. However, cards are comparatively inexpensive, so make your corporate card stand out. Handwrite a message inside. In the age of Twitter, Instagram, email and text, the handwritten word is a highly appreciated rarity. If you’ve decided to gift later, make your card a hint of what is to come. Make your holiday card clever by incorporating your vendors in a replica holiday village that will have them searching for their business name as well as those of others. They’ll all want to make the cut for next year’s edition. Make your “Happy Holidays and Thank You for Your Business” card count by including a discount or perk for valued clients.
7. Make Gifts About Them – Not You
Give vendor or client gifts when it will be meaningful to your vendors or clients. Remember their anniversary. Better still, celebrate your partnership’s anniversary – the first time you did business together. Deliver on their terms, and when in doubt, ask. Tell them you’d like to express your gratitude for the last time they came to your rescue. Ask them what would be appropriate to send for their entire team’s enjoyment. Give clients a choice between two options. They’ll be astounded.
8. Give Them Time To Enjoy Gifts
Whatever the gift, recipients are more likely to remember it if they actually have the time to enjoy it. Choosing a busy time better described as hectic or frenetic will ensure that your gift is relegated to an out-of-the-way spot, soon to be forgotten. Gifts with deadlines may go unused due to busy schedules. Even for employees, rewards without time to enjoy them are meaningless. Receiving a gift that they can savor at their leisure makes the gift about them and is appreciated.
9. When You Cannot Deliver
If you must ship gifts or cannot present them personally, call to ensure your intended recipients received them. In the holiday shuffle, packages become lost or go astray. In an assortment of baskets, boxes and bundles in a lobby or reception area, agents of opportunity may decide no one will miss a box or notice one item’s disappearance. In the busy daily grind, when money is at stake, something pleasurable may well be laid aside or never reach its original destination. Besides, a quick, friendly call to issue a verbal “Happy Holidays!” will confirm that yes, you – not your assistant – decided to send the gift.
Choose Cane River Pecans
Whether it’s thanks to Southern traditions of holiday pralines and Sunday pecan pie or Tchaikovsky’s “The Nutcracker,” pecans are an unmistakably celebratory gift at any time of year. With 40 years of experience, Cane River Pecan Company in Louisiana showcases pecans at their delicious absolute best. We’ve specialized in making gourmet corporate gifting an art through personalized, custom service and memorable client gifts. Our pecans are always fresh, and every pecan comes with Cane River Pecan Company’s 100-percent satisfaction guarantee.