Friday, January 4, 2013

Guide to Business Gift-Giving Occasions and Decision-Making Criteria For Promotional Gift Products

Knowing What You Want and Need is the Best Place to Start.

When it's time to do your holiday business gift shopping, where and when do you begin? Some people are naturally better at planning ahead than others. We all have our own styles and preferences. Whatever works best for you is perfectly fine as is. For those of you that may prefer to have some additional guidelines or suggestions to follow, let me offer a few.

First, make business gift giving an important part of your business building strategy. Consider it an important opportunity to establish or develop your business network and relationships. Everyone likes to be acknowledged and appreciated; what better way to achieve this than by giving a gift where no reciprocation is required or expected; with that goodwill intent, trust and loyalty are more likely to be established.

Once you make the decision to have a business gift giving plan, the next steps become typical of any or most goal setting suggestions. Make a plan. Take timely and consistent action. Follow through until you achieve your desired outcome.

More specifically, key areas of focus should include the following:

  • Know your goals. Keep in mind that achieving more than one goal with the same action is an acceptable option.
  • Planning ahead can help you minimize costs to your business.
  • Decide what type of gift(s) you are considering and which are out of scope for your business or your target audience.
  • Be clear on the type of occasion(s) your want to recognize for the current and the upcoming season.
  • Review any gift etiquette guidelines that might be out there, especially those pertaining to business environments.
  • Decide how much you want to do yourself, and how much you want to delegate to or hire someone else to handle.
  • Decide what price range you can comfortably afford and one that will allow you to choose good quality gifts. Consider the law of diminishing returns which is that you won't necessarily reap higher rewards by spending more than necessary.
  • Be unique, thoughtful, and show that you care.
Definitely appreciate how promotional gift items can help you meet and exceed your business gift-giving goals by offering your business the following: good pricing and value for your investment; quality and professional products and services to choose from; and, a wide variety of gift options and ideas from one source. And finally, don't forget to add that extra personal touch by personalizing and customizing those holiday business gifts for your select business clientele.

Important Points to Consider Include:

Earlier is usually better than later.

The earlier you start your promotional gift-giving planning, the more options you keep open. By starting earlier and planning better, you are more likely to qualify for quantity discounts and/or reduced shipping costs. You also have more time to properly arrange for customization and personalization of your selections. Maybe even consider ordering sample items to view before making your final decisions.

And, don't forget to round out all that good planning with some good packaging for your promotional gift choices. You should be able to find a variety of appropriately sized gift boxes, gift bags, gift sleeves, and gift pouches, directly from your product and service provider. Some items include free packaging, others you will need to pay extra for (but that is money well spent to insure a good impression.)

Decide what type of gifts you want to give.

Decide how memorable and how lasting you want your gift to be. Some gifts, I would consider to be "at the moment" gifts, such as flowers, candy, balloons, or food items; things that aren't meant to last indefinitely. Other gifts, such as recognition awards, are lasting but not necessarily practical or useful on a daily basis. Another choice to consider is recognition gifts that are practical and serve as an award and more, such as an engraved paper-weight, clock gift or photo frame gift. Other gifts are primarily practical and useful in addition to serving as memorable items, such as: tool gifts, wine gifts, keychain gifts, or drink-ware gifts. Any of these gift types can consist of one main piece (such as a clocks & watches or engrave-able metal pens) or can be given as a gift basket, bundle, or gift set of complementary items.

Be clear on which occasions or expressions you want to acknowledge.

Typical gift giving occasions, in addition to the holidays, include "expression" occasions, such as: an anniversary; retirement; birthday; congratulations; funeral; get well; new baby; sympathy; thank you; or thinking of you.

Your business gift-giving plan should cover an entire year's worth of occasions and holidays (a.k.a., relationship building and networking opportunities). This should include not just clients and customers, but also associates, co-workers, superiors, and any and all service providers that contribute to your business' successes. Acknowledge these personal achievements and life events while also keeping a watchful eye on keeping those gift selections appropriate to etiquette guidelines.

Be aware of business etiquette guidelines.

For conflict of interest (and legal) reasons, some intended gift recipients aren't allowed to accept certain gifts, especially those above a certain nominal value. This should not necessarily be considered a limitation, but actually a blessing in disguise because it becomes a cost-saver for you. You might not be able to give what you would like but still give or send something small, such as a minimal value mail-able promotional product similar to that which you would give away to the general audience at a trade show.

Use your favorite online browser to do some quick research on business gift-giving etiquette. BusinessWeek's Buyer Zone has a number of short articles worth reviewing for additional guideline's on: office/employee gifts, corporate gifts, client gifts, and gifts for your boss.

Promotional product companies offer a wide variety of gift ideas and price ranges. Choose an existing gift set or create your own custom bundle. The promotional product industry often surveys and lists the most typical promotional product gifts that are bought and given each year. Going with the norm is safe, but take the time to customize it, its presentation, or its packaging and presentation to make it more unique to your situation.

Additional Tips & Tactics include:

  • Know who you are shopping for. If your business targets a niche audience, it may be appropriate for you to choose gifts that appeal to a particular group of people such as: just men; or just women; or families; or couples; or singles; or pet lovers; etc. Be sure that by targeting a particular niche, you aren't excluding a potential customer that would be appropriate to your business. Err on the side of caution. Customize, but don't over-customize to the point that you are excluding a portion of a potentially new niche customer base.
  • When customizing your promotional gift items, be sure to take the time to ask for a pre-printing proof (and follow through by checking it closely, too) so that no "misprints" slip through the cracks.
  • It doesn't hurt to order a few extra promotional product items in case you may have mis-counted or forgotten to include a few infrequent customers or service providers that didn't make it onto your "need to shop for" list. Receiving a gift item without a personalized inscription or engraving will still be appreciated by the recipient and either way it is definitely better than not receiving a gift at all. (This is especially key to some clients that might be comparing notes and/or keeping track of who gets what from whom. That may be petty, but it is a reality for some folks.)
  • Consider getting all your gifts from just one or only a few select vendors. Offer and reap the benefits of being a repeat customer. Offer your customers the deals you like to get yourself. By being exclusive to, or at least minimizing the number of, vendors that you patronize for your promotional product needs, you will reduce your overall costs. Promotional product items purchased from a company that specializes in just that, will get you lower per unit costs than to purchase each item individually in a retail outlet. Even with order minimums and some printing set-up costs, you still get a great value for your investment.

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