Feature Article - July/August 2008

To Gift Is to Receive

Our Annual Business Gifts Guide

By Emily Tipping

e've all been on the receiving end of meaningless gifts from thoughtless givers of all types: the sister who buys you the book she wants to read, the business owner who sends you a cheap T-shirt with the corporate logo in a color no even semi-fashion-conscious person would wear out of doors in full view of friends, neighbors and peers, the parent who hints at their own intentions for your life with a copy of some husband-hunting and -landing tome, the co-worker who brings you a box of chocolates after you reach your long-sought weight-loss goal, fill in your own personal experiences here. Most of these gifts end up re-gifted, exchanged or tossed into the old circular file. But it doesn't have to be this way, and as a savvy buyer and planner intent on creating a smart program this year for your own business gifts, you're surely already thinking about what might happen to your gift once it's out of the box.

So why go to all the trouble of finding the perfect business gift? Isn't it easier just to throw in the towel now, instead of spending your company's hard-earned dollars on an item that might not have the desired effect?

If you've been on the receiving end of a well-thought-out, carefully considered and tailored business gift, you probably know how effective they can be.

Business gifts are a tradition—not just at holidays, but at events throughout the year—and there's a reason for it. According to the Incentive Federation's 2007 United States Incentive Merchandise and Travel Marketplace Study, business gifts were the second most common application of incentive merchandise. Of those using incentive merchandise, two-thirds used it for business gifts, exceeded only by merchandise used to recognize non-sales employees.

There are many reasons companies engage in the practice: to thank customers and clients for their business and solidify the relationship, to promote their business to potential customers by enhancing their reputation, to show appreciation to employees for their hard work and more. And while Joe Zanone, senior vice president of Special Markets for Movado Group Inc., said that 90 percent of business gifts are given during the holiday season, there are many times of the year when it makes sense to gift. "Business gifts are seasonal and can be tied to the seasonality of the person giving the gift and the seasonality of the business," Zanone explained. In addition to holiday gifts, he said many companies still do birthday gifts—a nice way for recipients to receive a little appreciation and recognition.

Bill Wehrman, director of marketing and corporate communications for American Express Incentive Services (AEIS), also emphasized the importance of keeping the gifts coming all year long. "It's good business practice to reward your employees and your customers on a regular basis," he said. "Certainly our peak season is September through the end of the year with holiday gifting, so there's a sort of social pressure there as well, but our premise is that gifting is a good thing throughout the year for different reasons. It's good business. It helps retain employees. It helps your customers to feel valued. The whole concept of gifting is that people do it because it's good business."