Feature Article - July/August 2009

Show Appreciation in Good Times & Bad

Our Annual Guide to Business Gifts

By Heather Burt

Have you heard? The economy isn't doing well.


ately, very few conversations, news stories and editorials can resist the urge to begin with the phrase, "Due to the economic downfall..." And there is good reason for it. The current state of the economy is affecting everyone: the rich, the poor, Fortune 500s, and Mom & Pop shops.

This economic slump has forced many companies to change the way they do business. Every dollar is scrutinized; every expense is analyzed. When it comes time to send business gifts, the verdict seems simple: nix them. And when it's 5,000 corporate-branded XXL T-shirts, or a similar count of bulky coffee mugs with lids that pop off at the slightest pothole on the road, that may be the case. But please, heed this advice: Do not give up on corporate gifts.

Spending habits are changing, and in some cases, for the better. For too long now, frivolous spending has gone unchecked. Use this opportunity to stretch your dollar and get the biggest bang for your buck.

"Corporate gifting has definitely been affected by the economy, as has all discretionary spending. But, this is something that is an important part of a corporate culture and will not just go away. As the economy improves—and it will—the value and frequency of gifting will increase," said Mary DiSanzo, manager of Strategic Partnerships at Rymax Marketing Services Inc. Just because we're at a rough patch doesn't mean all is lost. The budget for corporate gifts may have diminished, but the need for them has not.

Tradition dictates a mass shipment of corporate gifts around the holidays—essentially a year-end "thank you" to partners, clients and customers for any and everything accomplished in the previous year. This gift is usually thoughtless, generic, includes a form letter and, more often than not, ends up re-gifted or in the garbage. This is no news to anyone who has been on the receiving end of a dozen pocket day planners, scenic wall calendars, mouse pads and the like, all emblazoned with a corporate logo. One of the collection may be kept, but the others are given away or (hopefully) recycled. The outcome is beneficial to neither the giver nor the receiver—the spirit of the corporate "gift" is lost.

Now is the time to make a business gift just that: a gift. Not a cheap marketing ploy or advertisement for yourself, but a truly well-thought-out gift, made even better when given for a specific reason: "Thank you for your continued business," or "Congratulations on the new account," and "Good luck with your retirement," are all traditional gift-giving occasions. What's important now is that each gift is meaningful—for both the giver and the receiver.

"Everyone is hurting right now," said Spencer Toomey, vice president at The Corporate Marketplace Inc. "Each side is being asked to do more with fewer resources, and often for less compensation. Showing appreciation for this commitment will not go unnoticed."

"During a time of economic downturn, it is most important to keep your clients, employees and especially top producers engaged, focused and motivated," said DiSanzo.