Guest Column - November/December 2009

To Gift or Not to Gift?

By Dana Slockbower, CRP

o gift or not to gift?" seems to be the question in the corporate world these days. With the economy still in an unstable state of flux, companies are keeping their purse strings tight. Bonuses, holiday parties, and corporate gifting are likely among the first candidates for budget cuts, but doing away with gifting altogether isn't necessarily the answer.

We have found through recent research and studies that companies that gave a corporate gift were more likely to increase their chances of being contacted by recipients than those that didn't have a gift program (Promotional Products Association International). And according to The Motivation Network there's some hard evidence relating corporate gift-giving to increased business activity.

Let me first point out one very important concept that is often forgotten: Gifting is not just for the holidays. While it is true that the end of the calendar year is the most commonly thought-of time for rewarding employees and clients, it's definitely not the only time, or even the most important. Employee appreciation, customer loyalty, deal closings, years of service, thank you's, customer acquisitions, birthdays and completion of an important project are all fitting occasions to give corporate gifts.

Appreciation Goes a Long Way

When two people in management ask you to do something for them and one acknowledges your efforts while the other takes your work for granted, who are you more apt to work harder for next time? Additional research has proven that rewarding and recognizing positive results is an important factor in retaining employees (Business Research Lab). Moreover, we have found that the probability of selling something to a new prospect is only about 5 percent to 20 percent whereas the probability of selling something to an existing customer is 60 percent to 70 percent (Marketing Metrics).

That being said, doesn't it make sense to keep your people happy? In order to do that you need to get past the easily forgotten bottle of wine or the even less memorable cash reward that more often gets used to pay bills than anything else. I'm talking about personalized gifts, lifestyle rewards or, better yet, the option to let someone choose their own corporate gift.

In smaller companies where you have more of an opportunity to get to know the people who work for you and the clients who keep you in business, chances are you've learned a little something about them. Things like how Mary has been wanting that Gaggia Espresso machine ever since she moved into her own apartment, or how John from "Company A" mentioned that he prefers to use Callaway golf balls whenever he plays a round.

Larger companies may not know as many personal details, but there are a few things they do know—demographics, product trends and the power of choice. Armed with these three powerful components of effective gifting, you take away the guesswork, avoid disappointment and provide another touch point of communication in the process.

A perfect way to accomplish this is with an online gifting platform. Set your budget, do your research, and offer a selection of options for each person to choose from. Many manufacturers' reps and incentive companies offer a service to help you set up this type of program. This type of service can be an easy-to-use, low-cost, low-maintenance solution that can be continuously refreshed. Plus, if you're truly utilizing the positive effects of rewards, chances are a person will receive more than one gift over the course of the year, and this option will give them the ability to vary their choices. It's a win-win solution.