Feature Article - July/August 2012

The Spirit of Giving

Getting Business Gifts Right, From Audience to Budget to Timing

By Tammy York

Not Your Grocery Store Gift Card

GfitCardLab offers businesses the opportunity to design their own branded Visa cards. "We create branded Visa cards on demand, if a small business doesn't have a graphic designer in house," Jones said. "Our team helps them with the design process, and it is self-serve as well if they want to do the design process." A branded customized card for business is better than having some generic card you might just pick up at the grocery store.

A branded Visa card offers a tangible reward that has resonance. "Every time the recipient pulls that card out of their wallet they are remembering what they did to get the card," Jones said. "Another benefit is that the person they are giving the card to is asking where you got the card from and how you got the card, so there is additional value beyond the recipient."

Unlike a "store" or closed-loop gift card good for only one store and for a set amount, a branded Visa card can be used at any store where Visa is accepted. "Customers like to have a choice and as a business you don't want to be guessing what they want to use the reward for. You want to give them the freedom to choose," Jones said.

Virtual Gifting

Many gift companies are moving toward virtual e-gifting, including Brookstone, which has a new virtual e-gift card. "The younger demographic that is on their smartphones and the tablets 24/7 like the added convenience of getting an e-gift," Ludwig said.

"Gift cards that can be e-mailed or text-messaged to a recipient are the fastest growing category of gift cards, and it is very new," said Jones. "This is a growing trend with the younger generation."

E-gift cards are also extremely convenient for last-minute gifts because the e-mail or text message can be sent out automatically. The handwritten note is also less expensive to mail because a plastic card isn't in it. It is more environmentally friendly, with less waste because the gift is electronically transferred. Not all brands offer e-gift cards today, but most are quickly adopting this capability.

The only issue with e-gift cards from a corporate gifting point-of-view is that there are demographics that are more likely to want a tangible gift. Also, if an e-gift appears last-minute rather than something that took some planning it might have a negative impact on your relationship with the recipient.

Proper Planning

Planning ahead is one of the most important things you can do when developing your corporate gifts. Unfortunately, many companies have brushfire after brushfire that crop up and need to be put out at the expense of a successful annual corporate gift campaign.

Today's business world moves at warp speed and in the manufacturing businesses no one is holding inventory since inventory is your cash tied up. That is why planning ahead is so much more important than it used to be. If you wait, things could be getting pretty lean as far as assortment.

"Planning ahead for gifting in today's climate means that you will be in the best position to select the right gift from the best gift assortment," Loury said. Plan in advance at least 60 to 90 days for the gift event for the whole process to work smoothly, including the execution of giving the gift.