Feature Article - July/August 2016

The Great Gift Guide

Do's and Don'ts in Business Gifting

By Joe Bush

Of course it's important for companies to incentivize their employees to reach goals and be safe and display good business practices, but many companies also need the help of folks who don't work for them but with them to maximize success.

Gifting partners and clients and anyone else who helps you grow your business is a tangible way to thank and reward and encourage further work and cooperation. Relationships are everything in sales after all, and who doesn't enjoy an acknowledgement in the form of a gift card, event tickets or other tangible items?

"A great business gift shows that you care," said Becky Sawicki, director of Special Markets for JURA Inc. "It forges a personal connection that transcends and strengthens your business relationship. It also makes a statement about you and your organization.

"If you're sending prestige gifts that are trend-forward and beautifully targeted for the recipient, you're demonstrating your professional skills in a very memorable way."

Some things never change, like thank yous and appreciation, while some things, like technology, do. An example of a channel partner incentive program that is only possible because of card technology is a brand rewarding retail associates for selling its products not quarterly, but much more often using the capabilities of digital funding of incentive program debit cards.

That's not gifting, but it's close, and it shows what's possible with a little creativity aided by computer science.

Lori Schonebaum, director of Solution Design for Maritz Motivation Solutions, said all incentive and gift programs are driven by basic human behavior.

"People are rationally and emotionally motivated to retain and increase their status, and status increases when people receive a reward or gift," Schonebaum said. "In turn, customers that receive business gifts tend to be more loyal to the company, spend more and purchase more often.

"Gifting can also be used to drive brand awareness and to reward or thank someone who has done something for you, such as provided a referral or given product feedback."

Mind the Logistics

Most of the same rules for employee incentive programs hold true for programs that give gifts to partners, customers and clients. The type of gift is crucial, but not more than its delivery, said Matt Burdette, B2B sales and marketing manager for Omaha Steaks, who believes that logistics are to be overlooked at your peril.

"How the gift ships, how long is the shipping window, and what happens if there is an issue" are important to consider, he said. "Omaha Steaks prides itself on a 100 percent satisfaction guarantee, which covers not only the quality of the product, but any damage or shipping issues that may arise."

Burdette cited a client of his company's holiday gift program as an example of business gifts being more than a thing given.

The client has sent customers and management-level employees Omaha Steaks products at the winter holiday every year since 2007. Omaha Steaks works with the company to design a list of custom gift package options; some recipients get all beef packages and others all seafood. Adding to the challenge is the fact that the company needs six delivered price points in each category.

Burdette's company directly ships the packages to each recipient during December; included are custom greeting cards provided by the client.

"Don't wait until the last minute to meet a deadline," Burdette said. "Choose brands you can trust. Ask good questions about logistics."

Burdette has more advice than that. He penned a list for the Omaha Steaks website last fall of best practices for holiday gift programs:

  • Crunch numbers: The first step is to decide what you want to spend per gift. "You may change the budget later," wrote Burdette, "but a starting point will help you with your gift research."

  • Time your research for the summer: There are a lot of holiday gifts. Many corporate gifting companies market holiday gifts in August or September, so try to start the process then. "Even though you may not place an order until December, narrowing your choices early will make the process much easier when it becomes crunch time," Burdette wrote.

  • Choose a trusted supplier: Using a supplier you can trust instills confidence and peace of mind that the gifts will arrive on time and intact. "Ask questions about returns, damages and delivery guarantees," wrote Burdette. "The extra 5 percent you may pay for a gift from a trusted supplier may save you headaches in the end."

  • Personalization is key: Ask the merchant's gift expert if and how the gift can be personalized with features like gift messages, custom ribbons or logos that you can put on the gift or the packaging. "Personalization could require lead time, so the sooner you ask, the more prepared you are to order in time before the holiday," wrote Burdette.

  • Now for the lucky recipients: Once you have the right gift at the right price, compile your list of recipients. Plan ahead, keep a running list. Accurate names and addresses speed up the ordering process. "You may also want to note which holiday they celebrate: Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or Ramadan," wrote Burdette. "You can always add or remove names from your list, but scrambling during December to compile your list of customers will only cause you headaches and lead to missed delivery dates and returned shipments."