Feature Article - July/August 2017

Tokens of Gratitude

The Multiple Benefits of Business Gifting

By Rick Dandes

In today's highly competitive business marketplace, corporate gift-giving can create a stronger brand awareness and have tangible, measureable effects on customer acquisition, loyalty and growth.

According to the latest available study by the Incentive Research Foundation, released in 2016, the practice of corporate gifting is on the rise.

"The trending is upward," confirmed Rodger Stotz, IRF's chief research officer. "In 2015, 72 percent of companies surveyed utilized corporate gifting, which we define as the use of non-cash awards to thank clients, prospects and partners. The incidence of firms using non-cash rewards to thank clients, prospects and partners increased by 19 percentage points from 2013 to 2015—a 36 percent increase. The change was consistent across firm size."

Corporate gift-giving is the ultimate form of target marketing, Stotz said. "When run correctly," he explained, "corporate gift programs can help establish or enhance critical relationships and become a cost-effective means of recognizing activities that benefit the business."

According to many surveys, Stotz continued, most business gifts are given to major clients. After that come employees, then prospective clients. Reasons for gift-giving range from thanking long-standing customers for their business to recognizing a valued employee for working on a weekend. The general reason is the same: to affirm relationships and enhance the personal connection between giver and recipient.

"For us, business gift programs are increasingly important for two reasons," said Becky Sawicki, director of special markets, JURA Inc., a manufacturer of automatic coffee machines based in Montvale, N.J. "First, the sales potential," she said. "And second, the opportunity to promote your brand in an additional channel that complements your retail and media outreach."

There is a personalized and recognition aspect at work here, as well. Corporate gifting shows a true appreciation of the audience's support and partnership, said Allyson Krichman, Rymax, senior director of product sales, based in Pine Brook, N.J. "Taking a customized approach to gifting, with continual outreach, allows organizations to stay top of mind with their audience while increasing engagement."

And, there's one more thing to note, added Bill Martocci, president, Carlisle Sales and Marketing, based in the New York City area. Recognition of the "loyal" employee is still in fashion and with good reason, he said. "With the unemployment rate at a 10-year low, it is no surprise that it is important for employers to keep their talent because there is good competition for staff out there."

Getting Personal

"What we are seeing is an increase in the sales cycle of the product," and that translates to an increase in business gift-giving as nice rewards at incentive travel events, said Scott Kooken, president and co-founder, Links Unlimited, of Cincinnati, Ohio.

"Years ago," Kooken explained, "when someone was rewarded with an incentive travel trip, the corporate gifting was usually something waiting for the recipient in the room, or something you would get ahead of time, or a post-trip gift."

"In many cases, the gift had the company logo on the product, and what we are seeing now is more individualization," he said. "How we do things at events has changed. As an extension of our corporate gifting, Links Unlimited provides brand-name gift experiences for companies that want to reward their employees or customers with an on-site gift event."

For example, he said, "We represent Ray-Ban in the gift-giving arena. So we might be at an incentive trip for 400 people in Mexico. We will go down there with 12 different styles of sunglasses, and we'll set up a Ray-Ban booth. People can come over to us and try on those sunglasses, pick which ones they like and one that fits them best. We make sure to have a Ray-Ban specialist there to answer any questions that might come up, and to talk about the brand. The gift recipient can choose from any of the 12 different styles that we have sitting there. Fitted to that person, we hand them that pair of sunglasses right there at that event. We are individualizing the gift in real time, immediately."

Krichman agrees with that philosophy of individualizing gifts as a trend in corporate gift-giving. She suggests to clients that each gift item should cater to the specific wants and needs of an audience. "Gifts should be carefully selected," she advised. "Also, rather than receiving a grand gift once a year, we believe people appreciate receiving smaller gifts several times throughout the year. At Rymax, programs are designed to have multiple touch points with our clients' audience, keeping them motivated and inspired through the latest and greatest items in the marketplace."