Branded holiday gifts serve a dual purpose. This gesture of your thanks and appreciation for clients’ business in 2013 also is a tangible reminder of your company, which improves client retention and encourages them to reach out to you again in 1Q 2014.
It may still seem too early to think of client holiday gift giving, but start now for stress free planning and ordering. Clients do not know you value and appreciate their business unless you tell them. Holiday season, between Thanksgiving and the New Year is ideal for such gestures. Corporate and retail gift giving not only fosters good will, but also improves client retention. An added bonus for year end gift giving is that it can also lead to business for 1Q 2014 because clients have you on their mind and radar.
To ease the stress of business gift giving, follow these ten guidelines and tips for Corporate and Retail:
- Make a list of clients that you will thank, and categorize them, by volume of business and choose a budget for 1-3 gift tiers based on the number of categories you designate.
- When selecting a gift, consider where you want your client to be when they use the gift (and think of you). (for example, in the office, on the road, or at home.)
- Factor shipping costs into your budget. (i.e. heavier items will cost more to deliver)
- Consider retail trends when reviewing options, so your gifts are current and relevant. Your choice should be memorable, good quality and reflective of your company, so it stands out amid other year end gifts. (Or thank your clients at another time of year).
- Request decorated samples or pre-production proofs to ensure quality if you are branding the gifts with your logo. (A logo that is unclear, peels, or wears off is a poor reflection of your company.)
- To avoid problems or surprises with decorating, product quality or delivery times, work with a reputable company. They should be willing to speak with you on the phone (or in person), make recommendations appropriate to your brand and corporate culture, and walk you through the process. Beware of using untested “budget” online sources, which can result in aggravation, missed deadlines and poor quality.
- You can deduct all or part of the cost of business gifts you purchase. According to 2012 guidelines, you can deduct no more than $25 for business gifts that you give to each person during your tax year.
- Earlier ordering ensures ample time for production and best availability of inventory (color, size, etc). As the holidays approach, production and inventory are impacted. Also allow for longer shipping times to your recipients
after early December.
- Remember packaging. Gifts of all budgets make a greater impact when they are beautifully packaged or wrapped. (Tissue and gift bags or cellophane bags and festive ribbons are inexpensive yet elegant. Some factories will package and wrap the gifts with enough lead time).
- Set a timeline for the process. Early November – create a recipient list & budget; decide on gifts. approve Mid November, allow for production. End of November through holidays, arrange for in person client visits and/or delivery.
Corporate gift giving trends are often influenced by many factors, including the economy, elections, consumer confidence and tax laws, according to the Advertising Specialty Institute (ASI).
Some gift trends for this holiday season:
- iPad® and tablet accessories, cases, covers, keyboards, cleaning cloths, styluses.
- Portable energy chargers for mobile devices.
- Retail inspired bags and apparel.
- Food is always popular for group gifts for an office or department.
- Unbranded gifts can certainly be useful as well, especially for elegant items that should not be decorated.
Retail Gifts (brick and mortar or online)
Retailers, show your customers some love too! They need to know your appreciate their business, especially when they have so many choices on where to shop, whether in store or online. The approach may be different, but the result is the same, reinforcing brand loyalty.
- Discount on a purchase in January. For years, my hair salon has given a $10 coupon toward your next cut. This gesture of appreciation to loyal customers is welcome and remembered.
- Create a shopping appreciation event – much like a local “Restaurant Week”, local shop owners can offer a “deal of the day” for a particular week. Publicize in local media to drive foot traffic.
- Online retailers – host a holiday appreciation and referral program. For every new referral customer, give a bonus or discount on a future purchase to the original client.
- Online retailers can create a limited time shopping event, perhaps designed around your typically down purchase times. Offer deals during this week for loyal customers (and increased online traffic).
- Announce a customer appreciation day where refreshments and perhaps music will be offered.
- Retailers who offer services, offer a discount or bonus to existing customers.
- Product retailers can give a token gift. For example, wine bag or opener for liquor stores, tape measure for furniture or hardware stores, microfiber cleaning cloth for electronics stores, free coffee for auto parts or gas stations, hand warmers for sporting goods stores, to name a few.
- Set a date and budget for any of the above. If products need to be ordered, so do early, as production can take longer as the holidays approach. Use a “while supplies last” disclaimer on all promotions.
- Promote the events to your loyal customers, using media and your existing mailing lists.
- Follow through. A half-hearted attempt will not generate the customer appreciation effects you want and your customers deserve.
Take the these tips and tailor them for your business. In all cases, ample planning time means less overwhelm. We all have enough to do in our personal lives at the end of the year. By planning ahead for thanking our clients, it reduces year end stress, and creates good will that will carry over into next year.
Finding the best ways to devise strategies for your business can be tricky. While we can draw from experience, business school models and going on your gut, using market surveys is always a staple in guiding business planning. Survey data can offer great insights for running your business and the trick is to get through the surface statistics and tease out the insights that may lie deep in the numbers.
The 5th Annual Hiscox DNA of an Entrepreneur Survey is no exception and offers real-time insights about entrepreneurs’ business performance, plans, attitudes and lifestyles. The study surveyed 3,000 entrepreneurs with 500 from the United States.
Here are 5 key findings from the study unearthed:
- Business owners in the Northeast worked on average approximately 5 hours more than those in the West.
Take-Home: If your business is located on the Pacific Coast and you are considering moving your business to the Northeast, this can be an important factor in your decision-making. Spending more time in the office can greatly impact other aspects of your life, such as the amount of time you spend with your family. To better prepare yourself for the move, try researching factors that can impact your business, such as the hours of business of local businesses and clients in the Northeast, and assess the amount of time you can reasonable expect to spend in the office.
- Business owners from the West spent on average more than twice the amount of time training than those from the Northeast. Of the business owners who invested in training, those from the South focused more on Customer Relations and Sales/Selling Skills than any other region.
Take-Home: For national businesses and franchises, this can provide a new perspective on how you offer training in your company. Is your current policy on training based on geographic region? Is there a trend within your company that suggests more employees engage in training in a particular region? Are there any benefits to varying training opportunities based on the geographic region?
- Of the customers who made payments later than they were, Government Agencies were the least likely to make late payments while individual consumers were the most likely to make late payments.
Take-Home: Consider your target client based on your cash flow needs. If your business is strapped for cash and needs customers who pay on time, government agencies are a safer bet than sole proprietors.
- Business owners from the Manufacturing/Engineering sector spent the most time, on average, in training or professional development followed by Financial Services and Business & Professional Services sectors.
Take-Home: If your in the manufacturing business, you can use the findings by asking yourself whether you are spending enough training your staff for professional development and evaluate whether your investment is growing the skills of your employees is comparable to competing firms. If it’s not, you may find higher turnover from employees who are dissatisfied at their professional growth or your competitors may gain market share by investing in and leveraging their current workforce.
- Business owners in the Financial Services sector reported the greatest growth with 71% of business owners reporting growth in revenue and 63% of business owners reporting growth in profit (of which 17% of businesses reported more than 20% growth).
Take-Home: This is great news if your business is in Financial Services industry and a sign of the recovering economy. You may want to keep an eye out over the next year for signs of similar growth and factor this into your business decisions. If your company has been cutting back on employee benefits since the economic crisis, this growth could offer a chance to reinvest in your workforce or focus on hiring new talent to continue the growth of your firm.