Tech Line

It’s the Thought that Counts: The Story of Business Gifts at the Holidays

“Surprise and delight” is one of the basics of consumer marketing, that extra offering that can turn a shopper into a consumer and a consumer into a loyal brand advocate. The same principle can be applied in the enterprise space, surprising and delighting prospects with an unexpected token of appreciation to start a conversation or move one to the next level.  

Corporate gifting is already worth $242 billion per year and is expected to grow another $64 billion over the next three years, as more companies feel the need to boost their connection to partners and prospects that have been working remotely for the last year. Almost one-third of businesses surveyed recently by Coresight Research said they plan to do more gifting in the future, and more than half of those said it was due to a need to keep up connections with their clients. Half the survey respondents said their relationship-building benefitted “substantially” from such gifts.  

While showing prospects, customers, and even employees how much you care for them is good practice all year, the holiday season is a natural moment for corporate gifting. But the crush of greetings and presents can make it harder for one gift to stand out from the others. And make no mistake—it does pay to stand out. A survey of clients from Mouth, a gifting company offering food items, found that when business gifts were called “memorable” by their recipients, revenues for the gifting campaign rose by 40%. 

“You want to delight someone. You want to really make a memory. You want to make an impression on the person that is receiving it,” said Pam Danziger, founder of consultancy Unity Marketing. In that way, business gifts are no different than personal gifts, she said: “It really has to be personal. It has to be thoughtful. It has to be memorable. And those are the same requirements as you have in personal gifting.”  

Put Some Thought into It

The element of surprise can be helpful to make one present stand out, but more important than that is the nature of the gift. It must be something thoughtful and appropriate to the person receiving it, not just some piece of corporate swag or generic item.  

The sender needs to put some thought into it, said Danziger. What’s more, corporate gifts, including holiday presents, should really be part of a larger relationship-building strategy practiced all year and not just during the holidays.  

“You don’t want [a gift] to communicate that you want a reward: ‘I’m going to give you a client gift, and I want you to give me something back.’ You want to touch the person. You want to touch them at an emotional level. You want to get into their head that the recipient is valued and respected and honored for who they are, not just how much money their business could mean down the line,” said Danziger.

Gift cards have become an increasingly popular item, especially since the Covid-19 pandemic led to a surge in online shopping. According to Coresight, physical and digital gift cards are the two most popular corporate gifts in 2021, mentioned by 51 percent and 48 percent of respondents, respectively.  

That may be—for gift cards sidestep the risk of giving something inappropriate—but they lack that surprise-and-delight element, the personal touch created by that memorable moment that highlights an effective gift, according to Danziger. “When was the last time somebody gave you a box-store gift card and you said, ‘Oh, whopee!’? Think about what gift you received that was exciting and fun and really made you feel important. It wasn’t a gift card.”  

Choose Your Own

One strategy to address this issue is a choose-your-own-gift option that is now offered by several gifting platforms. The recipient gets an email or text announcing they have received a gift, then he or she picks something to their liking from a menu of options and arranges for delivery. This can also help sidestep a possible bad choice, such as sending liquor to non-drinker, a basket of muffins to someone with a gluten allergy, or a few rib eyes to a vegan.  

As more of us are working remotely, many presents will also have to be directed to the recipient’s home office, as we continue blurring the line between workplace and home. This can actually be more effective, showing the care the sender took to make it personal, noted Danziger.

“Collecting the recipient’s preferred address in this hybrid-work-model world has become the new normal,” said Kricia Storms, director of product marketing at PFL. “To increase response rates this holiday season, have the person with the relationship reach out to the recipient directly to ask for their address. When giving a gift for appreciation you want to tie-in the human element to truly make it personal. In the long-term this builds customer loyalty and increases brand affinity when the recipient feels like a person and not just a number.” This can be especially important during the holidays.

“I think that too many corporate gifts, though, go out without that thought process, without that real personal knowledge that makes selecting a gift easier,” said Danziger. The selection is often left to a staffer who may not know the person targeted with the gift, only the budget assigned to it. “It’s like playing telephone. It goes down the line and the meaning is lost.”

At the most basic level, corporate gifting needs to be just as personal as the giving of gifts in any circumstance, Danziger noted.

“You need to think about what gift delighted you and why it delighted you,” she concluded. “What can you do—for the clients that you value, the employees that you value—that really will make that same kind of impression?”  

Interested in learning more about how to create some magical moments for your prospects, customers, and employees this holiday season, join us at “A PFL Carol: The Spirit of Hybrid Experiences.”  We’ll offer some tips, tricks, and maybe even a laugh or two.