Corporate Gift Giving: Five Tips to Make Your Gift Memorable

January 1, 2007



By Mary Bufe

I know. I know. This was going to be the year you selected your company’s holiday gifts in July, updated your customer list by September, had your cards hand-addressed in October and began making deliveries Thanksgiving week.

Okay, so that didn’t happen.

But don’t despair. The clock may be ticking, but it’s still possible to deliver a gift that will build your brand and dazzle your customers. Even if you’re on a budget. And you’ve just got two weeks.

Just remember these five tips:

1: Choose a gift your customers really want to receive

Yes, a miniature zen garden is a unique gift, and your clients are not likely to get more than one this holiday season. But is it something they really have space for on their desks? More to the point, is it something they would WANT to make space for?

In most cases, it’s better to give a gift that you know your customers will appreciate – and that will reflect positively on you. That means giving them a gift they will actually use.

But what? Some of your customers may love golf and therefore might appreciate a personalized golf item. An avid movie buff might be thrilled with a vintage movie poster. A yoga enthusiast might rave over relaxation tapes.

The problem is, of course, you probably need one or two universal gifts you can give to everyone. Here are some ideas:

Food – Fortunately, there is at least one thing that all your customers have in common: they all have to eat. That explains the popularity of popcorn tins and sausage and cheese trays this time of year.

“The biggest problem with these gifts is that they’re just not very memorable,” says Holly Cunningham, president of Hollyberry Baking Co., an award-winning corporate catering and gourmet gift company based in Webster Groves, Mo. “If you are going to give food, you’re wise to give something special – something your customer can’t get just anywhere.”

A new food gift item available this holiday season, for example, is a gourmet version of St. Louis’ classic Gooey Butter Cake, created by Hollyberry Baking. “A gift like this is great for both local and out-of-town clients,” explains Cunningham. “St. Louis is famous for its gooey butter cake, which local customers will appreciate. This ‘taste of St. Louis’ can also be shipped anywhere else in the country. And there is something in every price range.”

Gourmet cookies, chocolates, fruit, wine and restaurant gift cards are all good options too, says Gladys M. Schubach, president of GMS Incentives in Chesterfield, Mo. “Everyone appreciates items that can be eaten over the holidays. It’s a good way to thank your clients for their loyalty and trust, and to get in the door with prospects that you’d like to work with in the future,” she says.

Technology – People love technology. Among the hottest selling tech items this year, according to Schubach, are portable USB flash drives. “People use these little gadgets to transfer data, music and images from PC to PC,” she explains. “They come in different colors and can be imprinted with a logo. Depending on quantity purchased, they can cost $20 each or less.”

Schubach said executive gifts are even going high-tech. “We’ve got executive travel kits that include a portable mouse, a USB drive and other computer accessories,” she says. Other computer-focused products are also popular, including laser pointers and PowerPoint remotes.

Practical items – Schubach remembers the year she sent her customers a box of wrapping paper, complete with bows and tissue. “Our customers loved it,” she says. “And because we included an assortment of papers, they could use it year-round for their personal wrapping.”

Travel bags, carrying cases, cash carriers and watches continue to be popular gift items for frequent flyers, says Schubach. But there are some things to watch out for. “In this age of high airport security, gifts like all-in-one knives, manicure kits and other similar items can come back to haunt you,” says Schubach. “While they’re still popular, practical items, we warn our customers that they can be confiscated, and may not be worth the risk.”

Other gifts to avoid in general:   Gender-specific gifts, personal clothing and perfume.

2: Customize gifts with your logo

“Customizing is a fine idea,” you may be thinking. “But it’s too late. We can’t do it, at least not without paying exorbitant rush charges.”

Think again. Sure, gift companies would prefer it if you placed your order back in September. But the “holiday rush” is the “holiday rush” for a reason. And the truth is, new printing technologies mean many customized gifts can be turned around faster than you might think.

For example, Charlie Anderson, co-owner of Northwoods Candy Emporium in Branson, creates custom chocolate gifts imprinted with business logos or greetings – even in full color. He says most can be turned around within a week.

“If it’s a really large gift basket that contains a large number of items or a high quantity of a single item – say more than 1,000 – we might need an extra week,” says Anderson. “The important thing is to ask. You’ll probably be pleasantly surprised at how quickly you can get what you want.”

Schubach agrees. “Having your brand added to your gift item requires just a minimal fee,” says Schubach. “It also turns the product into a billboard for your company.”

3: Don’t let your logo overwhelm your gift

Including your corporate logo on a gift can indeed be a great way to build awareness of your company and reinforce your brand. But remember, a little branding goes a long way. Logos should generally be printed or engraved discreetly on your gift or its packaging.

Think about it from your client’s point of view. She may want to display the beautiful clock you give her in her home – but not if she can see your logo from across the room. If she loves your gift, she will remember you long after the holidays are over, whether she can see your logo or not.

Don’t be afraid to think outside the box. For $2.95 each, with a minimum order of 20, Northwoods Candy Emporium will create custom chocolate business cards that you can give to accompany your gift – or that can be the gift itself! Hollyberry Baking will deliver gourmet cookies and other treats with your logo imprinted on the package.

4: Choose something that can be shared by all

Have you ever been in an office where gift after gift arrives for the “big boss,” while the other employees are left empty-handed and feeling unappreciated? You can make a positive impression on everyone by giving something they can all share.

“One idea is to provide a boxed lunch for everyone in the group on a given day,” says Cunningham. “Everyone loves it.” Can’t arrange a day before the holidays? “Give your clients a gift certificate that they can use after the holidays are over,” says Cunningham. Gift baskets that contain “something for everyone” are another way to make sure everyone feels included in your gift.

5: Why does it have to be delivered by a certain date?

Some companies worry that a gift sent in December might get “lost in the shuffle” of gifts that roll through the door during the peak holiday season. So why not start a new tradition and send a New Year’s gift to welcome everyone back to work? Your gift will get the attention it deserves – and you’ll get the extra time you need to make sure it’s one to remember.

(Mary Bufe is a contributing writer from Webster Groves, Mo.)

GMS Incentives

Northwoods Candy Emporium


Two New Ideas to Get You Started

Want your gift to stand out from the crowd? Here are two brand new items from Hollyberry Baking Co. for the 2006 holiday season that are sure to please:

1. Give Gourmet Gooey Butter Cake — and help a good cause.

Hollyberry Baking is donating 20 percent of the proceeds from sales of its Grande Gooey Butter Gift Box to Children’s Hospital. The gift box includes a large gourmet Hollyberry St. Louis Signature Gooey Butter Cake, two Bags of Kaldi’s chocolate-covered espresso beans and a bag of Kaldi’s Gourmet Coffee. It all comes beautifully packaged and ready-to-eat in tissue-lined square hatboxes tied with thick red ribbon. Cost: $34.95. Order by December 8, 2006, to be included in the donation.

2. Winter Holiday Wine and Sweets Gift Crates

This “off-the-menu” executive gift item pairs fine wines from A. Bommarito Wines with Hollyberry Baking gourmet sweets to offer your best customers the tasting experience of a lifetime! A tasting guide will show them how to enjoy a Cabernet Sauvignon-Merlot with Hollyberry’s Cocoa Bliss and Marble Fudgy Brownies — and other memorable and unique combinations. Prices from $185 up.

Hollyberry Baking Co.

(314) 968-9239 • (800) 690-1974


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