The season of giving is always upon us

The Giving Season is here, and we have created a new section on our website devoted to boxing up goodies and sending them out direct to individuals. I decided to re-visit an article that I wrote 10 years ago on when to use promotional gifts, swag, corporate merchandise – call it what you will. I was intrigued to see if the occasions had changed much from a time when we were in a world recession to a time when we are faced with a global pandemic. We originally considered:

▫ Loyalty Programmes
▫ Exhibitions
▫ Corporate Hospitality
▫ Incentives
▫ Rewards and Awards
▫ Gifts and Giveaways

Although these key areas are relevant today, we have been forced, by Covid-19, to re-think the way we can supply materials to an audience that is now largely working from home.

So, what is still acceptable and how can we use product to maintain brand awareness and reward loyalty?

Loyalty Programmes
2010 – Remember, it is never naughty to want more business. Asking a customer to return to you for another helping is natural and nice. To give a little something away with each order, just enough to entice them back to you for more, is a sure way to a healthy and long relationship. Loyalty programmes come in many forms, a simple stamp or point with each purchase can be redeemed against future purchases or exchanged for gifts. Alternatively, you can encourage loyalty by promoting the status of your customer as he buys more from you, giving privileges or offering higher levels of membership to your special “club”. Loyalty programmes work best where there are high levels of repeat spend or on disposable goods that constantly need to be replaced.

2020 – Not much has changed in terms of rewarding loyalty. The collecting of points can be delivered digitally and recording sales and repeat patterns is probably easier now that we have more sophisticated CRM systems. However, the value of loyalty is greatly increased and this is the perfect time to reward existing clients and take the chance to remind them of the benefits of being loyal to your brand. The type of gifts we would suggest in 2020 would have a more “personal” focus like fitness, healthy outdoor activities and staying well – show your customers how much you care and that you have their best interests at heart.

2010 – Trade shows are a marvellous place to shake the hands of your customers, to see their happy faces and to give them their heart’s desire. Allot some of your budget for a show to giving things away to visitors. If you can afford it, sponsor the bag that every visitor gets or at least put something in it. Make what you give away appropriate to, or useful at, the event. A special offer voucher or a hand sanitiser maybe (shaking hands is dangerous these days). Most of all, train your staff well. Make sure they are all in uniform and can be identified with your brand, never let them slouch about or eat and drink on the stand. You will only have minutes to make an impression so make a good one, and make your literature worth keeping after the event. If you can, make appointments to see major clients and offer to sponsor or speak at seminars during the event.

2020 – The obvious difference now is that we don’t have the chance to shake hands or hand something over at all, though I did have to smile at my 10 year old reference to using hand sanitiser! I would be less inclined to suggest you give your clients hand sanitiser now, as we are literally awash with the stuff! The key to good exhibition swag is being a little bit different and you don’t have to spend very much – it is meant to be cheap and cheerful! If you are taking part in online exhibitions, you can use a boxed gift to send out a sample of your product. When a visitor comes onto your virtual stand, or you make a date for an online zoom sales demo, offer to send materials to your client direct. We can create bespoke packaging for your samples or add your own materials to one of our gift boxes. Volunteering to be a speaker at online events can be even more powerful now than it was 10 years ago – give out a goody bag to everyone who attends, all they have to do is stay until the end of your session to hear how to get it.

Corporate hospitality
2010 – If you go carefully you can still really make this work for you – just make sure you associate your brand with the right event. Charity functions are a great way to entertain clients and sooth any corporate consciences by doing a good deed at the same time. Take a team to a sponsored run and use team colours, giveaways for spectators and get some local PR out of it. Put on a quiz or make a competition where attendance at an event is the prize. This way you advertise yourself to all who take part, not just the winners.

2020 – Charities need your support more than ever today, so be sure to align your brand with at least one charity, especially something local or relevant. And just because you can’t book a table at a charity ball or take your clients to the races doesn’t mean that you can’t wine and dine them. We have lots of party packs that we can design for your online events. Why not send your conference goers a drinks reception in a box?
We can supply drinks, snacks and novelties to make any online party go with a swing and personalise it to the individual. Our printing presses have really changed since 2010 – from mainly litho print to all digital, we can now offer variable data printing; no minimum order quantity, no set up costs, so sending something personally addressed is so easy.

2010 – I hesitate to use the expression B.O.G.O.F in an article about manners but the incentive of getting two for the price of one is just too good not to mention. It is child’s play to entice an interested party to buy or try your goods if you make the initial offer almost too good to be true. Consider strategically using loss-leaders in your business and work out if the level of repeat orders that could result justify the free issue of the first item. Incentives need to be really juicy, but if they are too good, you could be over-subscribed (anyone old enough to remember the free flights fiasco that nearly put Hoover out of business)?

2020 – Yes, I really am that old and incentives still need to really tempt your prospects to convert but it is important to get your figures right when you choose to give something away with every purchase. Make sure you have a closure date and robust terms and conditions. In the 90s our best-selling incentive was a holdall and personal luggage is still very desirable – add RFID for extra protection and a 21st century update!

Rewards and awards
2010 – Everyone loves to be loved, or to be thanked at least. None of us enjoy being taken for granted, least of all if we are purchasing your products regularly. You can use rewards for long term customers or give product back, as a “no strings” way of rewarding brand loyalty. Awards are also a good way to thank clients or appreciate an achievement. You could establish an award for your industry and put your name to it, guaranteeing good exposure for your brand and staying on display after the award is given. Staff appreciate awards too, so why not tie it in with a ceremony at a corporate event or use it to get your business in the local press.

2020 – Awards ceremonies are a great place for corporate hospitality but even though we don’t have that option this year it doesn’t mean that your brand isn’t winning awards. Your PR will take care of the publicity but you might also take time to thank the people who made it happen. With some staff furloughed, some working in their kitchen and others who have to make it into the workplace, it is a tough job to keep everyone motivated and future-focussed. Our webinar gift box includes headphones and a phone stand/charger which could easily be used as a staff reward for those who have had to adapt to working from home. The insulated drinks bottle makes sure they keep up the intake of healthy beverages. We can de-construct any of our gift boxes to send out in stages – why not send a smaller gift each month to arrive ahead of a monthly online team meeting?

2010 – A gift is for life, not just for Christmas. Promotional gifts can be strategically used throughout the year. You might use a giveaway at an event or just something to leave behind as a reminder of your visit to a potential client. Remember your Ps & Qs – price and quantity that is. Budget to afford the best quality gift you can buy, better give to 20 top clients, if that is where 80% of your business comes from, than buy a cheaper gift for all.

2020 – I would still advocate that you take your budget constraints seriously when it comes to corporate gifting and focus on the areas of your business that will benefit most from rewards. You know that it is easier to sell a new product to an existing customer than it is to sell it to a new one, so it makes sense to reserve the giveaways for your most loyal clients. However, marketing is about a mix of activity and reserving some of your budget for “scattering” to prospects is no bad thing either. It is why we can offer you items from a few pence to hundreds of £s, and why we can create products that are entirely bespoke or show you a catalogue of gifts that can be turned around, printed, within a few days.

My 2010 article was written for a networking group and was subtitled “ the art of asking for business and remembering to say thank you” Many people in business are too polite to ask for work, too many more are complacent and assume that people will remain loyal without incentive. Whatever changes in the world at large, the simple truth is that everything only truly lasts a moment, then we move onto the next thought, feeling or experience. The art of giving is to make your product, your brand, memorable; to make the moment last for just a heartbeat longer and maybe become a talking point that sparks the next opportunity. One thing is for sure, if you don’t ask, you might not get and if you don’t say “thank you”, you might not be given the chance again.

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