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WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT PERSONAL GIFTS
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT BUSINESS GIFTS
BUSINESS GIFT TRENDS
CORPORATE GIFT RESEARCH
GIFTS VS. INCENTIVES
THE ETHICS OF GIVING
THE ETIQUETTE OF CORPORATE GIFT GIVING
CULTURAL ISSUES

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT
PERSONAL GIFTS

The beauty of food gifts like those from GiftsToSend.com is that it's difficult to fail. But taking a few minutes to understand gift giving can make your selection even more successful. When looking for your gift, consider whether your recipient is conservative, outrageous, trendy, reserved, etc. Take into account what you know about his or her tastes, and if you don't know much, stick with popular items such as chocolate, coffee, wine or cheese biscuits, or preserves.

Beware of food gifts that require cooking unless you know that your recipient likes to cook. And if you want your gift to be a total surprise, remember that companies like GiftsToSend.com will notify recipients in advance if sending anything perishable, such as chocolates to Arizona in the summertime. You can inexpensively make your gift even more special by personalizing it. For individual gifts, engraving is the cost-effective solution. It's easy to give your gift lasting value by engraving a silver picture frame or business card holder.
How much should you spend? It's important to feel comfortable with the cost. Never buy from companies that try to pressure you to spend more than what you intended.

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT
BUSINESS GIFTS

According to many surveys, 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.
Gifts differ from incentives in that they are offered with no explicit preconditions for performance. They differ from promotional products (or ad specialties) in that they do not contain any blatant imprints or advertising.
That doesn't mean there's no bottom-line benefit to be derived from corporate gift giving. For some companies, it's an essential part of marketing strategy. Just about everyone agrees that, done correctly, gift giving is a cost-effective way to build a feeling of partnership with valued associates.

BUSINESS GIFT TRENDS
*Personalization - Today's companies expect the contents of their gift arrangements to be more customized than ever to fit in with their theme or audience.
*More Engraving - Customers are utilizing more personalization.
*More Year-Round Giving - it's not just the holidays anymore.
*Travel Themed Gifts - more businesses are using gifts as part of meetings or incentive programs.
*Fund Raising - Not-for-profits increasingly raise money through use of special gift programs.
CORPORATE GIFT RESEARCH
Although there's hard evidence relating corporate gift giving to increased business activity, it won't exactly give you the confidence to make specific return-on-investment projections in your marketing plan. Chances are you won't be expected to come up with that kind of hard data anyway.
The Promotional Products Association International conducts regular surveys of corporate gift givers and recipients. A recent one shows that vendors who gave were twice as likely to increase their chances of being contacted by customers as those who didn't have a gift program.

GIFTS VS. INCENTIVES
To recognize what an effective gift strategy is, it helps to understand what it isn't. Start by making the distinction between corporate gift giving and incentive award programs. Though gifts and incentive awards often involve similar types of recipients, they are different on both strategic and practical levels. Incentives are awards for achieving defined levels of activity, such as sales quotas, safety improvements, or good attendance. In contrast, gifts are more or less spontaneous, given not as part of any defined exchange between giver and recipient. The gift recipient doesn't consciously set goals in anticipation of a reward, whereas the incentive recipient does.
It's tempting to view gift and incentive programs in the same light. After all, you want to know that you're getting your money's worth from any business investment, and most givers want to motivate the recipient in one way or another. But be careful. Leaving customers or employees with the impression that they're being bribed can do more harm than good. Instead, look at gift giving as a subtle, long-term process of relationship building, following the basic guidelines described here.

THE ETHICS OF GIVING
Before giving any gift, you should know if either the giving or receiving company has policies regarding gifts. The most extreme are the no-gift policies that became popular in the late 1980s, partly as a result of scandals involving gifts and partly as a reaction to the perceived excesses of that decade. More common are restrictions placed on the value of a gift or on situations in which gifts may be given. Ask the potential recipient if his or her company publishes an ethics handbook or has any policy on receiving gifts. If so, then follow it to the letter.
A few words of advice: Giving gifts during a bidding process is a definite no-no, even if a holiday happens to fall during this time. Lavish gifts, such as cars and luxury vacations, are suspect and should be used only after careful consideration. Even when there isn't a stated restriction, be careful not to create the wrong impression with a gift. Anything that might embarrass your recipient or lead to a reprimand can sabotage a valuable relationship.


THE ETIQUETTE OF CORPORATE GIFT GIVING
Even when not committing egregious errors that may get someone fired, be sure to use finesse if you want to get the most out of your gift program. There is an art to effective giving, so consider the following major areas before you go shopping:
Appropriateness. Care should be taken that the gift is appropriate to the business relationship. This has less to do with the dollar value of business transacted, or even the amount of time one has been doing business with the recipient, than with the closeness of the relationship. If a client seems aloof and excessively businesslike, don't try to loosen him or her up with baubles. It can backfire. With a new relationship, don't get too personal or too lavish with the gift. Frequency of giving generally should be restricted to major holidays and special occasions. Again, be sure to avoid the impression that you're bribing the recipient.
Personality. It's great when a gift has personality, but the real issue is whether the gift reflects the personality and interests of the recipient. Is she a sports car nut? Does he have an obsessive relationship with his sailboat? What's her favorite color? Try to find out these kinds of things discreetly. When you do (and your gift reflects it), the impression is that you care about the person and have taken the time to understand his or her style and taste.
Timing. The most popular times for giving, of course, are holidays, but the true champions of corporate gift giving know that other times of the year can have a more profound personal impact on the relationship. For instance, birthday gifts are bound to impress, since they show that you've bothered to learn a thing or two about the recipient. Important dates, such as the anniversary of a new job or the day you initiated a business relationship, may be good occasions for a gift. You can also mark such events as a promotion, the birth of a child, or the completion of an important project. Whether you stick to the established holidays and impersonal occasions or dig into the personal life of the recipient depends on the nature of the relationship. It may seem slightly presumptuous, or even intrusive, to choose the wrong occasion for a gift.
Presentation. Special care should be taken in preparing the gift. Invest in nice presentation and take the time to compose a personal, handwritten card or other form of personalization. This can be as important as the gift itself, since your message to the recipient conveys your intentions and sincerity. Then there's the issue of whether to mail or present in person. Mailing can reduce any feelings of obligation on the part of the recipient, and it can provide some unexpected pleasure in a routine work day. If the relationship warrants it, mailing to the person's home may add a personal touch, particularly when the gift commemorates a personal occasion like a birthday.
Personalizing. To logo or not to logo, that is a key question. For many businesses, personalized gifts keep the company name in the minds of recipients. When the item is a practical one that is likely to be used every day, such as a calendar, coffee mug or tote bag, this amounts to free daily advertising. But there is a tackiness quotient to consider. They may make great trade show premiums or leave-behinds, but personalized items should be used carefully for personal, deeply heartfelt gifts. In general, use personalization as a means of tastefully reminding your recipient that the gift came from you or your organization.


CULTURAL ISSUES
Research is essential when crossing cultural lines in gift giving. Items that are uncontroversial in one culture may be offensive in another. For instance, liquor isn't just stigmatized in the Muslim world; it's illegal. Yet in Japan, cognac and Scotch are highly valued gifts. In China, certain colors and numbers are considered bad luck, and custom forbids gift giving in many circumstances. And clocks are not good gifts for the Chinese, as in the Mandarin dialect the word for clock is very similar to the word for death. In all Asian and some Latin American cultures, cutlery symbolizes the breaking of relationships.
Be careful. Do some research, and be a winner. For instance, Native American items have become big hits in Japan. American items, particularly ones either scarce or expensive abroad, can often make unusual gifts that will be appreciated overseas.
You may run into cultural issues at home as well as abroad, because North America has a multicultural business environment. Guard against ethnic or geographic stereotyping, and make sure you know your recipients. You can do a lot of damage, for example, by sending a package of gourmet chili mix to a patrician, chili-hating Texan or by giving a Hanukkah gift to a Jewish customer who happens to celebrate Christmas with his business acquaintances.
If you need information on gift-giving practices in a given country, you can often get expert advice from the protocol officer in the U.S. consulate of that country.


 
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