Giving Corporate Gifts with Meaning and Impact

With the holidays (and year-end spending) right around the corner, now is the time to start planning your thank-you gifts. You do say thank you to your employees, clients and customers, don't you?

Yes, of course you do, who wouldn't? Especially when you factor in all of the real, hard science backing up the serious ROI of such a simple act. Everyone appreciates the recognition and consideration.

Sure, it takes a bit of time from your already busy schedule to plan and send these gifts, but study after study shows that it's one of the most impactful things you can do for very little time or cost.

“Vendors who gave were twice as likely to increase their chances of being contacted by recipients as those that didn’t have a gift program.” - Promotional Products Association International (PPAI)

But where to start? We got you. Here are some things to consider if you want to make that holiday gift both thoughtful and impactful.

  1. Be clear about the purpose. Although it’s tempting to attach a concrete outcome to the gift, keep in mind that this is a relationship-building opportunity, not an incentive. Everyone wants a gift, unless it feels like a quid pro quo.
  2. Be personal. Sure, a generic gift is still a gift, and who doesn't like free stuff? But nothing hits 'em in the feels like a gift that says "I see you". When it's personal, it's effective.
  3. Be familiar with the recipient’s policies around gifts. Most organizations have placed a monetary limit on the size of gifts employees may receive internally or from vendors and business partners. Make sure you follow your company and/or business partner’s guidelines while planning for holiday gift giving.
  4. Be mindful of diversity. Not everyone celebrates Christmas and not everyone feels equally connected to local customs. Showing respect for religious, cultural and preference diversity can be a very powerful gift in itself!

With those few things in mind, you'll be way ahead of the game right from the start. Now, let's talk about the kinds of gifts that are popular, effective and easy to source.

A Look at Options

Finding a great gift is important, but it's not the only consideration. The type of gift matters, the timing matters, even the way it's delivered matters. And, with so many options available, it can be a bit overwhelming to sort through them. Again, we got you. Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Gift cards continue to top the list of recipient preferences. They are easy to give because they take the guesswork out of the process. They are also easy to receive as they provide a world of choice both online and in-store. You can send cards digitally, which is fast and convenient, or opt to give a physical card, complete with gift wrapping and a personal note which adds a truly memorable touch.
  • Vouchers for iTunes, MP3s, ebooks, or other digital media. If you can learn a bit about your recipient’s media habits, a voucher or gift card that lets them add to their digital library is a gift they’ll enjoy for years.
  • Promotional products have longevity. Promotional products are a great choice when you want to give a gift that lasts beyond the holidays, especially for clients and channel partners. According to the Promotional Products Association International(PPAI), 73% of individuals who receive promotional products use it at least once a week. When carefully selected, those products keep your organization in mind throughout the year. Since it is a holiday gift, be very subtle with any branding you place on it, now is not the time for blatant self-promotion.
  • Charity donation. If you know your recipient well enough and they’ve mentioned a preferred charity, consider a gift in their name. Alternatively, simply offer the option of making a donation to the charity of their choice. We’ve seen that this particularly resonates with younger employees and can encourage a sense of purpose at work, which is a retention gold mine.
  • Delicacies. Consider delivery services such as Omaha Steaks, Lobster Gram dinner, or Harry and David food baskets, delivered directly to their home. This option, as well as gift cards to local grocery stores, allows employees to spread holiday cheer to friends and family.
  • Rotating use of the “best” spot in the company parking lot. While difficult (but not impossible!) to gift wrap, the prime parking spot is a fun way to help anyone feel important, which is always appreciated during the bad weather season.
  • Holiday lunch. Depending on the size of your organization, this can be off-site or catered in. If your holiday lunch takes place off site, think about holding it in the early afternoon and then giving employees the rest of the day off. A few more personal hours during this busy season is something everyone appreciates. If you hold a catered, in-office event, pump up the holiday spirit with decorations, music and grab bag gifts.
  • In-person distribution. If possible, deliver your gift in person, especially when it comes to long-term customers. Yes, this takes extra time, but ends up as time well-spent and adds a personal demonstration of your appreciation.

With a little time and effort holiday gifts go a long way. Moreover, you may find that they are as much fun to give as they are to receive!

The "Big Four" Gift Types

In addition to the above suggestions, a quick Google search can uncover uncountable ideas, which gets overwhelming fast. So let's narrow it down to the four most common gift types and dive into their relative strengths and weaknesses.

Gift Cards Are the Perfect Way to Thank Employees and Partners

Gift cards remain one of the best ways to thank your employees and partners for their hard work and loyalty. Using gift cards allows people the opportunity to buy something for themselves or a loved one that they otherwise might not have done.

There is no better time than the holidays to use these as gifts, at a time when people tend to spend more money and extra funds run low. But don't feel limited to giving gift cards during the holiday season. They're effective at any time of year and the reason we sing their praises so much is because they are so versatile, cost-effective and impactful, making them hard to beat as a gift of any type.

Finding out which brands are of interest to your recipients is a key element of effective gift card giving. Giving an irrelevant brand to someone can backfire and actually cost you some goodwill in some cases. So now is a great time to gather some intel on your recipients, and it never hurts to ask their coworkers if necessary. When in doubt, it's hard to go wrong with Amazon or Starbucks, but nothing works better than the personal touch of insider knowledge.

There used to be some debate in the incentive industry around whether gift cards or cash rewards are more effective. But the data is in and an understanding of the psychological impacts shows us that gift cards offer much more than cash rewards ever could.

Gift cards provide trophy value. When a person uses a gift card, they remember where it came from, how they earned it, and even why they received it, whereas cash is not distinguishable. It disappears into the wallet or bank account and no good vibes are recalled when it's spent. For this reason gift cards make an excellent holiday gift, as well as a great addition to your rewards and recognition program.

Even Adults Love Presents

Despite the popularity of gift cards and prepaid cards, many employees still love gifts of merchandise. Again, this is a great time to really think about your recipients' preferences and tailor the gift to them in a more personal and effective way.

Recipients who prefer to get things rather than cards or cash, tend to appreciate durability and longevity in a gift. Which is great because these items get used over a much longer period of time, providing a halo effect.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when choosing merchandise gifts:

  • Tech is always a big winner, if you have the budget for it. Just don't skimp by buying off-brand versions of desirable products or cheap, breakable tchotchkes.
  • Be careful with branded promotional products. A subtle bit of branding is fine but don't overdo it on the self-promotion. This shouldn't be about you and if it looks cheesy, it's not likely to be used, thus diluting the real impact of this gift type.
  • Think about higher-status brands when buying traditional office merchandise gifts. For instance, a boring mug is a terrible gift. But, a Yeti mug is a great gift due to its uniqueness and high perceived value.
  • Consider an item that helps offset something unpleasant about the workday... a desk fan or space heater for those offices that simply can't get the temperature right (not that we have any experience with that), or a desk plant to liven up a sterile space, a monitor stand or other tool to improve ergonomics, or even a package of Earth-friendly items like reusable straws and bamboo-ware for those eco-conscious workers.
  • Need at least one more idea here...

When done right, a merchandise gift will demonstrate to employees how well you know them and provide a long-lasting acknowledgement of your appreciation for their contributions. With just a little effort, these holiday gifts can be a super personal way to say “thank you” to your employees for their many contributions over the year.

Prepaid Cards Are Quick, Easy, Trackable, and Reportable

If you’re looking for a fast and simple gift option – one that administrators and recipients both love – prepaid debit cards could be your answer. These cards can be issued in any amount, and they can be used at any time during the holiday.

For example, say that you’re aware of the generous nature of a particular employee. A pre-paid debit card would enable that employee to share the holiday cheer with others – maybe by taking their family to a restaurant to celebrate, or by using the card to purchase a special gift that might otherwise not be in their budget.

An Incentive Research Foundation (IRF) study found that respondents even preferred prepaid debit card rewards to cash. With the new generation of disbursement platforms now available, you can tap into that preference and maximize the impact of your rewards program.

But it bears stressing that prepaid debit cards still play second fiddle to gift cards or even merchandise. If you have a chance to leverage one of those gift types, it is well worth your efforts.

Cash Is King... Unless It's a Gift

Who doesn't love seeing their bank accounts go up a bit around the holidays? And there's no competition when it comes to the ease of giving a little extra money as a holiday bonus. It's really nice to get, but the reason it was received disappears almost immediately.

With other forms of gifting, however, the giver is remembered and the good vibes remain associated. When it comes to the effectiveness of a gift, and what that means for you and your brand, cash is the lowest performer.

Are you in a time crunch? Cash may be your only option but that doesn't mean it's a bad thing. You can improve the impact of a cash gift by paying a bit of attention to the way it's given. Simply mentioning that it'll show up in their bank accounts at the end of the month won't cut it. At the very least, try to dress it up a bit by giving some kid of physical certificate or even a greeting card.

Do you have enough time to pair it up with something else? If you have a bit of time, then give a fun trinket of some kind that includes reference to the cash gift along with it. For instance, give a small toy or mug or other low-value gift with a note attached saying "Happy Holidays! Check your bank account for the real gift, and thank you for all that you do."

Can you give even a small amount of your attention to choosing a great gift this year? Then we'd strongly recommend almost any of the other options mentioned in this guide.

When in Doubt, Hire a Pro

In the business world, a meaningful connection is hard to come by, and impossible to fake. We help you build a bridge between the cold, hard facts of bottom lines and the authentic connections of people who feel valued.

The true value of rewards, recognition, and even holiday gift giving, is all about connecting to people. As a successful, family-run company since 1978, we understand the power of human connection and building long-lasting relationships.

Let us help you do the same for your most valuable asset: the people you work with.

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