Creative corporate gift giving at your small business: It’s not just what you give but to whom

As mentioned in my last article, Do not make this mistake when choosing your corporate gifts, fresh out of university, I landed my first job as a marketing assistant at a high-end sales organization. Our client profile was very specific – CEOs, partners and key decision makers all with unique business needs that our company could fill. Or, sadly, any one of our competitors could fill.

After speaking extensively to our sales team, I learned that they felt confident in making the sale if they could make it past the gate keeper. Unfortunately, the gatekeepers had highly honed skills in repelling cold calls and visits.

Armed with the knowledge that gatekeepers were a major barrier (translation: thorn-in-the-side) of our sales people, I was determined to look for an opportunity to address this problem, despite the fact that my junior status and short time with company did not allow for me to have much say in the direction of our marketing strategy.

My opportunity did come, just a couple of months later. I was tasked with finding unique and creative holiday gifts for our clients and would-be clients, and then presenting a few options to my manager and her manager. Not an insurmountable task, especially considering that several staff members jokingly told me that it really didn’t matter what items I picked, they would be a major improvement over the previous year’s fiasco (read more about that here).

After doing my research, I nervously presented options for gifts and also recipients. It went something along the lines of, “For the last decade we’ve spent X amount of dollars on card and gift buying for potential clients each and every holiday season. I would like to suggest taking a different tact this year. I’m convinced that it will not only cost us less money but also help us gain better access to our recipient list…” Yes, I did practice my presentation in the mirror the night before, if you’re wondering.

Of course I suggested that we purchase holiday gifts for the gatekeepers as opposed to our clients. I appealed for my boss to imagine how much good will it would generate among gatekeepers, who are handing off our competitor’s expensive gifts that their bosses likely care little for, when suddenly there is a gift, accompanied with a hand written note, just for them! I presented gift options, all of which were items that could be kept on a desk year round, and looked at when our sales people requested an appointment. I followed with the suggestion that, if we were determined to give gifts to the decision makers, why not wait until after the holiday season? Why offer one gift basket in a sea of gift baskets when you could be the only company to send golf balls and tees when the grass is green?

My bosses were hesitant at first. After all, gifting is expected during the holiday…isn’t it?

In the end they decided to give it a try. And guess what? We actually had a few gate keepers calling us! We received thank you’s from receptionists, executive assistants and office managers. We followed up with those who didn’t contact us to ensure that they received their gifts and wish them a happy holiday.  Our salespeople then followed up. The outcome was staggering. We had a huge increase in appointments throughout the next year, allowing our sales people to do what they do best – sell!

The moral of the story is, it’s not just what you give but to whom you give. And sometimes a little creative thinking can go a long way in accomplishing your goals.

Next week, I will talk about how a mistake with our holiday party planning led to reducing employee stress while saving our small business money. This advice is easily transferable to virtually any entrepreneur planning to throw a holiday party or two so please tune in!

Happy holidays!

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