This holiday season, companies are tapping both traditional and innovative routes in their approach to buying clients gifts. But whether they're sticking to chocolates or splurging on pre-paid experiences, it's about squeezing the most out of every dollar spent.
Thanking a client is no longer the simple task of sending the same bottle of wine down the entire mailing list. Presentation, customization, and lasting impressions are key details that had businesses already thinking about what and how to gift.
Here's a look at some of the most popular corporate gifts this season.
By Cynthia Lin
Posted 8 Nov 2010
The classic gift basket packed with gourmet foods and wines is still the king of corporate gifts, offering a wide range of prices, sizes, packaging options, and mixing and matching of items.
"Food especially carries high emotional value, much more than a cash gift... and is almost universally appreciated," said Paul Reed, president of PFR Corporate Gifts, adding that the most effective gifts are those that draw on emotions, leading to the highest return on the gift-giver's investment.
Corporations sent about $2.7 billion worth of gourmet food as gifts in 2009, growing even in the face of the recession, up 3.8 percent from 2007. That represents about a third of corporate gift purchases, and remains the bread and butter of the business gifting community.
Chocolate remains one of the most fail-safe gifts of the holidays. The Ultimate Collection, pictured here, is one of Godiva's higher-ticket items at $150, and it was designed with the corporate gift-giver in mind. The product stands out in sheer size and presentation.
According to Chief Marketing Officer Lauri Kien Kotcher, companies tend to spend more on clients than they do on their own employees. At a more modest $45, the most popular Godiva item among businesses during the holiday season is the 36-piece Holiday Gold Ballotin.
The Godiva Chocolatierrecently expanded its online store to include an array of baked goods, offering a wider selection for corporate orders, which occur largely over the Internet.
Companies are trying to get more bang for each gifting buck. Instead of a single pricey present over the holidays, "of the month" programs for items such as wine or cheese are becoming a popular way to stay top-of-mind with clients.
Buying a client membership into one of these clubs sets up a monthly reminder of who to go to for their business needs. While "Wine of the Month" has picked up steam in the corporate world, a whole slew of clubs — candles, movies, hot sauces, ice cream, flavored olive oil, you name it — is sprouting up to help businesses cater to their clients' tastes.
At e-CorporateGifts.com,leather-bound products and crystal paperweights have been selling like hotcakes, according to the online retailer's vice president of sales Terry Keating. Bulk orders have been trickling in since July, with a surprising boost in international demand.
From the military to the slowly-returning financial institutions, customization is key with these more traditional gifts. Keating says he's seeing a lot of "thank you" messages being engraved, and suspects shipments are being requested at such an early stage in order for companies to wrap the gifts themselves and personally present it to their clients.
It's all about making someone ask, "Where did you get that," says Dana Holmes, trend editor of Gifts.com.
Nifty desk gadgets, beyond the ordinary pencil holder or paperweight, can prompt this question and drop the corporate gifter's name into the conversation. Holmes points to an engraved desk kaleidoscope, priced at $44.95 available at Gift Tree, or the Ex Pen Holder, for $39.99, offered by The Perpetual Kidas fun ideas that will stand out at the office.
Being green is by no means new this holiday season, but when it aligns with a client's interests, eco-friendly gifts can serve multiple purposes.
As a present and a sign of environmental consciousness, there is a growing number of gifts that are organic, recycled, or solar-powered. The "unkillable office plant," priced between $35 to $80, can make an office more inviting, while a water-powered clock, which sells for $14.50, can serve as a useful tool.
Hugely popular in the financial services sector before the recession, founder Tim Zagat says "banks are back," in addition to the growing variety of industries that use this booklet as a marketing tool. Since the slump, the brand has expanded both online and in the number of cities they cover.
While corporations can personalize these guides by stamping the front and back covers, Zagat also allows companies to "totally customize" each book. That means rejiggering the booklets to fit a theme that caters to their clients. Companies like First Republic Bank send clients guides that cover a wide range of cities with content that cater to a more upscale lifestyle. Those in the service industry may like to see restaurants' Zagat service ratings ahead of food rankings. In the dating service business? Make a book of romantic restaurants, or as one customer did, a list of best restaurant for break-ups.
Online subscriptions to the guide are also available, letting companies own the pages their clients see. Instead of advertisements, businesses can stick their logos or messages on every page — another way to stay in front of their clients.
The traditional Zagat guides sell for about $10 per book, depending on the order volume.
Always wise to check company policy first as tickets to an event can get expensive, but experiential gifts are the ultimate form of customization.
From golf tour access or seats to a game, to opera, concert, and theater tickets, an experience can be unforgettable and often forms a stronger emotional connection.
Understanding what one's client is a fan of is always key, but when done right, event tickets can also become a fond memory. Sites such as CompleteTickets.comhelp companies find the right tickets at an appropriate price.
Donations were a big hit among last year's corporate gifts. Analysts say this charitable approach is not going anywhere, and in fact is becoming more customizable.
Just Giveallows companies to buy gift cards to fill with a certain dollar amount. Their clients can then log onto the site and select the cause for the donation.
Pricier, but most likely to make a lasting impression, a pre-paid experience is climbing the list at more progressive corporations that know their clients well. The intangible gift can include a trip to the spa, food and wine tastings, disc jockey lessons, or race car driving.
Companies such as Cloud 9 Living offers Living Experience Gift Certificates at various pricing tiers. A $150 Yellow Certificate, for instance, allows the recipient to choose from a catalogue of over 1,500 experiences.
Another site, Giftybox.comsells adventures in a box — a custom-themed packaging of guidebooks and a "Passport" booklet of additional deals that come along with the actual gift certificate.