Kelly Rarere - managing director of corporate gift company Billy Goat Promotions, talks to Gill South about the niceties of corporate gift giving.
What should SMEs be considering when they send out their Christmas
corporate gifts for the year?
When a company sends a gift with their name on it, they're also sending a message about their company, so it's important to send the right message. Budget is obviously a key factor in the decision making process, but even with a small budget a company can find gifts that will stand out from the rest.
Cheap, unoriginal gifts are a waste of money as they often either break after a short time or are of so little value to the recipient that they are soon forgotten or lost.
I've had feedback from customers who've had people tell them: "If a company gives me a pen that breaks the first time I use it, I'll never deal with that company again." People definitely notice when they're not given the respect they deserve (or think they deserve), and they won't forget it.
Giving them a quality gift that they'll love doesn't guarantee their lifelong loyalty, but it does remind them how much you value their business and create goodwill that may be a crucial factor in future decisions.
My advice is to treat Christmas gifts as an investment rather than an expense and focus on high quality, high use products that your customers will genuinely appreciate and will use for a long time to come.
There's no better marketing tool than having your brand proudly displayed on an item that the recipient will value and use frequently for years and if the budget doesn't stretch to buying a quality gift for all your customers, focus on those whose business you can't afford to do without first.
What do some companies do to thank clients, in your experience?
I don't believe in giving generic gifts that don't say anything about the company that sends it, so I encourage my customers to think strategically and we work together to select an appropriate gift.
Many gift recipients will be sent tokens of appreciation from other companies as well, so it's important to give something which is both unique and appropriate so it'll be remembered and appreciated well into the new year and beyond. It's a good idea to get a clear idea of the customer base and find things they know will have broad appeal within their category.
For instance, one customer deals exclusively with farmers so practical gifts such as Leatherman multi-tools that will be useful on the farm are always well received. Last year was quite different as a lot of customers directed their budgets to corporate entertaining, most notably at the Rugby World Cup.
Are Christmas drinks parties a good idea in some situations rather than a gift? Or another event?
Christmas parties can be a great way of showing appreciation to customers and staff, as long as they're done well. The problem is that they tend to take place at a time of year when people are inundated with events to go to, so it's difficult to make them stand out and be remembered.
Sending a quality gift that'll last a long time and be used often means the ongoing benefits for your brand will continue long after memories of a party may fade, providing much greater value for money.
Does Christmas have to cost SMEs the earth when drawing up the budget for corporate gifts?
Absolutely not! A big impact can be made with a smaller budget, the key is to assign the budget to where it'll be most effective. Allocate the bulk of the available spend to showing your most important clients how much you value their business, and for smaller clients an acknowledgement with a card or something cheaper and simpler is sufficient.
Depending on the nature of your business and various customer levels, it may be better to spend 80 per cent or more of your budget on 10-20 per cent of your customers if that's the way to ensure that your most important customers are treated with the respect they deserve.
Next week we're looking at how small businesses go about hiring their staff? Do you use recruitment agencies or local networks? What have your best (and worse) experiences been? Email me, Gill South at the link below: