Tim Meikle, co-owner of the Colestown Chocolate Company talks to Gill South about Christmas corporate gift giving.
Corporate gifts are an integral part of business to business relationships. They are a thank you for the business throughout the year, and if targeted correctly are a much appreciated gift. Food gifts in particular are always ideal, as it doesn't matter whether you are a CEO, or work in accounts or maybe drive a forklift in the warehouse - you most likely have a family and fine food gifts will be welcomed.
Timing of corporate gifts is very important
Some companies close early for Christmas and also many corporate gift suppliers have large orders they cannot always fulfil or will deliver late which means a lot of mad rushing around at the last minute which can also look like an afterthought.
Gifts do not have to be highly expensive, they just need to be appropriate to the recipient. There are also some customers who may have spent a lot with your business, and they would like to believe that your price is fair. Lavishing them with expensive gifts may cause them to question whether they are being overcharged.
Clients have a choice
In general, corporate clients will always want to believe that the business relationship is fair, and whilst an appropriate gift may not buy loyalty, it is recognition of the fact that they are the customer and have a choice of supplier.
Put some thought into it
As with all gifts, there has to be some thought. If the sales rep has clearly just grabbed something from a bottle store on the way round to see you, and there is no card or personalisation, then it is obvious that there is no thought. At Colestown the most popular Christmas corporate gifts are our premium gift boxes. These are only available from our shop, a number of select retailers and also direct for bulk orders. They are not something than can just be picked up anywhere and that adds to the exclusivity. It is important for gifts to not just be of the highest quality if you are recognising your best customers, but they must also be packaged well and survive the trip from supplier to your office, then out to the customer and then to their home. The outer packaging needs to be robust as well as being elegant and appropriate.
Don't forget the frontline
Also, don't forget the people at your customer who may not receive gifts, such as warehouse staff, reception, accounts receivable and so on. They can make your life easy and the hamper that goes straight from you into the boot of the boss's car may ensure you keep the business but if things ever go wrong with your product/service you may need some allies around the customers organisation.
Trends of corporate gifts
A few years ago branded clothing, beach sets, BBQ kits, picnic sets were all the rage, but generally they were poor quality and you only really need one set. If you are going down this line, just ensure that it is well made and not overly branded.
Since the start of the recession, gift giving has definitely slowed, but even small gifts in tough times are appreciated. Just giving a card or sending a Christmas email greeting may seem a nice touch, but in reality don't waste your time. Calling in to see a customer with a modest gift will be infinitely more appreciated, even if it is just left at reception if your contact is not there.
Gifts are not everything
In general, a gift cannot replace good old fashioned customer service. As a fine food manufacturer, we have a number of suppliers who provide excellent products to us - many of whom don't give gifts but we remain loyal due to the relationship built on excellent service. For others, no amount of gifts would make us loyal as the customer service basics are not done throughout the year.