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5 emerging trends in business gifting

How to give a business gift that cultivates stronger, mutually beneficial, relationships


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As we enter the holiday (and gift giving season), you may find yourself faced with the tricky business of buying gifts for clients and employees. After being immersed in the business gifting industry for the past six years (I run a locally based ecommerce company that curates unique local gifts), I’ve come up with tips for gifting within a business context.

First off, consider the primary reason a business gift is given: To help cultivate stronger, mutually beneficial, relationships. In order to achieve this goal, the most important gifting ingredients are creating a personal connection, being memorable and being authentic.

Contrary to popular belief, high-impact gifts do not need to cost hundreds of dollars. Instead, try brainstorming with your team and see what you come up with. When you focus energy on a gifting strategy, your thoughtfulness will shine through and you’ll be well on your way to making a great impression.

In recent years, significant trends and research in business gifting have emerged. Here are five of the biggest trends to keep in mind when gifting this holiday season.

New consumer values

Research shows that what individuals (and companies) value in a business gift are subtly shifting to include:

  • Gifts that are “Made in the USA” (this one has wide appeal),
  • Sustainable and eco-friendly,
  • Created by small businesses (women- and minority-owned businesses are great options as well),
  • Products that support a cause (although this can be polarizing, so choose carefully)
  • And gifts that give back in some way (for example, Tom’s shoes).

If you hit one, or even a few, of these consumer values you'll be well on your way to giving an impressive gift. Especially if you manage to tie it in to your brand story and use it to create a personal connection.

Tell a story, facilitate a personal connection

Memorability and personal connection help create stronger business relationships, which is the primary goal of business gifting. Think about how you can tell a story, share a part or yourself and create a personal connection through your gift. Some examples include:

  • Share your favorite hot sauce (this could also be a local chocolate or cocktail bitters) with your clients. Let them know you chose it because you personally love it and wanted to share it with them. This is a simple, elegant way to create a personal connection. 
  • Connect your company values by mentioning them in a gift note: "Please enjoy the enclosed goodies from local businesses run by local women, who, like XYZ Company, embrace the spirit of independence."
  • Shared roots and pride of place are impactful, too. Make a local connection in your gift note: "From our home state to your home, enjoy a taste of Colorado!"
  • One customer worked with a local candle maker to create a custom blended fragrance that was meaningful and unique to their team. They then created a larger gift that included these custom candles for a personal, memorable gift.

Minimize branded swag

While some subtle branding can elevate the overall look of a gift, it can also easily go wrong.

To start, consider that logoed gifts are the least desired of all business gifts, making recipients feel less than appreciated and resulting in lower levels of satisfaction. Why? Recipients perceive these items as marketing collateral rather than gifts. The impression these items give is that you’re saying, “think about me and my company,” rather than saying, “this is how much I value you as a client and partner.”

Companies may feel compelled to put their logo on gifts so that the recipients ‘will remember them,’ but ironically the data shows just the opposite.

Quality over quantity

A tower of treats might sound appealing, but current gifting trends indicate a preference for quality over quantity. 

Additionally, people associate gifts with a level of luxury they might not ordinarily splurge on for themselves. A lower quality gift can even create negative feelings when the recipient inevitably purges it in the future.

Quantity, however, does work. Most recipients will appreciate the opportunity to create a memorable experience by sharing a gift with colleagues or family and friends.

The 'perfect' gifting formula

First, a disclaimer: There is no perfect gifting formula. If after reading the above four gifting strategies ideas are springing to mind – take your ideas and run with them. The fact that being thoughtful about your gifting strategy will be demonstrated to customers and partners in a big way.

However, if you’re not so sure what direction to go in, you’re not alone. And in fact, I started my business because I needed a way to send gifts that had great style and were personal, but still offered wide ranging appeal. So, I’m partial to gift baskets as a vehicle to give high quality and unique, yet affordable, gifts.

But the typical old school gift basket just won't get the job done. In my experience, there’s a gifting formula that works well for this type of situation:

  • Start with one nice keepsake or useful item. Ideally this is something your client will keep around and use day to day. For example: a notebook, tea towel, coffee mug that shows off local pride, travel accessories, etc. Try not to put your logo on this.
  • Add a Personal Connection Product. This can be a small thing; the most important part is that you’ve tried it and genuinely like it. Then you’ll be able to use it to create a little warm connection by sharing that it was hand-selected. A locally made chocolate bar you've tried and loved is a great example. 
  • Complete with Shareable Consumables, or other. We're partial to gourmet food. These give the recipient an opportunity to share with colleagues or family members and create a warm memorable experience. These also serve to complete the gift, so it feels bountiful. Alternately, consider a donation to a charitable organization that aligns with your brand values.

Sarah Welle is a co-founder of Colorado Crafted, an ecommerce business that specializes in creating modern gift boxes by curating artisan-made products from around Colorado. For more information, contact: sarah@coloradocraftedbox.com or 206-910-9988.

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