espite what you might expect, corporate gifting is on the rise, as nearly 50% of companies plan to increase the frequency of their gift giving post-COVID-19, according to a Coresight Research corporate gifting survey. If you’re not pitching these programs to your clients, this is the perfect time to start. In fact, all year long is the perfect season for corporate gifting.
It’s an exciting moment for the corporate gifting market, since it’s recently experienced some massive growth. This sector is projected to reach $242 billion, and experience an additional $64 billion bump during the next three years to reach $306 billion by 2024.
“Corporate gifting isn’t just gifting. It’s an investment into your relationship account with that person.”
- Tyrone M. Robinson III, owner and business consultant at Opportunities 2 Serve
During the pandemic, 35% of companies significantly increased their gifting frequency, to reach people working at home, Coresight found. Plus, 66% of those companies that increased gifting frequency did so to keep their teams motivated and engaged, and nearly 60% increased gifting to maintain connections with their clients.
“Corporate gifting is a sign of appreciation and thoughtfulness that goes a long way when it comes to people in general,” says Tyrone M. Robinson III, owner and business consultant at Opportunities 2 Serve. “Companies should do gifting programs as frequently as they’re moved to, and can afford to do so. This means showing employees, clients and partners you appreciate them, along with rewarding extraordinary efforts and paying it forward in new relationships, like with prospects.”
Here’s everything you need to know about rocking the corporate gift space.
The extreme effectiveness of gift giving.
Let’s start with the basics: Corporate gifting is when a company creates a touchpoint with employees, customers, partners or prospects with a special gift—like a branded or personalized clothing item, practical promo product, gift card or an edible treat. Gifting is so important since it creates a sense of connection between the recipient and the brand, especially when it’s part of an overall marketing strategy or employee retention effort. In fact, 68% of people who’ve received a “memorable” gift or gift box from a business say it strengthened their relationship with that business.
“The only real challenge to selling apparel and accessories for corporate gifting? Finding something unique that creates a special connection for your client.”
- Shawn LaFave, President of NGA Promotions
“Corporate gifting with high-quality, branded apparel can—and should—be done anytime,” says Shawn LaFave, president of NGA Promotions. “You can prepare a corporate gifting calendar based on work anniversaries, Daylight Savings time or even the first day of a new season. Apparel creates a feeling of care and connection that goes far beyond pens, can coolers or other typical logoed merchandise.”
Here’s how you can help your customers connect with their clients, prospects and employees with branded apparel:
Since it costs 7x more to acquire a new customer than to keep an existing one happy, sending well-timed gifts to loyal long-time and repeat customers is a sound strategy. A branded scarf or cap, for example, can encourage a customer to renew their service or buy again. A gift can spark referrals and also put a company top of mind whenever the recipient reaches for the product. Plus: A retail study from Motista concluded that customers who are “emotionally connected” to a brand have a 306% higher lifetime value than those who are merely “satisfied.”
If your clients want to increase their customer base, thoughtful gifting can motivate on-the-fence prospects to book a sales call or become first-time buyers. Receiving a cool T-shirt can move that needle, especially since 80% of consumers say they’re more likely to do business with a company if it offers a personalized experience or touchpoint, Instapage reports.
Of course, employee recognition and retention are interconnected. In fact,
SurveyMonkey partnered with Bonusly to find out just how much: 63% of employees who were “always” or “usually” recognized said that they’re “very unlikely” to job hunt in the next three to six months. In contrast, only 11% of those who are “never” or “rarely” recognized would agree. When a corporate team is happy, there’s more unity and higher morale—and that translates to better customer service.
Within an employee gifting or recognition program, there’s lots of opportunity to give quality, branded apparel, like:
- Personal milestones: These include birthdays, graduations, birth of a new family member, a new home and more.
- Company milestones: Think years of service or milestone anniversaries, promotions or completing industry-specific training.
- Special recognition: Here, the possibilities are endless, and can include when an employee went the extra mile or really accomplished something extraordinary.
Here’s why premium apparel make for more meaningful gifts.
Howard Potter, CEO of A&P Master Images, remembers that when he opened his shop nearly two decades ago, people would wear their logoed company T-shirts for weekend yard work or cleaning projects. “The good news is, the tides have really turned,” he says.
“Companies buying quality apparel care how it’s customized. Recipients want to wear these pieces year round, out and about, scoring brands lots more impressions.”
- Howard Potter, CEO of A&P Master Images
LaFave agrees, saying that if a company gives inexpensive apparel, recipients feel undervalued when they get it. “That’s why corporate buyers are trending toward higher-end apparel,” he says. “These can range from a nice lightweight, fashion-forward hoodie with decoration on just the left chest for recipients in the fitness field to a full-back embroidered design for a trucking company.”
Lots of people don’t buy that high-end jacket or hoodie for themselves, so getting it from their employer or a brand they love can be twice as nice. “Look, higher-end apparel with a tasteful company logo can be a great gift because people like comfortable, well-fitting apparel they don’t have to purchase themselves,” Robinson says. “Everyone likes a wearable gift that’s applicable to everyday life. Crack the color, size and fit code—and you’re gold!”
Get going with corporate gifting.
Here are nine ways to get your clients excited about a gifting program they can use all year long to connect with clients, prospects and employees—and get lots more brand impressions.
“Higher-end apparel with a tasteful company logo is a great gift because people like comfortable, great-fitting apparel. Crack the color, size and fit code—and you’re gold!”
- Tyrone Robinson III, owner and business consultant at Opportunities 2 Serve
1. Tune-in to popular apparel categories and decoration methods for corporate gifting.
“We fulfill a lot of higher-quality polos, pullovers and outerwear for corporate gifts,” LaFave says. The key to identifying what apparel to pitch is to first choose on-trend styles the target recipients can wear most of the year. Retail-level detailing, super-soft fabrications, performance properties and name brands add to the apparel’s perceived value.
Then choose decoration methods that up the ante. “We embroider most of our corporate gifts, but the newer digitally printed heat transfers and patches have been very popular lately.”
At A&P Master Images, the top five in-demand decoration options for corporate gifts are: embroidery, sublimation, screen printing, 3-D laser work and vinyl graphics.
2. Learn how to present corporate gift items to clients in a way that resonates.
“Our clients need to see what they don’t know they’re missing,” says LaFave, who uses his 900-square-foot showroom to display the newest and best-selling apparel styles. “You can even gift decision-makers with the apparel items you think will be great corporate gifts. Everyone loves unexpected gifts!”
Robinson, who buys corporate apparel gifts, says in-person demos from his vendors are the best way to pitch corporate apparel ideas. “I like to see the selections in person, feel the material and experience the fit,” he says. “After a live demo, I also like to see a digital mockup of the apparel style with my logo on it.”
Pro tip: Don’t forget to present hard goods, like versatile tumblers, along with apparel styles. “We incorporate hard goods when setting up corporate gifting marketing plans,” LaFave. “These 3-D products just add the extra wow factor when a recipient opens their gift package.”
For hard goods like tumblers, buyers like Robinson don’t need to necessarily see those in person. “A digital mockup works,” he says.
3. Gift-giving companies want print shops to help them out.
The Coresight Research study, Unwrapping the American Corporate Gifting Opportunity, found that while the market is poised for continued growth, corporate gift givers are facing challenges with the gift purchasing experience due to a lack of innovation. Gift buyers want higher quality (spending up to $75-$100 per gift) and greater variety of gifts, timely delivery, and a simplified end-to-end gifting process. What’s your shop poised to offer?
“Using a company that handles fulfillment can help create the packages for you, which takes the burden off of your staff’s shoulders,” Potter says. “We also use poly mailers and put flyers in them with the products.”
Plus, it’s a no-brainer for print shops to create and fulfill online stores for corporate gifting and recognition programs. “We set up company stores for free and even create gift cards to complement them,” Potter says.
Pro tip: If you’re new to creating online stores, there are several industry-specific vendors to help you create your platform. These include: InkSoft, Printavo, OrderMyGear, DecoNetwork and Spirit Sale.
4. Do some gifting of your own.
LaFave’s business has its own annual gifting program where they send clients logoed products that they might also consider for gifting. “Yes, it costs money to do this, but think about going after or just keeping that client who spends $100,000 a year with you on other things,” he says. “Isn’t it worth $1,000 to $3,000 a year in gifting to keep that client engaged and your business top of mind when it comes time for them to start or renew a gifting plan?”
5. Events are still great drivers for apparel gifts.
During COVID-19, when the events industry moved to digital formats, nearly half (48%) of event organizers used gifts to increase engagement and show appreciation. Now that hybrid in-person and virtual events will remain the norm, logoed apparel is a great option to unify attendees and create a memorable experience. If your clients offer events, suggest branded apparel as part of their swag packs for in-person and virtual guests.
6. Gifts with social impact matter even more.
When companies gift items with a philanthropic benefit, 53% of recipients are “more delighted” by a gift with a positive social impact; 43% say they’re more likely to to recommend a company on the basis of this gift; and 33% will spend more with companies that gift items with positive social impact for causes they care about, the Business Gifting Report found. If you can help your clients connect with eco-friendly apparel or clothing from brands that make a difference, that’s a great start. “Corporate gifting isn’t just ‘gifting,’” Robinson says. “It’s an investment into your relationship account with that person.”
7. Be aware of longer lead times.
NGA Promotions pitches unique apparel and accessories that help clients connect with customers and employees. “I’m a firm believer in exceeding expectations, and that’s even more important now with stock issues and extended lead times,” LaFave says. “Don’t be afraid to tell your clients there might be a three-to-four-week lead time with certain products. Be as transparent as possible. That way, they can have their unique products and you can increase your sales.”
8. Be aware of timing and costs.
It’s great if you score a big corporate gifting program that you’ll fulfill via an online store, but Potter advises being hyper-aware of what’s involved. “You need to understand your production times, along with pack-out and shipping costs, so you can build time and financial buffers,” he says. “Also remember that screen printing isn’t possible with one offs, so you need to have them in bulk to hold stock.”
9. Start out slow, if you’re new to corporate gifting programs.
“Do some work for a couple smaller companies and let them know you’re new to it and give them a discount,” Potter says. “You can work out any bugs in the process at a smaller level as you get started. Learn to crawl before you walk, or this effort can crush your shop’s production and profit.“
A very powerful form of marketing.
Corporate gifting shows clients, prospects and employees that a company cares about them—and helps with retention. “It’s a very powerful form of marketing,” Potter says. “Branded apparel gifts are also direct marketing that keeps you in front of people, and it’s a much cheaper and longer-lasting option compared to TV, radio and newspaper ads! By introducing your corporate customers to gifting outside of the holiday season, you’re being proactive, and helping them become more visible too.”