Given today’s business economy and the need to cut costs at every turn, can corporate gift- giving still be considered a reasonable cost of doing business? From “tchotchkes” to extravagant weekend spa packages and vacations, companies have historically given business gifts. The reasons for gift-giving vary from a way to reward clients to motivating your employees. But what about using gifts as a marketing tool?
Corporate business gifts are a highly visible form of B2B marketing, a way to add value to your product, service or brand. For professional service providers (i.e, lawyers, accountants, management consultants, etc.), giving a thoughtful gift to a client can build loyalty in a time when switching to your competitor is merely an internet search away. Competition is stiff and competencies are purportedly interchangeable. As a result, distinguishing yourself in the marketplace is perhaps now more critical than ever.
Remember, the fundamental idea behind corporate gift giving is to say “thank you” like you mean it. Baring that in mind, here are some guidelines that will help achieve the desired result:
This cannot be overemphasized. The expense of a gift will not matter in the least if it embarrasses or offends the recipient. For example, liquor might be a valued gift for many, but for someone whose personal preference or religious beliefs prevent them from alcohol consumption, even the rarest bottle of wine will likely not be appreciated.
Exercising some due diligence on what the client or service provider likes will go a long way towards ensuring that the gift is received in the spirit it was given. If it then turns out that bottle of wine is appropriate, all the better.
There is a significant difference between business gifts and give-aways. Companies that give away promotional items guarantee that the client remembers who gave them the gift, but not necessarily fondly. Promotional products have a different purpose and should not be used as a business gift. After all, how special can it be if you’ve got the same pen or business card holder by the dozen in the storeroom?
In fact, the more important the intended recipient is (especially if s/he is a government employee), the more a monetary gift may resemble an attempt to improperly buy influence.
What could be more appreciated than the arrival of a carefully selected gift basket of gourmet cheeses, sausages and artisan breads or crackers just to say thank you! Consider giving a select assortment of fine chocolates for the chocoholic, or stemware for the client you know to be a wine connoisseur.
There are countless beautiful gifts a professional can give that will be memorable for all the right reasons. If the idea is to reward loyalty or to say ‘thanks for the business’, a business gift giving plan is a great idea, sure to enhance any professional’s image and reputation. And that is a gift that keeps on giving.
Research indicates that almost 80% of consumers find new professional services, or any product for that matter, on a referral basis. Why? Not surprisingly, 90% of people believe that word of mouth referral is the most trustworthy source of information.
For many service providers – lawyers, CPAs, financial advisors, insurance and mortgage brokers – their best source of new business is sitting right underneath them. It’s their existing clients. It’s a readily available database of contacts that has worked with you already, so what better group of individuals to vouch for your work and refer new business your way? The question is, “How do you get them to spread the word and refer new business?”
Sometimes it’s just luck, but more often than not it will be based on the strength of your relationship with your client. This will be based on a number of factors, some of which are within your control, some of which are out of your control. Performing quality work at the right price won’t necessarily get your client to open his or her mouth, however. It is going to be your ability to stand out in your client’s mind that will ultimately determine whether or not you get a referral. And this takes time as it largely depends on how many quality interactions you have with your client on an annual basis. Do you think you stand out in your client’s mind now?
This is where it gets tricky. Many service providers don’t feel comfortable coming right out and asking their existing clients for referrals. If they do, it might be once or twice, but anything beyond that might be negatively perceived. There are plenty of tactics to market to existing clients – such as newsletters, email marketing, dinners, or sponsored events – but how effective are those channels? Generally speaking, direct mail and email marketing efforts yield conversion rates under 1%, while dinners or sponsored events can easily run into thousand-dollar plus (or hundred-thousand-dollar plus) events and often reach very small audiences. So this often leaves many service providers asking, “Is there a better way to market to my existing clients?”
This was a trick question – your answer should be “almost zero”, regardless of your function within a professional services firm. For any service provider – CPAs, Lawyers, and Financial Advisors alike – time is their commodity, it’s what they sell. So many marketing activities, which are done with the goal of driving new or repeat business, often fall by the wayside.
The best marketing strategies are the ones that (1) take the least amount of time to implement, (2) allow for a very targeted approach, and (3) offer clear cost-control capabilities… all of which is done for the purpose of strengthening existing client relationships. Because almost any service provider knows that their next piece of business is either going to come from an existing client or a new word of mouth referral from an existing client. So you have to effectively market to your existing clients to be… effective!
Call or visit Giftsontime.com (888-468-1830) and see if our free gift planning tools can help you stay “Top of Mind” with your Clients.
We just recently finished a series of prospecting campaigns that turned out even better than we expected. We went “old school“. We were genuine. We went direct.
The funny thing is that our business itself is a “spin” on a widely practiced sales and marketing technique that just fell by the wayside because it isn’t easy to manage – gift giving. The reality is that gift giving is a number of things, but to name a few directly- a sales prospecting tool and a way to boost your conversion rates. Here’s what we did to turn $1,000 into a 50%+ conversion…
We started by asking our top five sales people to pick out their top ten leads. The, “make or break,” leads. This was the easy part – most people in sales or business development, at least the good ones, will be able to tell you their top leads at the drop of a hat. No problems here.
For the first campaign, we decided to set a budget of no more than $20 per lead. Plus shipping and handling, we landed at about $25 per lead. It may be expensive compared to PPC advertising or just sending an email, but the conversion (“yes I’m interested,” or, “no, we’re not interested this year,” is what we were interested in. So we moved forward.
The next step was to craft the message. This really isn’t that hard if you know what you want to say. And the best thing to say is the truth. So that’s exactly what we told our prospects… that we can help make gift giving easier for them this holiday season. That’s one part of our business. For you, it might be something different, but we went directly with what we do, in a genuine tone, and asked for a brief conversation to speak further.
Now we had to decide what we wanted to send and how to send it. For us it was convenient because we just used our own platform (see how you can use our platform too), and initiated a custom gift-giving campaign with Godiva Chocolates. To be honest, we never really thought about using our own platform to do sales and marketing, but it “dawned” on us that it was possible, right in front of us, and ready to go, so that’s the path we chose.
After the recipient list was developed, the order was submitted to the vendor, and the letters were sealed and sent, we had a follow up campaign in mind. We knew when the gifts would be delivered and when we should expect a, “Thank You,” by phone or email… so if we didn’t get one within two or three days we followed up with a polite email. If we didn’t hear back from a gift recipient, we just kept following up – five times total. And what was our “reward”?
For this particular campaign, we had a 75% response rate (60% positive, 15% no go). And by conversion, I mean, “the percentage of people that got back to us with an, ‘I would like to learn more,’ or, ‘thank you so much but I’m not interested right now’.” Isn’t that what any good salesperson is looking for?
Should everyone have replied to us? Probably. But we didn’t worry about it because we were too busy talking to the people that actually wanted to do business with us.
Our takeaway is this – gift giving is a highly targeted marketing strategy that works for us… we just so happen to be in the business of making it easy to do which is why we tested our own business on ourselves. Why do we think it works? Well, when you get a gift, do you not feel the obligation to at least respond with a thank you? That’s how we feel too, so that’s why we knew it would help us stand out.
First, “future gifting” isn’t related to your plans to leave your riches to your loved ones after you’re gone. Instead, it is the tool that enables you to build stronger business relationships, whether that’s with your clients of your employees. Specifically, future gifting allows you to schedule all of the gifts that you plan to send for an entire year in a single sitting.
So, if “Future Gifting” is the “how” we do it, the question remains, “What does it achieve and why should I care?”
Before founding GiftsOnTime.com with his son, Ron Orleans, our CEO, was a Certified Public Accountant. In fact, he was a partner and director of marketing at a large, Boston-based CPA firm. During his 40+ year career, Ron realized that to stand out as a service provider he needed to have strong relationships with his clients.
Why? Because he knew that his business would grow through word of mouth referrals from his existing clients. The problem, however, is that word of mouth is not easy to control! He also knew that traditional marketing tactics such as newsletters, tax planning guides, and e-mail marketing were largely considered, “White Noise.” So his challenge was to find a way to market his services to existing customers in a way that built stronger client relationships in a targeted, time and cost-controlled manner. His solution was gift giving on significant client occasions.
For any service provider – CPAs, Lawyers, and Financial Advisors alike – time is their commodity, it’s what they sell. So acts of client appreciation (such as gift giving), which are done with the goal of driving new, or repeat business often fall by the wayside.
The truth is that for service providers, the best marketing strategies are the ones that:
(1) Take the least amount of time to implement,
(2) Allow for a very targeted approach, and
(3) Offer clear cost-control capabilities…
…all of which is done for the purpose of strengthening existing client relationships. Because almost any service provider knows that their next piece of business is either going to come from an existing client or a new word of mouth referral from an existing client. So you have to effectively market to your existing clients to be… effective!
This is where GiftsOnTime.com fits in. Our web-based platform simply makes gift-giving easy. It was designed to allow service providers to strengthen the client bond without sacrificing their precious time because it combines a basic contact management system with an e-commerce platform. This idea is at the heart of our Future Gifting Technology.
In practice, anyone with a client base only has to upload their clients’ basic contact information (name and mailing address), select the occasions on which they want to send gifts for their clients, select the gifts associated with those occasions, and submit their order for the ENTIRE CALENDAR YEAR. But, as we evolved, we also realized that the product’s application didn’t stop with service providers – it can also be used by anyone who wants to implement a simpler employee appreciation solution.
Our Future Gifting technology takes care of the rest. The best part is that the setup process typically requires less than an hour… and it’s free to use.
So, that’s a little bit about us. That’s the story behind GiftsOnTime.com.
Sure, I know that the partners at McLain, Calhoun, McCullough, Clark & Co., P.C. were not thinking of me specifically this week, but I do know that they did think enough of me to add me to the list of people who receive their annual, unique gift.
You see, McLain Calhoun is located in Vidalia, Georgia – you all know what that means when it comes to onions, Vidalia onions are sweet and delicious.
How about your firm, are you recognizing your important clients and your valuable people by “remembering” them each year with a gift?
There are a lot of great ideas out there for gifts, but I met the people from Gifts On Time last fall and they make it easy for busy CPAs to schedule their gift-giving. They call it “gift management simplified.” One of the founders is actually a CPA – Ron Orleans.
I also encourage you to consider gifts for prospects. How can they refuse a phone call from someone who has sent them a nice gift. At my firm we did this all the time – – – send a letter, then a card, then a gift – then make a phone call.
I bet you never thought you would see a picture of me with onions! Maybe I should add it to my “Is that you with Rita?” album.
See how GiftsOnTime.com works! It’s the only free platform for busy professionals to pre-plan and automate gift giving for an entire year in just a few minutes. Go to www.giftsontime.com to see how we can help you.
If you are in sales and feeling the pressure to beat quarterly sales targets, here are a few things to keep in mind beyond the obvious “The Customer Is Always Right”…
If your product or service is about to have a price reduction or promotion, communicate that to clients! People love to feel as if they are getting a deal, and getting an email or phone call with a Head’s up about an upcoming bargain makes them feel like you care about them.
Its not too late! Loyalty should be rewarded. Even if your company doesn’t have a formal Rewards Program in place, you can deliver a volume-based program to your best customers. Let them know that the more they buy, the bigger the discount you’ll be able to provide. Or, if they reach a pre-set buying goal, they will be rewarded with free products and services. Just keep in mind there are Pros and Cons to every reward program.
Every business has primary and secondary customers. It’s important to know which customers fit in to which category and sell to them in a way that meets their specific needs. Rating your customers is not as difficult as you may think. Primary customers have earned your attention. They like to be reminded that they are special. Secondary customers can turn in to Primary by communicating regularly with them, understanding their specific needs and creatively meeting those needs. Prospecting for new customers? They fall into a third tier. Sales strategies designed to target new customers are very different from customer-care based strategies. What promotion tools make the most sense to promote your product, but stick with the marketing image you want to project? Do you track the different ways your promote your product so that you know which methods are most effective? Are you promoting on the Internet effectively?
The age-old sales weapon. If your product or service is good and potential clients have an opportunity to try it, they may just like it well enough to buy. Everyone loves free stuff!
And finally, let your customers know they matter to you. The easiest and most special way to communicate that someone matters is with a gift. You can spend as little as $25, or as much as $250. A gift is a powerful sales tool and a great way to help beat quarterly sales targets.
It’s that time of year again…Do you need a jump-start on writing sales goals to submit to your new manager (or the old one)? Here’s an outline to get you started:
Step One: When you work in sales, you start the New Year with a clean slate and view the new sales year as an opportunity for improvement. List your sales goals and be specific. You may set a goal of increasing your yearly sales by $20,000 or increasing your number of clients by the end of the sales year. Write out your goals and post your goals on the wall to keep you inspired.
Step Two: Break your larger goals into mini-goals. If your primary objective is an additional $20,000 in sales, plan to achieve this goal over the course of 12 months. For example, you could increase monthly sales by at least $1,600 to reach your main goal. Create a timeline for reaching milestones. Write out each month and identify what you hope to accomplish before the month ends. Plan to achieve half of your sales goals by mid-year, or establish quarterly goals.
Step Three: Write down the steps needed to achieve your goals. Create a list of current sales tactics and then brainstorm new ways to improve your sales. Spend a couple of hours each day or week cold calling news businesses, pass out your business cards or brochures, follow up on previous interest or work a few extra hours each week.
Step Four: Keep a record of your progress. Refer to your timeline at the end of each month and put a check next to each completed item or accomplishment. Make adjustments to next month’s goals as needed. For example, if your monthly sales were $200 less than your target, increase the next month’s goal by $200 to compensate for the shortfall.
Now its time to get working on developing your plan. And don’t forget to reward your best customers with a gift fromGiftsOnTime.com!
For your, “most desired,” prospects, build a simple landing page that’s customized just for your prospect – provide them with an introduction, tools, resources, and information that are all relevant to their needs and shows them you understand their business. See how to do it here: How to Create a Landing Page.
Comment on their company’s blog, answer their questions on LinkedIn (see -> “More”, “Answers”), and follow them through Twitter. You might be surprised how much feedback you get, and it’s not always about selling – it’s about staying top of mind. Learn more here: How To Use LinkedIn Answers.
Set up RSS feeds and News Alerts for your prospects (either company’s name or individual’s name) – these are simple opportunities to stay in touch and recognize significant events for your prospects. Google Alerts is a pretty easy and effective tool that we use.
Sending gifts, for example, on key occasions such as business anniversaries, deal closings, proposal meetings, etc. will help you stand out. Remember – when you send a gift, you create a reciprocal emotional bond between the giver and the recipient that will strengthen your business relationship. See how we did it here: How to Run an Effective Gift Giving Campaign.
Wondering about existing clients and customers? Click here to download our free eBook to learn more about our thoughts on building stonger client relationships: http://giftsontime.com/resources.php
Sending client gifts can be a highly effective marketing and relationship building tool… if done correctly. Here’s a snapshot of the 5 common mistakes people make when sending client gifts.
Don’t get me wrong. Corporate branding is very important, but it has its time and place. That time is not when you’re sending a gift to a client or customer. Why? Well, quite honestly, when you send a gift with your company’s logo on it (or worse, all over it), the gift becomes about you, not the recipient.
Alongside mistake #1, chachkis absolutely have their place in business – trade shows, corporate events, etc – but not when you’re sending a gift that is supposed to be a personal gesture of appreciate or gratitude toward a client or customer. Everyone knows that chachkis are generally cheap(er) in nature, so by giving that as a gift, what does that say about how you feel towards the gift recipient?
Business is messy and here’s the truth – gifts get lost. Missed shipments, mailroom disasters, unruly employees… we’ve seen it all happen. If you don’t hear from the gift recipient within 3 business days or so, it’s not impolite to send a friendly reminder that you sent a gift. For example:
Subject Line: Hope you enjoyed the chocolates
I just wanted to make sure you received the box of chocolates I sent last week? Sometimes they get lost in the mix and wanted to make sure they got to you safely!
Anyway, I hope you and your colleagues enjoyed.
Do you have time to catch up next week?
This isn’t so much a mistake as it is being overwhelmed by everything else going on in the, “day-to-day,” mix. December is the most obvious time of year to send gifts to your clients, but that’s also when everyone else (probably) sending them too. If you want to stand out, look for opportunities like client birthdays, other holidays (we’ve heard Valentine’s Day, for example), or create your own client/ customer appreciation day.
Federal, State, and Local Law is one thing… company-specific gift policies are completely another. You can only know so much, especially with new clients, so you might want to check on the company’s gift giving/ receiving policies before you send them. Don’t feel comfortable asking directly? Find the executive assistant, or another employee at the company, and ask them directly. They won’t think anything of it and they’re probably be willing to help you out if they don’t already know.