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A couple years ago, I gifted members of my team with tickets to see Harry Styles in concert. The ensuing jaw-drop reaction was memorable and fun, but most importantly, it made my team feel appreciated, connected, and understood.
You don’t have to spring for Harry tickets (though I highly recommend it), but it’s more than the thought that counts. There have been all sorts of studies showing that a gift is a meaningful way to make an employee, client, or contact feel valued and loyal. But it only works if the gift itself is right—no one wants another branded stress ball.
To help you amplify the impact of your gifting, I spoke with my client, Torrance Hart, the founder of Teak & Twine. They create beautiful, highly customizable gifts as an extension of a company’s marketing and HR strategy, from 30 to 30,000 gifts, and they’re the experts behind corporate gifting for companies like Facebook, Gong, and American Express.
Torrance offered a range of solutions to address the sometimes unwieldy scale of gifting. She also told me her strategy for how to make the gifts themselves meaningful expressions of your company that help retain and engage employees and clients. Here’s what I learned.
A note on timing:I work in public relations, so I’m accustomed to the long-lead work of pitching holiday stories in July. It’s an out-of-body experience, to conjure snow and the holiday spirit at work, then go home to wild heat and dreams of beach weekend escapes. But it has to happen—and the same goes for gifting. In order to be ready in time for the holidays, you need to be working on holiday gifting for your company now.
1. Plan ahead
Q4 is incredibly busy, sourcing takes time, and your recipient can tell if a gift isn’t well-planned or thoughtful. Your best bet for a well-executed gifting strategy is to plan ahead.
Torrance recommends having all holiday gifts and packaging selected and purchased by the end of October. Why so far in advance? She says there are three main reasons:
During the holidays and the end of the year, shipping routes get overloaded and slow down.
The influx of orders causes inventory shortages, so you want to ensure you’re in the front of the line for products central to your strategy. (There are early rumblings that the pandemic’s impact on supply chains may also impact sourcing and compromise shipping timelines through the holidays.)
It can take three or more weeks to collect all of the addresses for a big send (unless you have a portal like Teak & Twine’s, which eliminates this step).
As for gift delivery, Torrance suggests targeting the first or second week of December to distribute your packages. In this window, your employees, clients, and other recipients are still home, before any holiday travel may occur. Or, even better, consider gifting outside the holidays—especially for clients. Torrance told me this is a great way to stand out and stay top of mind during a potentially more advantageous season.
2. Tell a story
More than gifting to check a box, Torrance advises developing a strategy for what you’re gifting—and more importantly, what it represents. Use the gifts to tell a story, one that connects the recipient with your company. Standard swag gifts that just end up in the trash are a waste of time and money.
Torrance likes to start the process with a clear idea of the story you’re trying to tell. Answer these questions as thought-starters:
What’s your goal?
What story do you want to tell?
What type of gift/kinds of items will help communicate that story?
These answers will guide you in creating a concept that adds value to your recipient and reflects who you are as a company.
Torrance provided an example: Teak & Twine client Bienville Capital was celebrating its 25th anniversary, so instead of a traditional box, the gift concept was a box of “things that last forever like us.” The package included Twinkies, honey, and whiskey glasses. The fun, clear message tied back to the company and created a moment of delight for the recipient.
You might also use the opportunity to take action on company DEI values by sourcing products from minority- or women-owned small businesses. Teak & Twine loves calling on small business owners to provide incredible gift options.
3. Give people options—but not too many
Depending on your numbers, consider offering a few gift options to your recipients to be sure everyone gets something they want. To facilitate this, you can use services like Teak & Twine, or other platforms like Sendoso or Reachdesk, which offer custom landing pages to help recipients choose gifts. It’s especially helpful for a remote workforce.
Torrance’s rule of thumb is to offer one gift option for every 200 recipients, but no more than three or four overall. You don’t want to stress people out with too much choice! And try to assign a clear theme to each option: food, cocktail, outdoor/adventure, family activities, office essentials, anything goes. Each option should come in at roughly the same price, so recipients don’t just default to one.
4. Deliver a thoughtful note
The gift is the cake, but don’t forget about the icing. Add a thoughtful note with a warm sentiment in line with the strategy and story you’re communicating. Handwritten notes are best, but if that’s not possible due to scale, consider an unexpected video message delivered via QR code. The QR code could link to a video of your CEO offering personal thanks or explaining the meaning behind the story.
Pro tip from Torrance: the note is a good spot to incorporate some tasteful branding without sacrificing the integrity of the gift design.
5. Don’t forget about the unboxing experience
The polish and presentation of the gift package help communicate the thought and intention behind the gift. The unboxing experience and ultimate gift reveal can make or break the gift.
The visual aspect is important, but also consider how other senses can come into play with the unboxing experience. Teak & Twine once pitched the idea of having a QR code on the outside that linked to a video of a crackling fire, so the recipient could have a fire in the background as they unwrapped their cozy holiday gift. Kind of genius, right?
So yes, the thought counts, but the thought can also mean planning ahead and being intentional with a gift that honors the recipient. I’m taking notes from Torrance’s guidance above and getting my holiday gifting strategy going now. I hope you do too.
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