You may not think about gifting as part of your branding strategy, but we’ve successfully included it in our c21 marketing toolbox for 30 years! Following is a Q&A from an interview I did in 2020, and I thought the information was still relevant and fun to share as you consider how to zig when your competitors zag.
Can a gift help you to connect with new clients or business partners?
When I started my company in 1992, I was 28 years old, and honestly didn’t know too much about running a business. I loved working in marketing and PR, and loved my clients, but I was inexperienced at business operations – including invoicing, which of course is the lifeblood of a small agency (or really any small business). To ensure my invoices were opened, I used to buy and insert $1 scratch off lottery tickets and include them in my mailed invoices. My clients looked forward to getting my bills! Who can say that? And on occasion, I would hear from clients who had won money – which was also fun! I did this for the first 10 years in business and as a result, my company played a small part in funding the Georgia education system through the lottery. It was a win-win.
Do gifts help you close deals quicker (or with more ease) than without them, generally?
I think giving gifts before gaining business can be tricky. With increased scrutiny on transparency, I err on the side of caution when pitching new business and giving gifts, and honestly, I would hope to win new business on our merits and not because we swayed the client with cool swag. We have on occasion brought small gifts, like a box of donuts from a local small business in the potential client’s market, for early morning or midday pitches where we know those listening to the presentations will have a long day. It’s usually appreciated (even if they enjoy them after the presentation).
When would you consider using a gift in the process of winning a new client?
After winning new business, we usually hold a kickoff meeting and bring small gifts for everyone. We’ve created more traditional branded items that people use like glasses, pens and journals, but we often try to make them as unique as possible. For example, we had a logoed pint glass made of silicone that holds both hot and cold drinks and can even sit on a grill (that was a big hit!).
How can a gift help you maintain a relationship?
I was recently at an event with a [long-standing] client, where I spoke with my client’s wife who immediately started the conversation with…” I look forward to your holiday gifts every year!” That was a huge compliment! We pride ourselves on sourcing and assembling highly creative holiday client appreciation gifts each year. The gifts are meant to reinforce our creativity as a marketing agency and provide our clients with added insight into the c21 team’s personality – all while hopefully standing out from the ordinary or typical gifts they might receive.
We’ve done everything from board games, slinky toys and other “creativity starters” to sending each c21 team member’s favorite item in a “brown paper package tied up with string” to a survival guide-themed gift when the economy took a downturn to an Instant camera to an Oscars-theme that included a book of Cocktails featuring Hollywood stars, a silicon popcorn popper, popcorn, movie tickets and more. The key is we create a card that cleverly explains the gift in a fun way. For example, the card that accompanied the Instant Camera read – “We can change your image in an instant!”
Do you ever use digital gifts, or always physical gifts?
We tend to give physical gifts, but we use digital marketing to reinforce the physical gift, meaning we will send email holiday cards to clients who receive gifts to tell them to be on the lookout for us as we deliver or ship their gift. With that said, a few years ago we held an experiential event at the holidays and cooked a dinner together with our clients. Our clients loved it and it was great to spend time together in a more casual setting. Two years ago, we also held a virtual cooking class via Zoom, led by a professional chef and mixologist, and our clients had a blast! We were so happy to be able to bring everyone together for a little fun despite needing to stay distant for COVID precautions.
As you can see, client gifts can help to reinforce a brand and showcase a company’s personality, beliefs and more. In my opinion, it’s a fantastic way to stand out from the crowd and show off your creative side. Try it yourself and let us know how it goes! If you need help, we’re happy to brainstorm with you!