Marketing’s main aim is to place us as “top-of-mind.” When clients or customers think of the services or products that we incidentally offer, they should be thinking of us first, and not our competitors. How then do we that? In addition to other marketing efforts, promo items, or corporate gifts, are small inexpensive items (well, some could be expensive) that serve as tokens of our appreciation for our clients’ patronage and physical reminders that we exist.
These gifts could be given at trade shows and other events, sent out to those who inquire about us or reply to our ads, or given to first time clients. They could also be given to clients on the anniversary of their first projects with us, or whatever special occasion that we want to celebrate with them. (I do warn against sending corporate gifts on clients’ birthdays or anniversaries – on those occasions, they deserve to receive personalized or special gifts).
There was a time when t-shirts were popular give-aways, but I personally feel that they are too ordinary, unless we use better fabric, make them more presentable by using better designed shirts, and more cleverly, by using artistic graphics to convert those ubiquitous shirts into wearable art pieces.
I also decided that whatever we gave away should not be “screaming” Adphoto, so our corporate gifts had our logos usually inside or at the back of our corporate gifts, or if there is no “inside” or “back,” then we designed them to be small and unobtrusive; except for the “adcubes” that we give away, which had our logos on at least two sides of the adcubes, since those logo imprints would be peeled away with use. We prefer to give away practical gifts, preferring items that go on top of clients’ desks, or usable at work. (The idea is for them to see or use those corporate gifts everyday).
Our most current corporate gifts are USBs, since they are small, handy and put to use everyday, but we’ve also given away pencils, ball pens (classy looking retractable ones), leatherette (but real leather-looking) folders, magazine holders, notepads with photos on their covers, home-baked cookies in reusable canisters, and single-serve coffee makers. From time to time, we re-order adcubes (notepads), since clients actually ask for them. It’s always a challenge finding a gift that is unique or new in the market, but always put yourself in your customers’ shoes – if you don’t like the item, chances are, your clients won’t either.
Timing is also important. Giving away corporate gifts does not have to be limited to Christmas or when you have an event. We once gave away waterproof cellphone and money pouches when we learned that an ad agency we were serving was taking their people on a company outing to the beach. Our clients were thrilled with our simple gift because that’s just what they needed for the trip.
Even corporate gifts, since they help in marketing your company, must be of high quality. Once, I was about to leave for a trip abroad when we ordered notebooks (paper, not computers) for giveaways. I was still away when the proof for color separation was submitted for approval. In the rush to make the deadline, someone signed approval on the proof even though the colors were off, since the printer had promised that the colors would be adjusted in the final printing. Unfortunately, they were not and the printing was substandard. I came home to stacks of notebooks with our photos on the cover and inside dividers, but I was aghast to see that the colors were not correct. We could not distribute them to clients, and that year, we chose not to have Christmas giveaways, rather than give poor quality photo reproductions. We have since torn off the below-standard photo dividers, and now just use the notebooks for internal use. We paid the printer, since we had signed the color proof, but did not want to risk being identified with low-quality printing. We are, after all, in photography.
The design, creation and selling of corporate gifts is a big industry, but you don’t need to depend on them. If you plan your gifts early enough, you could probably design your own corporate gifts.
Do be aware of your clients’ policies on gift giving. Some companies, especially multinational firms, prohibit their employees from receiving gifts outright, even very inexpensive corporate gifts. Some set a value mark – if your gifts are worth more than a specified amount, then your gifts would get declined. Respect those policies.