With Thanksgiving around the corner, many of you may be thinking about holiday cards and gifts for clients. I don’t know about you, but when I used to hear about companies that specialize in corporate gifts, I was always fairly dismissive, and didn’t really see the value added. Nonetheless, I have recently developed a friendship with a lovely woman, Gail Paul, Owner of To Be Announced, who has been in that industry for twenty years. So, I decided to quiz her about why someone like me (or my clients) should go through companies like hers rather than just relying on Google or word of mouth. This is what I discovered. It won’t surprise anyone to hear that some companies sell shoddy products on the Internet. The part that was new to me is that there are trade organizations such as the Advertising Specialty Institute and Promotional Products Association International that provide ratings for the companies that offer promotional products and corporate gifts. Members of these organizations, like my friend Gail, can look up the names of suppliers and get a rating on several different measures, such as timeliness, resolving problems, and quality. Gail has very kindly offered to be a resource for my readers. If you find a supplier that you would like to use, but you want to check to make sure it is reliable, you can call Gail and ask her to check their rating for you. There is no obligation to buy anything from her. She is just modeling smart marketing. Providing value is a way to develop relationships with potential customers; and then down the line maybe you will try using her services. She told me horror stories about companies that gave out low quality USB drives, 10% of which failed the first day; firms that accidentally sent stale cookies; and gifts that arrived terribly late. It’s worth checking out the quality measures before ordering.
Here are more tips from Gail:
(1) Timing: Productions schedules are longer this time of year; so it pays to plan ahead. It would be sad for that beautiful box of baked goods to arrive after Christmas when everyone has moved into dieting mode. For many items, experts recommend ordering before Thanksgiving!
(2) Alcohol: Shipping alcohol is remarkably complicated, even if it comes as part of a gift basket. Each state has its own laws and regulations about shipping beer, wine and hard liquor. Furthermore, because suppliers have to get licenses from each state separately, they often are licensed to ship to certain states but not to others.
(3) Adding Logos: Logos can be added to all kinds of gifts, everything from cookie tins to clothing or luggage. The price of printing includes the first color for free, but there is an extra charge for each additional color. Embroidery is charged by stich count.
(4) Branding: If you just order directly from a retailer, they generally include their own catalogues and literature with the order. Whereas, if you order through a company that specializes in corporate gifts, they will arrange to have the extraneous literature removed and for your own literature or other materials to be included. For example, some firms arrange to have a mug with their logo included in gift baskets.
(5) Price: The cost of ordering through someone like Gail is often as good or better than if you were to order from a company directly because they have ongoing relationships and special discounts.
(6) Electronics: Memory chips have a rating system. If you order USB drives or other electronics, be sure that they have “tier 1” memory chips. Lower memory tiers are much more likely to have an unacceptable failure rate.
Have a wonderful Thanksgiving! It is a busy time of year, so be sure to take extra good care of yourself.