Whenever I think about the power that a free gift or special perk can have, I always come back to the Michelin restaurant guides. Today, they’re among the world’s best-known and most influential resources for travelers.
Yes, the guides are produced by the same company that makes the tires—and they were originally conceived as a gift for potential customers. Back in 1900, when automobiles were still gaining wide acceptance, Michelin was looking for a way to build its tire business, so the company came up with an idea to create more interest in driving. By telling people where they could go in their cars, they’d promote the new concept of automotive touring and create greater demand for tires—hopefully, theirs.
What began in France at the turn of the 20th century quickly spread throughout Europe, and the guides are now published around the world. It shows the impact that can come from making an impression, as well as the limitless power of a well-planned branding tool.
You may not be in a position to create a globally influential rating system, but if you think creatively, you can wow potential customers and long-term clients alike with a gift or perk that will make you their go-to option. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you plan your gifting strategy.
1. Go Big to Make an Impression.
You should think about going all-out for the right customer, and what better way to deliver a memorable experience than choice seats to a big game or concert? Connecting with clients in an environment that’s more relaxing than a typical business meeting can generate significant returns.
A night out at a special event is the perfect place to kick off a new business relationship or build your rapport with an existing client. You’ve got your customer with you for an extended period, so you can connect on a personal level, weave your pitch in casually, and focus on enjoying the event together. You’re also showing that you value attention to detail and going the extra mile, and this can be especially important if you’re trying to make a first impression with a prospect.
Then, when it’s time for your customer to make a decision on buying, you’ll be at top of mind. Box seats can seem like a lavish expense when we’re planning an outing with family or friends, but as a business expense, they can be worth every penny.
2. Focus on Functionality.
If you’re thinking more along the lines of a gift for your entire customer or prospect list, a branded giveaway is a valuable way to put your brand in the conversation. But what makes the difference between a gift that’s a keeper and one that can get lost in a junk drawer? Its functionality.
Even in this digital age, there are still plenty of analog gifts that customers will find extremely useful. Think about calendars, for example. A nicely designed calendar is easy to brand effectively, and it can add value to your customers’ daily lives over the course of a whole year. If you’re trying to reach households, think about what your customers would want—a calendar that has plenty of space to jot down family activities, a simple design that can work in just about any home, and maybe a magnetic backing for easy application to the refrigerator.
3. Make a Statement with Design.
No matter what type of gift you’re considering, you have to make your design a priority. If you produce something that looks like a throw-away item, chances are that’s exactly what’s going to happen to it. There’s no point in going through the effort and expense of giving a gift if you make something that people aren’t even going to look at.
Functionality is one part of the equation, but design is equally important. In order to occupy any physical real estate in your customers’ homes or offices, your piece has to look good enough to display. Incorporate your logo tastefully, and make sure it doesn’t overpower the item itself.
4. Personalize as Much as Possible.
Personalization is another key to making sure your gift or perk makes an impact. If you’re giving a gift to an individual customer or small group, this is where it’s important to do your homework. You don’t want to spend the money for a luxury box at the hockey game if your customer is a hardcore basketball fan, and you don’t want to try to connect with clients during a rock concert if they’re more of a country music crowd.
Even with a physical gift, you want to think of something that has value to the specific customer you’re targeting. Can you create an item that matches their design aesthetic and is likely to be kept and displayed for the long term? Maybe there’s a personal photo you can leverage and work into the item, or you could have it professionally mounted and set in an engraved frame. There are many options—the key is to begin by thinking about what will hit home with a particular customer.
This is an important consideration if you’re creating perks or special offers as well. What have you found resonates with your audience? Maybe it’s tried-and-true benefits like free or faster shipping or a discount for your long-term customers. Think about what works for them, and make it work for you too.
5. Consider the Return on Investment.
For small business owners, in particular, investing in gifts or perks can seem like an “extra” beyond your everyday operating expenses. As a result, it’s easy to just skip over this part of your marketing plan. But you’ve got to view this as an investment in future business. Do something nice for your customers, and they’re more likely to do something nice for you—whether it’s buying from you directly or recommending you to another customer. The benefits can be exponential.
Michelin, too, was a relatively small company when it decided to ramp up interest in driving with its restaurant guides. But more than 100 years later, the company is known globally and the guides are some of the most influential in the world. You never know where the right gift idea could take you!
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