by Donna Airoldi | July 18, 2017

5. Execute at a High Level
The manner of giving the gift is just as important as the gift itself.

"When you do it right and make it exceptional, like an experience of getting fitted for sunglasses, it makes people feel connected," says Hatch. "If you want to give a Maui Jim beach bag or water bottle, then give the glasses, then a cleaning kit, that's all high end. But if you give out something cheesy the first night, then Maui Jims, then a cheesy gift the last night, that hurts the entire process."

One way to handle this is making the first room drop a customized Maui Jim sunglasses case and cleaning cloth, with instructions to come choose from a selection of sunglasses and have them fitted the next day.

Landry agrees with the tiered concept. In advance of the trip, you can give out small leather goods, like a passport holder or card holder, but dress it up, he says. "Some planners will put in a note from the president, or faux tickets to one of the events happening on the trip."

Nearly all experts agree that having a company representative on hand for distribution, when possible, is important.

"You have to have someone who knows your product and can answer questions about it, or the warranty," says Hatch, who sends trained Maui Jim employees to all events.

Getting a gift customized is always an added benefit. For Tumi, each piece of luggage comes with a monogram patch that can be laser engraved. "Typically, the corporate logo is on top and the recipient's name underneath," says Landry. "It's an understated way to customize and make it special."

But make sure you plan in the time for any fittings. "If you have only an hour, and 600 people are getting a watch, that's not enough time for a sizing, to get the links removed," says Forrest. "Pre-planning is key to the success of the program."

6. Make the Delivery an Experience
"We're seeing a switch to experiential gifting," says Schmitz. Instead of nightly pillow gifts, plan an event with several brands on offer, and guests can choose what they want.

Fittings and other customization fall into that, but so too does the atmosphere surrounding the awards.

Bose offers the Bose Lounge concept. The company provides a DJ, Bose music systems and speakers, and creates a party atmosphere, complete with food and cocktails. "[Attendees] hang out, enjoy the music, and have a cool final night," says Corley. "Then they get Bose products to take home [or have shipped] as part of the lounge experience. It becomes more of a brand experience."

7. Offer Choice, But Not Too Much
"We're giving more of a choice on site, then beefing that up so we have what's hot and what's new," says Schmitz.

But Corley warns that you should have no more than nine items. "Not nine brands, but nine items," he says. If you have 20 choices, all that does is slow down the process and everybody ends up picking the top three to four things anyway, he adds.

Use the demographics of the group to understand what they most would want, then stick to those items, with options of color or some other element for variety.

8. Make Sure There Are No Surprises
This covers everything from making sure there's enough inventory to being sure you understand what the true final costs will be. This is especially important for international programs.

Questions Hatch recommends asking: Is there a restocking charge? Are you being charged for booth staff? What are the duties and taxes? Will the product be safe during shipping and once it's at the hotel? Is there a deposit? What are the drop-ship charges? Are there maximums or minimums? If there's a holdup at customs and it's going to take an additional $12,000 to get the product through, who is responsible for that?

These behind-the-scenes issues can impact gift presentation. "And you want the [merchandise] experience to be memorable," says Hatch. "It often sets the tone for the entire event."   

Questions or comments? Email [email protected]

This article appears in the July/August 2017 issue of Incentive.