4 Ways to Make Your Incentive Gifts Stand Out (Without Breaking Your Budget)

incentive gift

Incentive gifts can be tricky. You might feel like you’re under pressure to continually push the bar higher and deliver gifts that are always more: more luxurious, more distinctive and more expensive.

Yet a price tag isn’t necessarily indicative of an incentive gift’s success. And while you undoubtedly want to make recipients feel rewarded and appreciated, you don’t need to wreck your company’s budget to deliver the incentive gift that your employees deserve.

As you examine the strategy and details of your incentive gifting, we’ve compiled four ways to help your gifts stand out from the crowd and deliver the “wow” factor that will surprise and delight your employees. Just as you approach your corporate meetings and events with thoughtful intention, effective incentive gifting takes some planning, strategy and problem-free execution. The following tips will help get you on the path to successful incentive gifting that will keep your employees feeling engaged, appreciated and valued from start to finish.

The gift of experience

People increasingly crave the immersion and memories of experience. It’s a rising trend that’s sparking change in a variety of industries, including travel and corporate meetings and events. And it’s one to consider as you plan your incentive gifts, especially if they include travel.

Experiences not only indulge our senses; they can also pique our curiosity, giving us an opportunity to step outside the familiar and try something new in a way that makes us feel more connected to our surroundings. Think about how you can deliver an incentive experience that evokes similar feelings. Enrich your guests’ itineraries with immersive opportunities like cooking lessons, walking or other tours, or a hands-on class, demonstration or workshop.

Delivering a one-of-a-kind experience can be especially impactful if you opt to return to the same location for your incentive travel. There’s certainly something to be said for the convenience and familiarity that comes from returning to a favorite spot, but you can also add a dash of the unexpected with new, experiential additions to the itinerary.

As you’re planning, it sometimes helps to look ahead. What sort of impression do you want to leave with your guests? How do you want them to feel at the end of the trip? What do you want them to remember most about the incentive gift and how it validated their hard work and dedication? Use those answers to guide your gift planning as you consider experiences that produce your desired end results.

Take your luxury local

Even as the rise of technology-enabled verticals like eCommerce continues to reshape the retail industry, consumers still prefer local, small retailers. The top two reasons, according to the 2015 UPS Pulse of the Online Shopper survey, are finding unique products and the ability to find items that aren’t available from traditional sources.

Why not leverage the advantages of local businesses and products in your incentive gifting? You could take it a step further and weave together a travel experience that capitalizes on local flavors and signature events—an intimate meal with a renowned local chef, for example, or a behind-the-scenes tour of a celebrated local landmark.

A recent incentive trip we helped plan and execute is a prime example. Guests traveled to a refined, charming beach resort in Georgia. We found a vendor that created gold-plated versions of Georgia’s state shell to offer as a one-of-a-kind parting gift. And in celebration of two favorite Southern beverages, guests had a choice of a local single-barrel bourbon whiskey or high-end sweet tea concentrate. Guests also received marble coasters engraved with a map of the resort’s location.

As you plan your own incentive gifts and getaways, think about what sort of local elements you can add to not only pay homage to a location that’s important to you and your guests, but that also leaves a lasting, treasured memory that makes the incentive gift truly special.

Add a philanthropic twist

Incentive gifts haven’t traditionally been associated with philanthropy and social responsibility. Yet in the wake of the last decade’s economic turbulence—as well as a widespread, increasing focus on both individuals and companies giving back—philanthropy adds a genuine, heartfelt touch to an incentive gift.

To look for opportunities to add an opportunity for giving to your incentive gift, think first about your company’s values. What’s important to your business? And are there any organizations you currently support that might offer an opportunity for a philanthropic outing or team-building activity? Adding this sort of experiential community service opportunity to your incentive travel isn’t unlike volunteer tourism or “voluntourism,” which continues to be among the fastest growing travel trends.

If a service project or other philanthropic outing isn’t possible for your scheduled incentive trip, you can still find ways to add a service-minded element to the gift package. We already mentioned a recent incentive trip that we helped plan at a Georgia beach resort. That travel and gift experience also included endangered sea turtle nests that were adopted in each attendee’s name as a reminder not only of the trip, but also the impact of their brand. Consider similar opportunities to help local wildlife and treasured natural areas for a gift that’s not only unforgettable, but that also makes a difference where it’s needed most.

Leave your mark with branded touchpoints

Incentive gifting—especially if it includes travel—is similar to a corporate meeting or event. You have your signature offering (the equivalent of a meeting), and then you have the branded gifts to support that offering—similar to the gifts and swag you might include at a meeting or event.

These sorts of supporting gifts may seem like small details, but they’re just as important when it comes to delivering a larger message or narrative. In the case of incentive gifts, branded touchpoints can add a sense of thoughtfulness and personal attention that resonates with each guest.

Let’s use an incentive trip as an example. Perhaps you could set the stage for the adventure with a branded luggage tag, a kit of travel essentials and a branded notebook in which to capture notes about the experience. It’s also a good idea to have a few small gifts waiting for each guest when they arrive at their destination. Try to strike a balance between gifts that evoke your company’s brand and are also connected to the experiences to come throughout the trip. That way, you can help establish an inextricable link between your business and the incentive experience, which leaves a more powerful impression on your guests and gets them truly excited and passionate about not just the incentive gift, but also how they can continue to play a key role in your company’s success. And when in doubt about branded touchpoints, think of some of our favorite attributes: custom, interactive and memorable.

We hope the aforementioned tips will help inspire you to shake up your incentive gifts and step out of the box to try something new. And if you need a sounding board for your ideas—or help executing your gifting plan—we’re just a message away. Reach out to us anytime!

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