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Santa’s Little Helpers

This month, our experts help readers solve their most pressing last-minute gift-giving dilemmas.

Attention, procrastinators: Believe it or not, you’re not the only ones who haven’t purchased holiday gifts for clients or colleagues. As Turkey Day inched closer and closer, Successful Promotions began receiving e-mails from anxious readers looking for last-minute gift solutions. Fortunately, we were able to save them from the land of Scrooge-dom by offering some great gift ideas straight from corporate gift-giving experts.

Read on for three readers’ questions and our experts’ solutions – and get cracking on your own holiday gift list. (P.S. If you’re too late for the holidays, don’t despair – recipients will likely appreciate “New Year’s gifts” even more than traditional holiday gifts.)

Q: Help! I’ve got to buy gifts for my entire marketing team and I don’t have time to shop around for something different for each employee. Is there a single item you can recommend that everybody will like?

A: Few managers have time to shop around for a different gift for each employee. So we asked Leo for some items that have wide appeal. His suggestion: apparel. “Providing that you know what size your employees are – or at least have a good guess – we recommend clothing for internal gifts,” says Leo. “If the item is good-looking, and is imprinted with the company’s logo, it will get worn outside of the office. So besides being a nice gift, it’s a good promotion for the business.”

But some duds are real duds, Leo warns. Don’t buy low-grade T-shirts or dig up the heavily-logoed polo from the last trade show and try to pass it off as a holiday gift. That’s sure to backfire (and make you look like the chintziest boss on the planet). Instead, Leo recommends, choose form-fitting, “medium- or high-end golf shirts” (depending on what your budget permits) in a cool, moisture-wicking fabric. To differentiate the shirt from something the employees might wear on the job, Leo says, be low-key with the logo, perhaps embroidering it in subtle colors on the sleeve instead of on the left chest area. “People who receive it can wear it over the weekend and out to dinner and still say, ?Look, this is the company I work for,'” Leo says.

Another option is something nice that employees can use on the job. “Mousepads are overdone these days,” Leo says. So what’s hot? Surprisingly, it’s coffee mugs, according to Leo. “You’d be surprised how fast people go through these things,” he says. His suggestion: Forget the ceramic mugs, and go for the new, insulated commuter mugs. “These are now offered in all kinds of new styles, colors and materials, including leather,” Leo says. Expect to pay $10 to $20 for a high-end mug imprinted with a logo.

Q: I need to buy nice holiday gifts for about 10 of my most important clients. I’m in the financial industry and the clients are all mid- and high-level executives. What types of gifts would you recommend?

A: “As mid- and high- level executives, the first thing I’ll presume is that they spend a lot of time at the office, so why not bring a piece of home to them?” says Diane. Digital photos or messages can be uploaded to a number of different products – frames, keychains, desktop clocks, and even travel alarms, Diane says. “These are newer items in the promotional market, and aligning yourself with these products can help you to be perceived as being on top of trends.”

Another idea: Most executives spend at least some time on the road, Diane adds, so leather goods, like duffels, toiletry bags, passport holders, jewelry rolls, and brief bags debossed with your logo, their name, or their initials would make for a classy gift.

If you’re still unsure of what to buy, Diane recommends a tried-and-true gift: writing instruments. “Think about giving a high-end ball pen or roller ball engraved with a client’s name on it,” she says. Or for something more unique, consider a fountain pen. “They’ll never throw it out because their name is on it, and they’ll think of you every time they use it,” Diane adds.

Q: I want to motivate my all-male sales team with a cool gift to kick off the beginning of 2007. I’ve given T-shirts in the past, but this year I want something a little bit different. Any ideas?

A: “Since these guys are likely road warriors, why not give them something they can use while traveling?” suggests Leo. In lieu of the traditional carry-on or briefcase (which is dying a slow death, according to Leo) consider a backpack imprinted with the company’s logo. “Backpacks are easier on the back than briefcases, and they are much cooler and sportier, so they could be used for both carrying documents or outdoor activities,” he says. A trendy backpack screenprinted with a company logo typically starts off at about $25.

Since T-shirts have worked in the past, Leo recommends a twist on that idea: baseball or football jerseys. “You can print people’s names on the back of them, reinforcing the idea that you’re all part of the same team,” Leo says. If you really want to go all out, pair the jerseys with a stadium-type blanket (with a matching logo) and tickets to an upcoming sporting event, and “you’ve scored a home run.”

Reprinted with permission of Successful Promotions, copyright 2006

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