Corporate Holiday Gift-Giving

The Holidays Are Coming

I hate to say this, but the holiday season is just around the corner, and companies large and small are beginning to shake their weary heads in consternation. What to give that will be valued and appreciated by the recipients?  It’s not just about finding some little widget or gadget to hand out and then walk away, job done. No, it’s more about how to effectively use the gift-giving as an opportunity to reward and thank those who help the companies and corporations build their business. This should be done in a thoughtful, meaningful way, and include thoughtful, meaningful gifts.

The problem becomes two fold; what to give and how to give it. By choosing certificates that can be personally redeemed by the recipient for items that excite them, the experience becomes a win-win. It’s kind of like giving a gift twice, for the same price. First, the recipient is thrilled to receive the certificate; then is again excited when they redeem it.

Being able to redeem online has become much more popular. The holiday period is hectic and stressful for many, and being able to choose what, where, when and how at the click of a button, at the redeemer’s convenience, is a huge bonus. After the kids are in bed, first thing in the morning over a cup of coffee, or in the wee hours of the morning, it doesn’t matter. On-line redemption means simplifying the process for the recipient-another way the company can show they understand the needs of their employees, business associates, sales channels, etc.

So, what gifts are appropriate for your group or individual? Certificates that are fully transferable are huge wins. They can be kept and used by the recipient themselves, or given away as gifts, business promotions, rewards, etc. Although gift cards are popular, they can seem impersonal, but what about a certificate for an experiential adventure? Ah, now we’re talking personal and thoughtful. Another company bonus? It takes the stress and time factor out of the equation for the company personnel generally responsible for pulling together this type of project.

If the recipient can choose for themselves what type of experience they’d like, depending on the value of the certificate, things like a spa day or weekend for themselves or their spouse, a fishing trip, or their choice of a vast number of merchandise items, the gift becomes personal. Given the option, we all choose different things or experiences. I might not care about a golf getaway, but a corporate executive or sales manager might be thrilled to receive something he can not only use himself, but also use in business. Personally, I’d love to receive a certificate for dinner for two at my choice of dining venue, but make that a certificate for a spa day with all the trimmings, or weekend B & B getaway to share with either my spouse or a gaggle of girlfriends and I’m all over it. The idea is to let the recipient determine the experience and the timing. No assembly required.

As Incentive Magazine recently reported, this type of personalization is a trend we’re seeing in the incentive and reward industry, with companies like Maui Jim, Bulova and a host of others, who also understand the value of personalized selection. Instead of pre-selected guest gifts being handed out or left in guest rooms during company events and destination getaways, how about inviting everyone down to the lobby our outside to choose their own pair of Maui Jim sunglasses with on-site fittings. Guests receive and wear their new sunglasses immediately and throughout their stay. Bulova has also recognized the value in on-site watch or jewellery fittings at corporate events, as they encourage guests to have fun and personally select items from their impressive line-up to suit individual tastes and style? That’s a win-win if there ever was one.

Everyone’s A Winner

For larger companies and corporations who have moved away from huge cash bonuses, or would like to, there’s the option of the experiential bonus for top tier executives and sales personnel/teams. Imagine the excitement of giving and/or receiving a certificate package to attend sporting events such as NASCAR, the Super Bowl in New Orleans for 4 or 5 days, The Master’s Golf in Atlanta, the CFL in Canada, or the Kentucky Derby in Kentucky! These types of bonus rewards bring people together to experience a National Sporting or Entertainment (Canada and U.S.) event, network, relax, enjoy, and take away memories that simply can’t be replaced. Even better if they can include a guest and the certificates are fully transferable, allowing the recipient to decide how to redeem.

Your Secret Weapon

For more information please contact us In fact, consider us your secret elves. We do all the work while you receive all the accolades.

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Vertical Markets in Sales

Steps to Success

The first time I heard the term vertical marketing sales, I thought, ‘What?’, but then realized the term was self-explanatory. It means channelling my sales efforts to one industry or business type. Rather than the shot-gun blast approach many use in sales, i.e. I can sell my product/services to anyone.

This makes sense to me for a variety of reasons, but probably because of the fact that back in my real estate sales days, we we all knew realtors who “farmed” territories or geographical areas. I also worked with others who successfully “specialized” in areas such as new home sales, first time home buyers, corporate relocations, etc. These are examples of vertical marketing, so I get that.

Olin Thompson, Process ERP Partners, states in his article for SalesVantage.Com, that “Too many vendors define their markets relative to how they think, not relative to how the target customers think.” I’d have to agree, since I had fallen into that trap myself. I hadn’t realized I’d done it, but slowly came to the realization that I needed to fine tune my approach; take it from generic to targeted, and narrow down my scope of markets. It’s much easier to learn and understand the needs and demands of a particular vertical market and tailor your product or services to that niche than try to understand the needs of many.

Following the trend

The Huston Chronicle’s article by Sean Mullin, Demand Media, states “Companies investigating their competitors in the industry are more likely to purchase your services if their competitors do.” This isn’t news or rocket science to those in the sales and marketing industry. In a similar vein is the reason why large retail stores and eateries tend to cluster together. They leverage the fact that people like to go where others do (the herd mentality), it’s convenient and easy to get to and park while they shop. The same is true of companies and industries looking to hire marketing and advertising firms. It’s kind of like follow the leader. Getting that foot in the door is the biggest obstacle, but once you’ve gained their loyalty and gratitude for a successful project, they are more likely to endorse your product/service to others in their field.


Shout the good news


The next key is in shouting the good news to the world to let them know of your client’s positive feelings immediately after the sale or completion of the project. Post reviews and recommendations on your website, Twitter it, FaceBook it, whatever, but get the message out there that you’ve done a great job for one company or industry, and let everyone know about it. Ask for a written letter or even short paragraph of recommendation from your clients who are happy with your work, but don’t forget to ask for permission to post those recommendations publicly. If they want to keep their name off the public recommendation, ask if you can still use their words, but refrain from identifying them (i.e. “Great job. I’d highly recommend using ABC Company. John Doe, Manager, XYZ Company”). This way you still get to toot your own horn, but not risk client confidentiality.

In vertical marketing, you become the expert in how your particular product or service can solve the problems inherent in your prospect’s business or industry. Remember, it’s all about the client and their needs, not the product and sale.

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Employee Rewards and Engagement

So many options

It always amazes me that more companies and CEO’s don’t fully understand the importance of motivating and engaging employees. Many see it as a cost they can little afford, especially in these tough economic times, preferring instead to funnel dollars into advertising and marketing. What they are failing to take advantage of is a low cost way to not only attract and retain top employees and sales teams, but leverage those individual’s collective strength in word of mouth promotion.

 As Sherrie Scott, Demand Media, states in her article for The Huston Chronical, rewards and incentives benefit both the employee and the employer in a variety of ways. By boosting morale and increasing loyalty, rewards and incentive programs ensure the company is seen in a positive light by not just their immediate employees, but their families, friends, neighbours and the community at large. After all, good news travels fast, and those companies who “get it”, and implement effect, on-going programs reap the benefits over the long and short term.


But the key is to create truly engaging programs and many HR personnel just don’t have the expertise, knowledge and/or resources to do this effectively. This is why programs that are quick out of the gate, often fail a few months down the line. The in-house people who’ve been assigned responsibility for the programs already have a full work load, and when push comes to shove, the programs die a slow, painful death.

Canada Human Resources Centre’s article on employee engagement and statistics supports this by stating that “60% of employees are not engaged, and 15% are actively disengaged at work and only 25% are actively engaged.” Likewise in the U.S., Bersin & Associates states that “only 35 percent of HR practitioners thought that their engagement efforts led to positive business outcomes. Quite tragically, only 19 percent of employees are highly engaged according to solution providers DDI.”

Enter the professional Rewards and Incentive company. They are the ones with the resources, software programs, effective awards, and expertise to know how to strategize, create, implement and sustain the program(s) over the long haul. Again, the fear of cost comes into question, and when dealing with the big R & I houses, this can be significant enough to deter some companies from moving forward. Smaller, boutique companies can offer the same programs and products, but due to carrying less overhead, costs are kept at a manageable level.

When taken into context, it isn’t a question of whether or not a company or organization can afford to implement a strategic, dynamic rewards and incentive program, but can they afford not to?

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St. Pete’s/Clearwater Site Inspections

Our host, The Sandpearl

The Sandpearl

St. Pete’s/Clearwater CVB hosted a top-notch site inspection for the entire S.I.S. staff for a two night, three day inspection that featured 4 fabulous, luxury hotels. We each went with our own ideas of what St. Petersburg and ClearwaterFlorida had to offer. In truth, we’ve never really used these destinations in our client proposals before – but we will now.

As I said, we each came with a pre-conceived idea of what to expect. Personally, I thought the area was host to geriatrics and snow-birders. As a child we used to frequent the area in our motor home quite a bit. But times were different then. The beaches were pristine, with little to no real hotel chains to boast of.

As we saw, times have definitely changed. St. Pete’s/Clearwater is now a bustling, extremely upscale destination boasting some of the industry’s top luxury hotels. Facing those same pristine wide beaches are some of the most beautiful resort hotels we’ve had the pleasure to visit. With soft white sands, gulls and pelicans wheeling overhead, and the warm Gulf coast surf lapping at my cold Canadian toes, I was blown away. I wasn’t the only one. All five of us kept commenting on how little we’d understood the beauty and benefits to bringing our corporate clients to this fabulous locale.

On arrival, we were met by Suzanne and Tina, our two escorts from CVB St. Pete’s/Clearwater, who drove us to our host hotel, The Sandpearl. From the moment we exited the cars, we were warmly welcomed by Sales Manager, Wendy. After a quick change and freshen up, we were escorted to meet Winter, the dolphin, at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. Just a short ride from the hotel, we were thrilled to meet the darling of the aquarium, Winter, and her friends. The personal tour presented by guide, John, filled us in on all the small details we might have missed otherwise, with heart-breaking stories of  marine wildlife in desperate need of the aquarium’s services. This is no tourist “show”, but rather a real, working rescue, rehab and release facility. After the success of the movie, Dolphin Tale, Clearwater Marine Aquarium saw a tremendous influx of visitors, and much needed revenue.

On our return to The Sandpearl, Wendy guided us throughout the property for a full site inspection of this incredible hotel. Situated right on the ClearwaterBeach, the Sandpearl really showcases everything the St. Pete’s/Clearwater areas has become over the years. Her incredible ocean front views, stately elegance and excellent service were balms to the soul during the very humid August days we spent there. Dinner at the Sandpearl that evening was a special affair, with waiter, Chris, regaling us with information and stories throughout the spectacular meal.

Don CeSar

On the agenda the following morning was breakfast at the Don CeSar, otherwise known as “The Pink Palace”. After a fabulous breakfast hosted by an array of “The Don’s” top sales staff, we were treated to a tour of this incredible hotel by Sales Manager, Terry.  Located directly on St. Pete Beach’s, The Don comes with a long history of providing luxury accommodation – and even hints of ghostly residents who still walk her halls. Her signature pink exterior and Spanish architecture are mirrored inside by luxurious rooms with all the amenities. The grand ballroom was especially awe-inspiring with it’s signature sunken dance area with gleaming parquet hardwood flooring. Almost relegated to the past, Loews Hotel & Resorts invested millions of dollars in bringing this grand dame back to it’s current glory. As we toured her many fabulous meeting rooms and accommodations, again, we were reminded that this was no “old people’s” resort area.

The Vinoy

Next came lunch at The Vinoy Renaissance Hotel in St. Petersburg. Not just any lunch, this feast for the eyes and palate was a true treat by all, with the head chef introducing each course personally, making the meal a memorable experience.  Nestled on the downtown waterfront, The Vinoy offers the best of both worlds. Although not beach front, this ultra luxurious hotel faces both the intercoastal waterway and bay-side marinas, with stunning day and night time views. Also the only hotel we toured that boasted it’s own private golf and

The Vinoy Golf Club

country club just a short ride away, the superior greens and amenities of the club were evident at every turn. After a return to The Vinoy to continue our tour to showcase her beauty and desirability as a resort and meeting venue, we were thrilled to take a two hour luxury catamaran trip out into the bay, where dolphins frolicked and chased the boat’s wake. Sales Manager, Ally, outdid herself in providing us with a perfect tour, providing all the small details to make this a truly memorable day.

Parkshore Grill

Dinner that evening was a real treat. We were joined at The Parkshore Grill by David and D.T. of St. Pete’s/Clearwater CVB, as well as our guides, Suzanne and Tina for a fabulous meal of the highest quality. Treated to samples of some of the best cuisine they had to offer, we were again reminded of just how far this often overlooked area has come in the past few years. Upscale and trendy, the Parkshore Grill’s interior was a reflection of it’s good taste and great food.

Pool area at Hyatt Regency

Our final morning in the area was spent touring Clearwater’s Hyatt Regency. Following a wonderful buffet breakfast, we were pleased to visit the many rooms, meeting facilities and unparalleled spa of this very upscale, luxurious hotel. One of my personal favourites of this property was the 20 state-of-the-art, climate controlled cabanas bordering the pool. Much as we would have loved to have stayed and enjoyed the amenities the cabanas offered, time and travel plans dictated our day.

During a quick meeting, we all agreed the inspections had proven to be especially eye-opening and well worth the visit to Florida in the middle of August. Every one of us felt we had come away with a much clearer understanding of the benefits of promoting this upscale, trendy area on the Gulf Coast. Not only does it offer every possible amenity, but it’s geographical advantage of being within the U.S. is a definite plus for our American client groups who would rather not have to deal with passports. The shorter travel times, and the familiarity of an American based destination, with all the features and benefits of our most luxurious Carribean venues, will be appealing to both our Canadian and U.S. clientele, as they relax and indulge in this little known secret of the travel industry.

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Empowering, Motivating, and Engaging

Get out of your comfort zone!


Strategic Incentive Solutions is a full-service incentive reward company which specializes in the design and implementation of strategic incentive programs. Our dedicated team assists clients in every aspect of performance and loyalty enhancement by working with leading fulfillment partners in the Rewards and Recognition Industry offering the best solutions for companies throughout North America. We design innovative programs utilizing premium awards, vacation travel, and sports & entertainment events, all with the goal of growing sales, building market share, recruiting talent, rewarding loyalty, motivating employees and promoting product awareness. Specializing in creating turn-key solutions to help build loyalty and cultivate relationships, SIS is widely recognized for innovative marketing solutions to motivate client audiences and drive overall Corporate performance.

Operating in both Canada and the U.S., and with a team of five full time staff, S.I.S. is rapidly becoming a force to be reckoned with in the Rewards and Incentive industry. We know you’ve worked hard to build your business, and we want to help you grow and succeed at reaching your goals. We also know that by rewarding, recognizing and engaging the people who help build your business, you in turn become rewarded, recognized and engaged. In today’s tougher economy, it’s never been more important to give back and be seen as a leader.
Many call good results the perfect end to any successful incentive. We consider it the perfect beginning. Recognizing that you’ve achieved your goal is the first step in devising new, more intrepid goals, aimed at solidifying your business’ industry niche. We understand not only how important good results are to a company, but we also know the process shouldn’t stop there.
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