Since prehistoric times, people have been exchanging gifts to boost engagement, offer appreciation, and celebrate relationships. Although holidays, birthdays, and work anniversaries have kept the tradition alive for centuries, nowadays, most of us already have so much stuff that it becomes hard to give or receive something that won’t become just another piece of clutter in a forgotten drawer. Companies give people tchotchke at trade shows, company swag out of obligation, gift cards or cash as an affirmation of social status. All of these are done with the expectation that the business will get something in return. While we agree with the law of reciprocity, we also believe in the power of a meaningful gift.
At Cultivate, we’re on a mission to change how companies think about and value appreciation. We want organizations to use gifting as a way to actively invest in relationships with memorable, tangible quality gifts people get to select. Why? Because we believe what’s truly powerful is the meaning the gift carries, the feelings it triggers, and the relationships it enhances. The gift is a medium—its purpose is to deliver a message of appreciation.
In the first part of this blog series, our team of Gifting Experts shares two principles that your company can apply to transform gifting programs into relationship boosters and business development tools. These principles are most effective when applied to meaningful relationships your business wants to invest in, but some will apply to anyone—even new hires and prospective customers.
1. Make people feel seen
There are several reasons why the hanging gardens of Babylon are considered one of the seven wonders of the ancient world: their colossal beauty, the innovation of their design, the role of Babylon in the birth of civilization, and the mystery of whether the place ever even existed. However, what makes the place truly special is its story: around 600 BC, King Nebuchadnezzar II’s wife Amytis missed the mountains and the plants of her homeland, so, as a gift, the king had the gardens built for her.
We’re not suggesting that your company needs to build a multimillion-dollar monument to increase interactions with clients or employees. However, just like Nebuchadnezzar did, tuning in to other people’s feelings, desires, and personality and offering gifting options as a response can make all the difference.
Most of us have experienced, at some point or another in our lives, the impact that empathy can have in our relationships and in our individual well-being. It feels amazing—and often incredibly healing—to be listened to, to be understood, and to know that we matter to others. In a society in which so much of the approval we get comes from empty social media likes, in which colleagues pay closer attention to their phones than to our presence, and in which we so often feel pressured to please and live up to other people’s expectations, the gift of being seen (being known, being understood) has become a real commodity.
You can use this principle when offering gifts. How? It’s simple: focus on the people you’re appreciating. According to Nathan Novemsky, an expert on the psychology of judgment and decision-making at Yale University, givers often focus on the perceived desirability of the gift they offer because they expect to be appreciated for it. However, more than creativity and uniqueness, receivers value convenience, feasibility, and ease of use in a gift—so this often leads to disappointment.
It’s okay to be thanked when you deliver a great gift—and even to enjoy it—but don’t make it your company’s focus. Let it be a side effect instead. Don’t focus on what the gift says about your brand; focus on what it creates for the other person. One study shows that a lot of people prefer gifts they get to select — after all, what could be better proof that you know them and care about their personal interests?
2. Make it mutual
As Stephen Covey said, “The key to life is to serve other people—that is the source of true happiness, not pleasure.” In religions such as Buddhism and Hinduism, selfless service—giving freely and authentically without expecting anything in return—is considered a necessary practice for those seeking enlightenment.
Therefore (and somewhat paradoxically), authentic giving becomes one of the most liberating and joy-inducing behaviors we can have as humans. It is not uncommon for people to experience a more substantial and longer feeling of appreciation when gifting than receiving. But the best thing about gifting is that since we are highly empathetic beings, the happier the giver feels, the more the receiver will pick up on that happiness and, therefore, the more they will enjoy the gift.
One way to reinforce your appreciation as a giver is to have fun with the process of preparing, planning, and offering gifting options. If you’re thinking that it’s absurd to overthink something as simple as gifting, consider that it’s not the one-off event that matters: it’s the compound effect of appreciation that makes up the essence of meaningful relationships. Just like having an important conversation or welcoming new members to your team, gifts are landmarks in our relationships; they are both symbols and opportunities, and their power depends on the emotions we decide to attribute to them.
Corporate gifting is on the rise, and industry analysts expect it to grow by at least six to eight percent annually. Embracing these new principles gives your organization an advantage and puts you on the right track towards fulfilling goals and moving your business forward. Appreciation matters—just ask your bottom line.
To learn more about Cultivate’s variety of gifting solutions, connect with our team of Gifting Experts. Stay tuned for the second part of this blog series!