Entrepreneurs, on the whole, are driven by a desire to be great and stand out.
Fortunately, standing out is not only good for an ego boost -- it's also the trademark of successful businesses. According to John Ruhlin, the entrepreneur behind corporate gift-giving consulting firm Ruhlin Promotion Group, the things that make a business stand out mirror the rules for giving -- providing unique, memorable gifts.
According to Ruhlin, companies can set themselves apart in the space by knowing the difference between a promotional item (something that's branded and inexpensive) and a true gift -- an item that should be unique and high-quality with a focus on the recipient.
And Ruhlin advises against gifting between Thanksgiving and Christmas, because the recipient is receiving dozens of gifts and is often busy shopping and spending time with family. Giving a gift at a different time is unexpected and more effective, just as companies that go out of their way to surprise and delight us are more likely to win our long-term loyalty.
For those who slacked on gift shopping for stakeholders over the holiday season, it may not be all bad. Here are a gift-giving tips that can be used year round.
Ensure it has a unique quality. "No one wants to add to their collection of five leather padfolios, eight pieces of luggage, 15 Tiffany crystal bowls or three pairs of golf shoes," says Ruhlin. Similarly, a business that just jumps on a trend bandwagon -- without offering anything new or different -- is a gift bound to be forgotten.
Offer an item the recipient will actually use. A great business is one that fulfills a need in the market. For gifts, a standard plaque that hangs on a wall or crystal that collects dust in the china cabinet is not ideal. Give something that's used on a regular basis, and the recipient will think of you every time.
Consider lasting gifts. Find something that will last years or even decades. Gifts like iPads, smartwatches or trendy fashion items could be outdated in less than a year. Instead offer items that will stand the test of time, like cookware.
Think customization. "People love to see their name on high-level things," says Ruhlin. Gifts that are customized make the recipient feel special, just as a business that provides a unique experience to every person makes customers feel good.
Focus on the family. Family-oriented gifts and brands forge powerful emotional connections. "Give a gift that includes the spouse and entire family," says Ruhlin. "It wins huge game-changing brownie points for both the giver and the recipient."
Be unexpected. "Deep down at heart, we are like kids at Christmas and want to be surprised with something cool," says Ruhlin "The element of surprise can elevate a gift from good to great."
At the end of the day, it really is the thought that counts. Giving with the recipient in mind is the best way to stand out and ensure your gift doesn't get stuffed in a closet and forgotten.
In the same way, you should build every aspect of your company with the end user in mind. That means ensuring that every touch point is thoughtfully created to delight your customers. After all, success comes from staying true to your values and making sure your actions (and gifts) reflect the way you want to be perceived.
The author is an Entrepreneur contributor. The opinions expressed are those of the writer.
Sheena Lindahl is co-founder and CEO of Empact, an organization facilitating entrepreneurship throughout the world through exposure, celebration and connection. She has been named by Inc. Magazine as a 30 under 30 entrepreneur and by Business Week as one of the country's top 25 entrepreneurs under the age of 25. She is a graduate of New York University.