Copyright © 2013 by Davis Multimedia, Int'l. All Rights Reserved.
As Printed in November 2013, Volume 39, No. 5 of The Engravers Journal
GW Crystal, Rancho Cucamonga, CA, offers a line of high-end crystal products and also provides subsurface laser engraving services for creating 2D and/or 3D images inside of the crystal. This art glass sea turtle is part of the Murano Style Glass Animals collection from Badash Crystal, Deer Park, NY.

   EJ's five-part article series about selling corporate awards which we published in 2012 was one of our most popular recent article series (see sidebar), and when we started receiving a lot of feedback from readers about it, we knew something must be up. There was definitely a lot of interest in selling to this market and readers were picking up the tips in the articles to help them sell more and were seeking out even more ways to sell more.
   We began to wonder if we could somehow gather and present even more information about this market that would be useful and meaningful to you. How many of you are selling corporate awards? What types of customers do you have? Is it a growing area for your business? What products do you sell to these clients?
   The search for answers to questions like these led us to conduct this survey. I must say that the response was beyond our expectations—it was tremendous! As a result, we believe we have collected some great data about the state of the corporate market in our industry. In fact, we gathered so much information that we decided to present the results in a two-part series. Thanks to all of you who responded and congratulations to those of you who won a free one-year subscription for doing so!
   Here’s a look at some of the results of EJ’s Corporate Awards Survey.

What percentage of your company’s sales involves the sale of awards (all awards) and award-related ancillary services, such as engraving and personalization? (Fig. 1)
   Of the readers who responded to this survey, the majority (55%) indicated that awards and related services were the major part (75%-100%) of their business while only 11% indicated that awards constituted only 1%-25% of their business. Awards appear to be a major profit-maker for R&I businesses, at least among those who responded to this survey.

What percentage of your award sales (including ancillary services such as engraving and personalization) is in the corporate market? (Fig. 2)
   The responses to this question were interesting as they were fairly even among the four options we presented: 1%-25%, 25%-50%, 50%-75% and 75%-100%. The 25%-50% category had a very slight edge but, generally speaking, the amount of corporate sales varied evenly among the respondents in these categories. Since most readers cite awards as the major part of their sales, this suggests that most readers are involved in other types of award sales as well.
   However, another way to look at this is that when you consider all of the other major categories of awards (sports, academics, hobbies, etc.), it would appear that corporate awards is among the largest single market segments available.

What types of corporate customers do you sell to and how often? (Fig. 3)
   The types of customers listed in our survey included large companies (over 500 employees), medium-sized companies (50-500 employees), small-sized companies (up to 50 employees), government & municipal, organizations (non-profit, education, professional) and charitable organizations. We gave readers the option of responding to this question with an answer of very often, often, occasionally and never.
   What stands out here is that the “never” answers were miniscule in all categories compared to the other answers. In fact, no one said that they never sell to organizations, only 1% said they never sell to small companies and only 3% said they never sell to charitable organizations. Interesting, too, is the fact that the majority sell to large companies at least occasionally and to medium- and small-sized companies often. It appears that those who sell corporate awards are taking advantage of the fact that there are a multitude of different types of customers to sell to. Some of the other types of corporate customers cited included private clubs, religious organizations and wholesale work.

Desk accessories are functional awards that corporate recipients can display in an office. Photo courtesy of B.F. Plastics, Inc., North Lawrence, OH.

Art sculptures are popular as corporate awards among some customers. Photo courtesy of JDS Industries, Sioux Falls, SD.

Plaques are still one of the most popular types of awards in the corporate market. This custom zinc plaque is from ATdesigns Insignia, Ltd., Indio, CA.

How would you rate your sales growth in the corporate and non-corporate markets? (Fig. 4)
   As you can see, both of these markets are stable if not growing. Only a small number of respondents indicated that sales were declining in both of these categories. That’s good news! What’s notable as well is that responses to both the corporate market and non-corporate markets are relatively close. Corporate sales growth is leading non-corporate sales by 3%. Judging from this, it appears that awards sales—both corporate and non—are going strong.

Figure 6

Are most of your corporate award sales to one-time award purchasers or to customers who have ongoing award programs? (Fig. 5)
   A 2011 WorldAtWork “Trends in Employee Recognition” survey revealed that the majority of the companies surveyed (86%) had recognition programs in place. EJ’s survey appears to back this up as 78% of the respondents indicated that they sell mostly to clients who have ongoing recognition programs as opposed to one-time award customers. This, of course, is good news as well. Selling to customers with ongoing recognition programs usually means easy repeat sales on a continuing basis—it could be monthly, quarterly, yearly, etc.—as well as the opportunity to sell more awards as many programs are “multi-tiered” and/or when the customer implements a new program.

How common are the various types of recognition programs among your customers? (Fig. 6)
   The major “losers” in this category were programs for suggestions/ideas, attendance and training completion as the majority of readers indicated that their customers rarely use these types of programs. Not surprisingly, the “winners” were the more traditional types of programs—retirement, length of service, job performance, sales performance, etc.
   This type of information can come in quite handy for an R&I retailer, particularly when approaching a new client and/or trying to sell a client on the idea of implementing a recognition program(s). You can present them with popular award occasions (“Do you have a retirement or length of service program in place?”) for setting up corporate recognition programs for engaging employees and helping their business succeed. And thanks to the proliferation of programs like these, you will likely have a customer for life. (For more information about how to do this, see our five-part Selling Corporate Awards series.)

What types of recognition do your corporate customers use and how often? (Fig. 7)
   The vast majority of the respondents indicated that their customers use “awards only” programs very often or often as their preferred form of recognition. Awards and incentives ranked high as well as a preferred type of recognition while gift certificates fared well in the “occasionally” category. A number of readers indicated that awards and cash were used occasionally by their customers although nearly the same number of respondents indicated that their customers never use the combination of awards and cash.

This mantel clock from Classic Medallics, Inc., Mt. Vernon, NY, features a piano rosewood finish and can be personalized to make an elegant and useful corporate award.

These new blue and clear crystal awards from SCT Crystal, South El Monte, CA, have a large area for personalization.

Marco Awards Group, South Windsor, CT, carries a line of elegant, colorful corporate glass awards that can be displayed as works of art.

What is a typical annual budget for a small corporate awards account? (Fig. 8)
   Although there are several variables that can affect the answer to this question—who the customer is, what the program entails, how many awards are used, even the size of the town the awards shop is located in—we posed it to get a general idea of the types of budgets that award dealers are typically working with.
   A few respondents provided large ranges and indicated that, as noted, the budgets vary quite a bit. Several indicated budgets in the $500 to $1,500 range, while one respondent said he sees an even wider range of $500 to $10,000, depending on the company. Some readers responded with a per award/employee price, which generally ranged from $30 to $100.
   That being said, there were some notable trends. Budgets for small corporate accounts appeared to fall in one of four (loosely defined) monetary ranges: $100-$500, $500-$1,000, $1,000-$5,000 and $5,000+.
   As you can see in Figure 8, in the $100-$500 category, the vast majority indicated a budget of $500, followed by $300, $100-$200 and $250.
   There weren’t many budgets cited in the $500-$1,000 category. The respondents in this category gave broad ranges, the most common being $500-$1,000. Other ranges included $750-$1,000 and $500-$1,500.
   After that, however, the numbers jumped up again in the $1,000-$5,000 range which, interestingly, were quite similar to the numbers in the $100-$500 category. The most cited budgets in this category were $1,000, followed by $2,000, 5,000 and $3,000.
   There were a few respondents who indicated much larger budgets above $5,000, including: $10,000; $15,000; $50,000; $75,000; and $175,000.
   What is interesting here is that if you look at Figure 8, there were as many customers with $500 budgets as there were $1,000 budgets. This might seem to suggest that many corporate clients essentially choose a “round” number when funding their awards budget.

What is a typical annual budget for a large corporate awards account? (Fig. 9)
   There were some big numbers specified here! The largest annual budget was $250,000 (also noted were $100,000, $75,000, $60,000 and $30,000). Numerous respondents indicated budget ranges that fell into the high numbers, the most popular being in the $5,000-$10,000 and $20,000-$25,000 range.
   As with the small awards account findings, there were some notable trends here too. The most common budget cited was $5,000 but it was closely followed by the second most common budget which was $10,000; these were followed by $1,000 and $2,000 (tied), $3,000, $2,500 and $1,500.
   It is remarkable that $5,000 and $10,000 were the two most common budgets cited, just as $500 and $1,000 were noted as the most popular budgets for small awards accounts. It would appear that, again, customers seem to select a round number when setting their budget.

What types of awards are your corporate customers purchasing and how popular are they? (Fig. 10)
   It helps to know what types of awards customers are buying and what the customer preference trends are. This question reveals customer preferences.
   There’s been speculation in the industry in recent years that plaques are declining in popularity among corporate customers, but the results from this survey indicate that that isn’t necessarily true. As shown in Figure 10, 63% of the respondents indicated that plaques are very popular among their customers—in fact, in this survey, they are the most popular. Crystal/glass awards and acrylic awards also rated very high in popularity. Desk accessories and clocks/watches remain popular as well, no doubt because they are functional awards which are well-suited for use and display by corporate recipients.
   Some of the “not popular” awards were not necessarily surprising, which included resins, drinkware and wearables, perhaps because these items are typically lower-end items and most corporate award buyers are looking for something on the higher end.
   Another notable finding was in the art sculptures/art glass category. There was a close divide between being “not popular” (53%) and “popular” (39%). We have difficulty explaining why there seems to be such a close split percentage-wise between those who like or dislike these. We can only speculate that there are a lot of people who either like or dislike them and that those who like art glass and sculptures buy them and others don’t.

Topmost World, Inc., Montclair, CA, has a unique selection of corporate awards designed for recognizing progress and success, such as this Zenith Award.

What percentage of your customers purchase stock vs. custom awards? (Fig. 11)
   The majority of the respondents (49%) indicated that 90% to 100% of their customers purchase stock awards (stocked by suppliers or assembled in-house). While 22% indicated that they don’t sell custom factory produced awards at all, the remaining respondents said that their customers do purchase some custom awards. This shows that while stock awards are pretty much the norm, there is custom work being sold and purchased. Past surveys that we have taken have indicated that there is an upper strata in the market that seems to focus on high-end and prestigious products, especially when the customer has a larger budget. We’ll bring you more thoughts about this in a future installment of our Awards Pro series.
   We hope you found these survey results to have provided some interesting insight into what’s happening in the corporate awards market and that, perhaps, you can put some of this information to work for you in your business. We believe this is the first time information like this has been gathered in our industry and look forward to doing more in the future.
   Thanks again to all of you who responded and who truly made this information meaningful.
   Be sure to watch for part 2 of the Corporate Awards Survey results which will provide information about customer samples, personalization services, engraving/personalization charges, marketing and promotional techniques, and more!