It's time once again to plan your holiday gifts for your best customers and staff too. This year, let's challenge the autopilot mode most of us fall into during the holiday season, and let's question if our annual gifts to clients and employees are truly expressing our sentiments of appreciation and thanks. This episode promises to provide a fresh perspective on how to make meaningful decisions that resonate with your clients and team members, and to help make everyone's holiday just a little brighter.
What about custom, uniques gift baskets for top-tier customers; and what are the pros and cons of pre-packaged versus personally crafted gifts? The most significant impact of any holiday gesture is one of togetherness and camaraderie. This episode is brimming with holiday insights and inspiration that can positively impact your business relationships into 2024.
Thank you to Zastro for sponsoring this episode of Lighting with Lisa!
Hello and welcome fellow lighting nerds and friends to Lighting with Lisa, the Lighting Industries podcast sponsored once again this week by Zastro, and I will give you a little more information on Zastro in the upcoming moments of this episode. But welcome back to Lighting with Lisa. I'm always delighted to speak to you all. It's been a great week of feedback since last week's episode and I really really appreciate the feedback so much. It is so valuable to helping me further this podcast to keep it relevant to things that you want to hear about, which is great for all of us. So keep the feedback coming. Email me at Lisa sorry, lisa at lightingwithlisacom. Don't forget to follow me on all the socials. My personal Instagram is LisaLight's life. The podcast has an Instagram LWL underscore podcast my Lighting with Lisa social media mission, which is both industry and consumer facing. That's on Instagram at Lighting with Lisa. I cross post in all of those areas. If you're on Facebook, join the fixture finder group. If you're interested in it, also join the job board. There's a lot of great networking and ongoing community within the residential lighting and fan industry and it can be found in all of those places. I'm just happy to be able to be a small part of it and I really, really appreciate everyone tuning in every week. If you're interested in becoming a sponsor of the podcast, please do reach out to me. Lighting is going swimmingly for our current sponsors and I would love to get more sponsors on board and get your message out to this very targeted and specific audience who is truly engaging with this content, and I look forward to more and more of that as time goes on and interviews. It's a little early to be making New Year's resolutions, but I'm going to go ahead and make this one as a commitment to everyone listening to this podcast. My New Year's resolution for 2024 is to finally do interviews on the Lighting with Lisa podcast. I have been researching it. I think I feel comfortable with it. I will make it happen and bring those interviews to you. So, even if you're not interested in sponsoring the podcast, but have a suggestion of somebody that you would like me to interview in the lighting and fan industry whether they're a key player, somebody doing something interesting on the fringes, whatever it may be send me an email, drop me a DM so that I can reach out to them and get something scheduled, because I promise interviews are coming in 2024. And I think they're going to be great triggers for ongoing conversation. So today's topic came to life because of an email I received from a listener, and I'm really, really appreciative of it. It was actually just one of those really timely things, talking about holidays and what you're doing around the holidays, not only for your customers but for your staff, and literally as I got the email, I was trying to figure out what Christmas bonuses we're going to be for my team and I was like, oh well, this is just everything coming together all at once. So I really spent some time thinking about it and what I realized which I think really resonates with everyone who listens to this podcast, is I do the same thing all the time and I almost don't even think about it regarding, like, christmas bonuses or holiday gifts or whatever it is. I find myself so frequently on autopilot that I'm like I was almost a little disturbed. I was like, oh, I don't know if this is really the most effective and efficient way to run a business, just being on autopilot and going through the same motions I've always gone through year in and year out and not really stopping to think about why am I doing that, but what's the reasoning? Is this really benefiting me the way I expect it to? Is it really benefiting my employees the way I expect it to? Is this really benefiting my customers the way I want and need this to, to increase their loyalty, to increase their commitment to my business? Am I just kind of doing things to do them, or is there true value in them? And value doesn't always have to come back in the term it like in like financial gain, right, value can just mean a happy workforce. Value can just mean a customer that appreciates you and when some other supplier comes knocking on their door, they're so committed to their relationship with you that they're not swayed by somebody that promises to save them like a fraction of a percent on their ongoing orders or whatever the case may be. So we do these end of the year gifts and thank yous to kind of solidify things with all of these different parts of our world moving into the next calendar year. And then I thought, well, are we really thinking about whether it's useful or not? Are we really thinking about if the things we're doing are generating the value that we want them to generate? I don't know, just throwing this out there because it really got me thinking about what I'm doing this year and am I happy with it. Am I not happy with it? Is it really paying off in the ways I really want these gifts and thoughtful gestures to pay off, or is it just kind of empty? There's a thing gosh I cannot remember where I heard it at this point. I'm sure it was on a podcast somewhere. But this is in speaking about personal relationships, like whether it's a friendship, a marriage, a partnership. If you're doing something as person A that in your mind, is helpful to person B, but that is not how person B wants to receive help. It doesn't resonate with them, then person A can want to be helpful and supportive, all they want. But if person B just doesn't receive things that way, it's just going to fall flat. You're not going to get the results you want from it. So the idea is in this kind of scenario is that person A should engage with person B, find out what really truly defines helpfulness to them, what truly defines support to person be, and then person a should try to fulfill that in the best way that they possibly can, if they're able to, you know. So how much are we just like ships passing in the night with our, with our good intentions, but they're not really resulting in what we want. So it's just kind of got me thinking. I it seems like an odd trigger for having these like meta thoughts, but it's really just something that I find myself doing year in, year out, kind of with the same structure that we've always done. And I, this email got me thinking like I, was this really benefiting Me and my staff and my customers in the way that I want it to? I don't know. So let me rethink this. So just Opening up the conversation with that, and then I'm gonna talk a bit about Some ideas of gifts and for customers and team and everything else Coming up after the commercial break here. But just food for thought on that. You know, like, how often do we Just do our processes like, okay, it's that time of year again, we're gonna do this, this and this, and what do we do last year? Okay, we'll match it, okay, we'll do. You know, it just can become so Rote and repetitive and I think, like many things in life, that's really where, like, staleness creeps in, and then we aren't really firing on all cylinders, we're just going through the motions. And I think going through the motions is just kind of like the death knell of any business, like when you're just going through the motions, when you're just trying to make it from a to be in in a day and you're not really giving a lot of thought to what you're doing or why you're doing it. I think it really can start to be where a business suffers. We all need that energy and engagement and enthusiasm and creativity, and the kind of minute you take your eye off of that it's when things can really get stale and boring and frustrating and just creates not the best atmosphere. So just something to think about as you're doing your year and planning and looking towards twenty twenty four. You know other things to think about in twenty twenty four are, you know, the economy at large and like how are we gonna use these Creative thoughts that we're having triggered by this podcast, to engage and continue sales through twenty twenty four? At the start of twenty twenty three I think a lot of us were still living off of the backlog of orders from twenty twelve. That's kind of all processed through. The market in the home goods category has softened in the second half of twenty twenty three. I think I addressed it last week. I do believe that's partly why we're having so many factory sales for such an extended period of time right now in the black Friday holiday season. So it does perk up one's ears for how things are going to go in twenty twenty four. It's a major election year in the United States. That's a thing. The economy is in good shape. I was reading news this week saying that the fed really feels like they've aimed us well towards the proverbial soft landing. That's all well and good. I also read where yeah, but if one little thing goes sideways, that could all go away and we're gonna end up in a recession. So there's just point being at this, not like a political judgment or anything. At the point being, there's just a lot of uncertainty going into twenty twenty four and I think consumers are gonna feel that as much as we do as business owners and managers. So how are we going to creatively work through that? Because it will be a shock to all of our systems To see sales decline in twenty twenty four after just three pretty amazing years of sales and double digit growth and all of that. I'm not expecting that in twenty twenty four for my business. I am just trying to be smart about what's coming and really, yeah, apply this not doing the same old mentality to the coming year, because I really think it's going to need some extra energy and engagement in order to really grow. And maybe growth in 2024 just looks like maybe something different than it's looked in past years. Maybe it's not like income and sales, maybe it's my social media audience, maybe it's I don't know something else website traffic, seo something might be a different definition for growth in 2024 than it's been in previous years, and so I'm really trying to be thoughtful and strategic in that. So, all right, let me talk a bit about our sponsor, which is Zastro. Again this week, I'm going to start off right at the top with your salespeople, because these are the people you need to reach out to to get yourself set up with a demo. Okay, so you're. If you live west of the Mississippi River, you need to contact to Gail Gail at Zastrocom. If you live east of the Mississippi River, you need to contact Thomas Thomas at Zastrocom. Get yourself set up on a demo. No cost to do a demo other than your time. You're going to love it If you do a demo and then become a customer of Zastro and you mentioned that you came because of the lighting with Lisa podcast. You're going to get $500 off a purchase and I'm telling you at full disclosure, as a customer, that $500 is going to be real valuable to you and it's a really good offer. I highly recommend checking it out. As I made this decision to convert my database and essentially let's I'm just going to call it what it is my operating, my business operating software from what I was using to the NetSuite platform powered by the Zastro Illuminate program, which is tailor made for lighting showrooms. The impetus behind this decision was what I talked about a few podcasts ago margins. Margins in our industry are tight, profits can be low and I do not have, with my current software solution, a really great way of knowing in detail where my money is going. I have general ideas, I have educated guesses, but I don't really know in detail and I needed a solution that provided me a much more robust picture of my business than I had with my current system and I literally can't wait to go live. I know it's nuts to do a big database conversion like this. It's a huge undertaking. Everyone involved in the in the situation appreciates that it's not something I would do often and I did not take this decision lightly, nor should anybody. Whether you elect to go with the NetSuite product or something else, there's just a lot of thought that goes into it, but I really recommend taking a look at this product. I think you're going to be amazed at the level of detail you can gain about your own business. You're also going to be amazed if you start paying attention to how many order confirmations you're getting from home goods businesses that are using the NetSuite platform, and that, in and of itself, says something to me about how well this tool can be made to work for our home goods businesses. And yeah, you know it's not the most inexpensive solution out there. But when you can really track where your dollars and cents are going, when you can really get a good understanding of your business and the health and your real profitability, the real value of your inventory, where things are flowing, where you might have like a slow drip of money that you didn't even realize you had because your software wasn't allowing you to really drill into the details of things, it's going to be a total game changer. So absolutely check them out Again. It's Zastrocom is the website If you want to learn about the Illuminat feature. It's Zastrocom, slash, illuminat there's Lights America integration. It's just the best market leading cloud ERP software. With NetSuite it integrates easily. You have a whole dashboard, you've got KPIs, you've got all gosh any number of things you can do. And my new little thing in my head about this is if you can dream it, they can build it. So it's just been a really interesting process. Check it out, sign up for the demo Again. If you're west of the Mississippi, you want to contact Gail and if you're east of the Mississippi, contact Thomas and check the show notes for more information. So thank you again to Zastro. All right, so I'm going to spend the second part of the podcast talking about gifts for the team and gifts for customers in the holiday season. So this year I'll start with talking about gifts for our best customers. So this year I'm doing something a little different. As you know if you've listened to the podcast for any length of time in late 2022 through 2023, I've really invested a lot in merchandise accessories, hostess gifts, like small pick-me-up items, like usually like I want things to have a retail value of like $50 or less. Traditionally, a lot of lighting showrooms do candles, but I've really been expanding on that. Just quick, easy items for people to pick up, make little hostess gifts or just a gift for a friend. We do a lot of stuff that is coastal, themed for the area in which I live and it's just been a great add-on to the showroom. I'm really happy with it. But what we're doing for our gifts for our best customers this year is we're making custom gift baskets of these little items that we sell in the store. We just put them together this week. We're going to deliver them the week after Thanksgiving. I'm super thrilled with them. They look great and it reinforces this connection to the brand of my business. It's not what we've done in the past. It's been great. Nobody's complained about it. Since we live in Savannah Georgia there's a few very kind of nationally known businesses that are candy makers, like Savannah Candy Kitchen, other places like that that are. We have another one that's like Bird Cookie Company. I don't know. They do a lot of and these places do a lot of corporate gifts. I just have to name drop one other one in case they listen River Street Sweets. Anyway, these places do a lot of corporate gifts and traditionally remember at the top I talked about what I just doing, what I always did. Traditionally, I would just get gift baskets from these places delivered to our customers with a thank you note Again. Nobody ever complained, nobody was ever mad to get a gift basket of pre-leans for them and their entire staff. So they were great gifts. But I really was wondering, like, is this reinforcing the connection to the brand, to my staff, to my showroom, to all my business offers? Am I short changing that? So what we decided to do this year for the gift baskets for our best customers was to create custom gift baskets of the products that we're selling in the showroom. So we just got some. You know, we did these sort of like crates and got some cellophane and we've put together these really cute gift baskets. All of the products that we sell in the showroom host us gift variety and the primary salesperson for each of the best customers is going to go deliver these in person with a huge thank you and a smile and deliver our holiday present that way. I'll let you know how it pans out, but I'm much more excited about this than the more impersonal ones we have been doing. The staff is more excited about it. Actually, it's more fun to like show up and give a gift of something that's like meaningful to you than to just have like some candy drop shipped. And since I do have the luxury of living in the same general market area of my customers, it's been. It's really great we can deliver it in person. You know it's much harder if you're a manufacturer in this industry and your customers are coast to coast. You can't very well show up with something personal and give it to them. I guess your rep could, but it's just a more logistical challenge. But I would really encourage anyone that's a distributor with local customers to really think about doing something with a truly personal touch and connecting that customer back to your business and making them feel really great about their relationship with you and your business. Moving into the next year, I do want to drop one logo item that we got in 2023 for the store that has done really well for us. It's this company. They're Pirani Cups, p-i-r-a-n-i. They're not a sponsor. I'm just giving this information out because they've been good for us. They're cups that they basically look like red solo cups, but they're reusable, they're insulated, they have a lid. They're really a great value. You can get your company's logo on them. They're not terribly expensive. We've been giving these away. When I got our first shipment in, I gave everyone on my staff one of these to use. We gave some at that time to our best customers. They have been really, really well received. What we didn't give away, we've put out in the showroom for sale and we've even sold a few. I would definitely recommend checking them out if you want a customized. I don't know, mugs and tumblers are pretty traditional when it comes to a Christmas gift, but I really like this particular product. The cups are stackable. They're really fun. Go check them out. The other thing that we do that a lot of people do are these hardcover sticky notebooks. They're just super useful and we give those out to our customers all the time. We actually leave them on our cash wrap area for homeowners anybody to grab and use. Other logo items that we do are hoodies, t-shirts, both long sleeve and short sleeve. We do pens. We have two kinds of pens. We have our fancy pens and then we have our El Chippo pens. We add, always keep a mix of those, all logoed. I always want to encourage anybody buying a logoed apparel to not forget to get ladies cuts as well as the traditional men's sizes. Now, not all ladies that are going to want the ladies cut, but it definitely is something that's important. I want to rep your goods. I want to wear them. I want to have your logo stuff on. I don't want to be drowning in a t-shirt that comes down to my knees. I want a ladies cut and I'm not alone out there. Just don't forget to throw a mix of those in when you're doing your logo apparel, and I guarantee you're going to be shocked at how fast those ladies cut of logoed items go, because oftentimes, if you give me the choice, I'll just be like you know what. I'll skip it. I'm never going to wear it. I don't want it sitting in my closet. Let's just have somebody else get it that might actually get you out of it. If you give me a ladies cut, I'm going to wear it. I promise that's my two cents. On gifts for customers Really try to connect going into the holiday season, especially as a thank you gift. Really try to connect that customer with your business, with their primary contact for your business. Let them engage and and have a great like mutual appreciation. Give them something that is fun for them to unpack, something that really shows your personality as a business and what you're offering to all of your customers. I really think that probably goes a lot further than just the candy gift basket, or maybe do both. Maybe you do a smaller, more personal gift and then you do the more standard corporate gift just to cover all the bases. That's totally fine, whatever you think works best for you and your business, of course, but I'm really excited about these this year and I hope it's something that works well for us and we're able to continue doing in the future. Now, of course, again like I said at the top of the podcast, I don't want any of these things to become just like Repetition. Here we are, another year, same thing. So it is definitely going to be a challenge for us to do these gifts every year and then maintain like creativity about them and coming up with new fun things to put in there. So I'm actually kind of looking forward to that challenge next year, and next year maybe I won't be no, I won't be going through a huge database implementation at the same time and we'll be able to spend a little more thought on these things. But the other part of this was talking about gifts for your team the traditional holiday bonus, of course, and I think all of us really appreciate a nice holiday bonus. It is that time of year where you're spending a fair amount more money than normal on gifts or whatever it is. I don't think anybody is ever upset by a nice holiday bonus. So I definitely say, especially for your team Continue to do your holiday bonus in some form or fashion. But then it's like what do you do pass that like? You don't. You don't always just want to like give cash and say thanks for the great work this year and you know we're going to do it all again next year. So I've done a few different things again. This year is just a kind of weird year in my business because we are doing this implementation at the same time. So it's really A lot of our, a lot of my teams bandwidth is taken up by these things, so we're not necessarily doing as much as we would typically do. But I did want to throw out there some things we've done in the past or things I know other businesses have done that were really successful for their team, just to maybe spark a new idea for somebody else listening to the podcast. So there's always the standard of renting out an event space, having a A dinner or cocktail hour or something, a chance for your team to like, relax and engage together and do the traditional holiday party, and there's really honestly nothing wrong with that. I think they, if they're done in a relaxing manner and significant others are invited, it can be a lot of fun. So that's always a good option just to get people out of the office and connecting with one another. What I did last year, which everyone loved and sadly I'm not doing again this year, but last year I hired and it was actually less expensive than going to an event space and doing this Last year I hired a local private chef and he came to the house and he cooked brunch for us. I invited the whole team and their significant others and we all hung out at my house for several hours on a weekend, like mid morning, early afternoon, and we had a little boozy brunch and it was fabulous. It was very casual, so, no, there wasn't like a bunch of pressure to dress up, do this, that it didn't run for hours and hours. It didn't like ruin a whole day or evening or whatever the case may be, and the chef was excellent. It was really easily done and, again, actually the cost of it was less than if we had like gone to a local restaurant and, you know, did even like a prefix menu or something where we sat down and had a meal. It was less than that. So it was really, really great option. You should check it out. There's a great local chefs and private chefs all over the place and they are. It's a really fun thing to do. We got to watch them cook, we got to ask questions. It was really really a great experience and I highly recommend it. One of my favorite things that I've heard another showroom do for the holiday times for their staff is, I think, probably like a couple months in advance, they start connecting with their reps and requesting gifts like and it's not like all on the rep to provide this gift like they would. The rep would work with whatever lines that they have and provide some sort of gifts of a small nature. You know, none of these are necessarily huge a $50 gift card here, $20, you know, speaker, a Starbucks gift card, whatever it is. They would come up with a bunch of little gifts from their reps that you know the reps either got from the manufacturer or whatever it is, or just some manufacturers swag, whatever it is they start accumulating these gifts and then at the holiday time they do a little like a white elephant exchange. You know where you like, pick a gift, you open it. If you like it, you keep it, or you like trade for somebody else's or you know, we all know the games but Then they do that for their holiday party with like a potluck, and it's just a really great idea and a way to have great engagement with your staff and not spend a ton, especially if you do it like potluck style, where everyone brings a little dish to share and then do the gift exchange with gifts you know, supplied by whatever manufacturer, or giving away your own logo, apparel, what, whatever it is. It's a great way to have nice engagement for everyone, to get a cute gift and to really enjoy and appreciate one of one another at the holiday time. It's one of my favorite ideas. I was going to do it this year but got really sidetracked by this database thing I don't know if you've heard me talk about it yet. So I just think it's a really smart way to provide a great holiday and staff appreciation experience without, you know, breaking the bank. So there, and you could do that in combination with, maybe like a sponsored lunch, like from your top manufacturer. I'm sure they would be willing to spend a few hundred dollars to sponsor a lunch for your staff, assuming you have a small staff, you have big stuff. It's going to be more than a few hundred dollars, but you know what I mean. I'm sure there is opportunity there as well. One other thing we always do at my store is, you know like it's usually right before it's the week of the Christmas holiday. Usually we will do like a staff potluck where you know somebody brings drinks, somebody brings you know this, that the other. We all kind of sign up for something. We bring food in to share. We'll snack off of it for a few days after that and it's just a lot of fun. Everyone likes being part of a connected team and you know we all spend so much time with our colleagues and it's always a very like familial relationship where you're like I love this person, but also they're driving me nuts sometimes, and so having these moments where we can just interact with one another and appreciate each other for the great human beings that we are, is always a lot of fun. So those are my ideas for holiday activities interactions with your customers, with your team. I definitely think the more personalized you can make any of these experiences, the better they are, not just for you but for the person receiving the gift or the whatever the experience. It just can go such a long way and I think sometimes, again, it's so easy to just process, to do what we've done before to you know, here's what the holiday bonuses and the check here's. You know, here's the corporate gift basket. It's so easy to do that and just tick that item off of our to-do list. But is in doing that, are you really getting the value that you want, not just for yourself but for the person receiving the holiday gift? Just something to think about. Thank you again to Zastrow for sponsoring this episode. I very much appreciate it. Don't forget to reach out to me, lisa, at lightingwithlisacom, if you want to sponsor, if you want to be a guest, if you want to share your two cents on anything in the world. Drop me a line. I'd be happy to hear from you and until next time, take care.