Have you ever wondered how the companies that give amazing, sustainable holiday gifts make it happen? The answer is simple: planning. The road to an outstanding, buzzworthy gift begins six months or more before the date you want to hand out your corporate swag.

For the holiday season coming up, that means the clock is already ticking. 

Why do savvy marketing pros start months ahead to make sure their company stands out with terrific gifts? You need time to analyze trends, contact vendors, review samples–and, if you care about the environment, time to investigate the life cycle of your gift, to make sure it truly is sustainable.

To find unique, eco-friendly corporate gifts, you’ll have to search beyond the big cheap-toy companies’ websites. By definition, screening for environmental impact adds time to the process. Sometimes, sustainable gifts aren’t mass-produced, so you need to order before your top pick of gift merchandise is sold out. Also, if you’re customizing, you need to allow time for that process. 

Your Month-by-Month Sustainable Holiday Gift Planner

When do you need to take action to make sure your holiday party, convention, team event, or company conference has sustainable gifts that delight recipients? Here’s a handy planning calendar I’ve developed that takes you, month-by-month, through when to research and order sustainable holiday gifts. 

As you’ll see, the timing varies a bit depending on whether your company has a fiscal year that ends in June or in December. Since the big push for holiday gift orders begins in summer, that’s where we’re starting our calendar. To make it even more useful, there are also tips for managing gift-giving for other events and times of year.

Read on for a look at how marketing pros work far ahead to make sure their gifts are sustainable, unusual, and appreciated by recipients.

JULY - HOLIDAY GIFT PLANNING 

For holiday gifts, this is the ideal month to start planning. What types of recipients will you have at holiday time? Which sustainable gifts align with your company’s goals? Start your search now. 

What innovations have emerged in the past year in eco-friendly gifting? If you can identify an emerging trend, it can be a chance to select gifts that really stand out. This is a time to research, review product specs, and ask questions of vendors.

For companies with a July-June fiscal calendar, this is also the first month of a new budget year. Smart marketers will have their proposals ready for sustainable gifting throughout the year to come. If you can plan the whole year’s gift-giving now, it can help you secure more budget for your gift needs, before others clamor for their piece of the pie.

AUGUST - HOLIDAY GIFT ORDERING 

If you’re looking to take the stress out of your gift-giving, late summer is the time to make decisions and place your sustainable gift orders. 

Why order four months ahead? You may have noticed that the supply-chain problems that began with the pandemic haven’t gone away, particularly around peak shipping times such as year-end. Allow extra time to make sure you don’t end up empty-handed at your holiday party.

SEPTEMBER - GIFTS FOR THE NEW YEAR

If your company’s budget begins in January, this is the time to plan for corporate events and other non-holiday gift-giving needs throughout the next calendar year. Wineries typically begin their planning here, for what they’ll offer as customer swag and in-store goodies now, to make sure they’re set for January. 

The smartest planners will plan their marketing strategy goals for the coming year in the Fall. Once objectives are identified, they can map out the related gift-giving calendar for the coming year. Thinking about the whole year to come at a glance gives marketers a major head start. 

OCTOBER - PLAN SPRING EVENT SWAG & DELIVER FOR FALL EVENTS  

With your holiday-gift planning done far in advance, you’ve got time to think ahead about winter and spring company or industry conferences. Finalize which events your company will present or attend the following spring. Among the tech events roaring back with in-person formats are Big Data & AI World in London in March, and HardwareCon in Mountain View, Calif., in April.

With conference-attendance decisions made, you can start thinking about which types of stakeholders will be there–and research which types of sustainable gifts would make your brand stand out. 

While you’re planning for Spring six months ahead, the Fall corporate-event season will be moving into full swing. If you’re participating, your plans done back last spring should mean you’ve got your fall conference swag delivered and ready to hand out.

NOVEMBER - ORDER YOUR SPRING EVENT SWAG

With your plans in place for Spring, it’s time to pull the trigger and place early orders for Spring conference swag. Ordering this early takes the stress out of conference time, as your gift goods should turn up well before you have to focus on the million-and-one details that surround event attendance.

By now, fall corporate events are well under way – and your smart planning back last Spring for these conferences should make showing up with your innovative, sustainable gifts a snap.

DECEMBER - DELIVER SUSTAINABLE HOLIDAY GIFT CHEER

‘Tis the season to hand out your well-planned, sustainable gifts. One final tweak you can give your gift-giving this month is to consider the exact timing of your gift distribution.

You can have the most eco-friendly gift in the world–but if you hand it out five minutes before the recipient leaves on a winter break, they may leave without it in their rush out the door. One of the biggest causes of waste in gifting is this disconnect in the handoff, where many gifts may go unclaimed.

For instance, have a backup plan for getting gifts to team members who don’t attend the holiday party. That way, you won’t end up with a pile of gifts in a back closet that didn’t get handed out. Gifts that never get given aren’t sustainable–they’re landfill waste.

JANUARY - JUMP ON A FRESH BUDGET

At companies with a January fiscal year, the arrival of this month opens up a whole new marketing budget. Jump in right away to grab your department’s share of the gift-giving money. If you have a proposal ready to go, you can be first in line. Remember, sustainable gifts often cost a bit extra, so you don’t want to delay only to be told your first pick of gifts is too expensive.

FEBRUARY - GET YOUR SPRING CONFERENCE SWAG 

February and March are big Spring conference months, so it’s time to make sure your gifts for professional and corporate events have been delivered and are ready to go. Be sure to open boxes early and check to make sure merchandise is as expected. 

For many marketers, this month provides a bit of a breather between major planning cycles. Overachieve by using the time to research new gift releases and look into the manufacturers’ sustainability commitments.

MARCH - PLAN FALL CORPORATE EVENTS

As with the fall cycle of planning for spring conferences and company events, spring heralds the start of planning for fall events. Which ones will your company present? Attend? What types of stakeholders will be there? Begin thinking about the types of gift items that would represent your company well at these events. Whether you’re sticking with company events you put on at headquarters or heading to big global conferences, your planning will pay off in a smooth event later. 

With the pandemic, the locations, sizes, and frequency of many events have changed, so be sure to recheck and confirm what’s being held. In general, people are excited to be getting back to in-person events–and it’s a great opportunity for brands to build relationships with stakeholders with stand-out, sustainable swag. Upcoming major Fall tech events include Microsoft’s new Power Platform Conference in Orlando in September, KubeCon/CloudNativeCon in Detroit in October, and the PASS Data Community Summit in Seattle in November.

APRIL - PLAN FALL SUSTAINABLE GIFTS 

Once again, we’re working six months ahead or so, to make sure you get the best gifts, and that they arrive well in time for the conferences you want to present or where you’ll have a corporate presence. This time, it’s planning for events that will happen in October-November, the other big conference time of year outside the Spring. 

MAY - DELIVER FALL SUSTAINABLE GIFTS

If your company has a busy fall conference time, this is a month for executing on your gift-giving plans. Intake and double-check arriving gifts and make sure there’s a plan to get them to conferences on time.

As with February, this month is a bit less hectic than some for corporate gift planning. That means it’s another good time to research gift trends.

JUNE - USE IT OR LOSE IT

For many tech companies such as Microsoft, this month marks the end of their fiscal year. That means any unspent marketing money will expire in 60 days. It’s time to think ahead about gift needs and place orders to use up those resources before they’re gone.

It’s a great time to take the temperature of trends and find out what the next great, sustainable gift will be. Get all the gifts you can with this leftover money, and it’ll take pressure off your gift budget for the coming  year. Corporate gifts are a classic, tried-and-true way to use up remaining marketing money.

Build Your Own Sustainable Corporate Gift Calendar

Did this planning calendar give you ideas about how to plan ahead better for your own corporate gift giving? I hope so. Feel free to use the tips in this calendar to customize your own calendar based on your company’s marketing cycle. 

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