There is an upsurge in demand for high-end recognition products in corporate America, and crystal and glass are widely viewed as our industry’s most prestigious awards. In fact, Cathy Garcia, marketing manager for Marco Awards Group, claims that corporate crystal is the fastest growing awards market, two to three times higher than other awards/gift products. So if you already sell to the corporate sector or if this is a market you would like to get involved with, high-end personalized crystal awards and gifts is the way to go.
A survey conducted in 2017 by WorldatWork reinforces corporate award programs as a key contribution to a business’ success because they encourage employees to work towards a common goal. In summary, appeased employees equate to satisfied customers, and satisfied customers correlate to business growth, sales and overall satisfaction.
Crystal & Glass—the Difference
Although “glass” and “crystal” are often used synonymously, there are differences between the materials. Broadly speaking, there are three types of “glass” used in the manufacture of awards and gifts: glass, crystal and optic crystal. The major difference between the three is clarity. If you placed three identical pieces next to each other, one made of glass, one made of crystal and one made of optic crystal, you could readily see the difference in clarity. Glass would be the least clear while optic crystal would have the best clarity.
Glass is the least expensive of the materials, primarily because it’s made from silica sand, an abundant resource. Lead crystal is just that—it has the added element of lead oxide that softens the glass and gives it sparkle. Optic crystal is the highest quality crystal used to make gifts and awards. There are no imperfections, like bubbles, in optic crystal, and it is much clearer than glass or leaded crystal. Of course, it’s also a much more expensive material.
Why Crystal & Glass?
“The crystal and glass market offers significantly better margins than the traditional trophy market,” says Garcia. “In the past few years, our offerings of these products have doubled in both dollars and the breadth of the product lines. Today, the awards retailer is looking for opportunities other than trophies; the corporate market lends itself to that growth.”
The corporate awards market is profitable because many of these organizations have larger budgets to spend on recognition programs. They are looking for premium quality products that hold meaning for the recipients and reflect the true significance of the honored achievement. In addition, award programs are usually cyclical, with new recipients recognized quarterly or annually, so there’s plenty of opportunity to establish repeat clients.
Dan Messerschmidt, national sales manager for JDS Industries, Sioux Falls, SD, sees selling crystal to the corporate market as an opportunity to move your business farther into the high-end award and recognition business, which can result in a significantly higher margin potential. Messerschmidt points out that current customers who might purchase lower dollar awards and promotional products from you might also have a need for high-end recognition products, and you want to be able to fill that need.
“Offering crystal and glass items keep your customers from doing business with someone else,” says Messerschmidt. “If you don’t currently offer these products, you are leaving money on the table. Many of your customers could be purchasing these products from another retailer, maybe even your closest competitor.”
Who’s Buying Crystal & Glass?
In the experience of Jim O’Neil, executive vice president for Pacesetter Awards, Chicago, IL, many of the larger corporate customers usually prefer high-end crystal and glass products to other types of award items. However, corporate clients of all sizes and budgets can afford crystal and glass because these products are offered in a wide range of price points. And, in addition to stock items, custom glass awards are also an option from some suppliers which can also prove to be very profitable.
Oftentimes, customers dismiss glass and crystal items as too expensive before even considering them. Although some organizations may have a tighter budget for recognition programs, they still want their awards purchase to appear timeless and high-end, and nothing fits those needs better than glass and crystal.
JDS’s Messerschmidt points out that glass and crystal products are available in a variety of price ranges and can be quite affordable. “You can target almost any customer's price point. For example, you can offer a relatively inexpensive laser engraved glass piece all the way up to an intricate multi-stage sandcarving on a large crystal piece,” he explains.
Corporate clients can include large, medium and small companies, in addition to government, municipal, non-profit, educational, professional and charitable organizations.
Jen Jezierski, marketing coordinator for Crystal D, Saint Paul, MN, adds that while corporate America is a profitable niche for the awards retailer to market crystal and glass to, it is not the only available audience.
“Crystal is affordable, and there are limitless opportunities to use crystal awards,” reminds Jezierski. “Some requests we’ve gotten at Crystal D include chamber of commerce awards, thank you gifts, corporate values, leadership, shapes of states, sporting events, gifts for season ticket holders and company mile
What Are They Buying?
There’s a huge variety of crystal and glass products available today, making it easy to satisfy all kinds of corporate clients. These include everything from round, rectangle and diamond-shaped awards in a variety of sizes to crescent-shaped, picture frames, paperweights, business card holders, figurines, plaques, desk clocks, stars cubes and globes. You can also find crystal and glass vases, bowls, trophy cups and ornaments in addition to colorful and unique art glass in many shapes and sizes.
According to suppliers, new variations of tried and true designs are what is trending in glass and crystal today. This might include round and diamond-shaped crystal awards with elements of color or a unique base added, or art glass and beveled shapes in new designs.
ChungIn Park, general manager for CIP Creations, Irvine, CA, says corporate buyers are growing tired of traditional crystal and glass awards, and instead are looking for new alternatives with more colors or with unique design elements, such as wood, metal or stone accents. “Designs for crystal and glass have evolved and that’s what corporate buyers want. Anything is possible these days,” Park says.
Mark Badash, owner of Badash Crystal, Deer Park, NY, also notes a trend in consumers moving from traditional cut crystal toward glass that makes a contemporary, artistic statement. Badash explains that the younger generations carry a more modern taste for contemporary blown crystal pieces, such as Badash Crystal’s Morano-style art glass and home décor collections.
How Do You Sell Crystal & Glass?
Knowing who to sell crystal and glass products to and what to offer to is half the battle. You also need to consider how.
JDS’ Messerschmidt recommends developing a multi-faceted marketing plan that lays out the next 3, 6 and 12 months. He explains that spontaneous offers, which last for a couple of weeks or months and aren’t strategically planned out, most likely won’t bear much fruit in the corporate market, but a consistent strategy will.
For example, to invest in a showroom display while neglecting your website and social media platforms is a mistake. On the other hand, relying solely on digital marketing and not taking the initiative to simply talk to your customers about your new, best-selling glass and crystal offers is a missed opportunity.
Above all, always be mindful of how to best reach your target audience. It’s always a good idea to inform your customers that you offer crystal and glass products through in-store displays, newsletters, your website, social media posts and even snail mail. These methods all have a good chance of reaching potential customers.
If you have a showroom, displaying crystal and glass recognition products is an excellent way to show what you have to offer. Select unique pieces for your display to enhance the WOW factor of these beautiful products and include a variety of items, perhaps art glass pieces, colored glass stand-up awards or a soaring eagle on a black crystal base. Creative Gifts International (Canton, MA) Vice President of Sales, Keith Pettengill, says that displays allow customers to touch the pieces and envision their own information etched onto the award.
Another good marketing tactic is to have retail catalogs on hand to show customers what you have to offer. Retail catalogs not only mitigate having to stock a lot of inventory, but they also provide customers a hand-held resource to browse the price and appearance of hundreds of crystal and glass awards at their convenience. Many manufacturers offer preprinted catalogs that can be personalized with your own business information as well as online “virtual” catalogs that you can post on your website.
“Leverage your supplier partners for product flyers that you can use as promotional emails or social media posts,” suggests Crystal D’s Jezierski. “Your suppliers may even have other marketing collateral to help boost your sales.”
Since the rise of the technological era, the global economy is shifting towards e-commerce. Even if you don’t have a full-blown e-commerce site, it’s important to have a well-done website that showcases your glass and crystal offerings.
Jezierski adds that it’s also important to ensure your business listing on Google My Business is up to date, and that it includes high-quality pictures. Images of your showroom and some unique glass and crystal products work well.
If you don’t include crystal and glass in your product line, maybe it’s time you did. With opportunities for repeat business with cyclical awards programs, corporate crystal awards are an excellent niche to add to your arsenal. More, crystal and glass have become quite affordable in recent years, allowing for small nonprofits and large businesses alike the option to purchase high-end personalized crystal awards and gifts.
The implementation of a strategic marketing plan ensures addressing both the needs of digital marketing and your store front. Above all, always be mindful of how to best reach your target audience. These methods, in combination with strategic marketing, help retailers secure a high profit margin.
“Keep it fresh, and keep it in front of your customers,” advises Messerschmidt.
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