Held in the hand of a smartly dressed S21 custom cases executive, sitting atop an elegant corporate desk, or gracing the desk in a den or home office, pens have an eye-catching allure that adds to the impression of style that the user might want to project. Combine them with a sleek case that is compact enough to slip into a business suit pocket or in a lady’s handbag and you have the perfect accessory. The stylishly inscribed writing on personalised pens adds to their appeal and you’ll notice people stealing sidelong glances at your hand as you whip out your pen to make a note or sign you name with flourish.

The personalised pens industry produces billions of pens each year in different styles, materials, and for using in various ways such as corporate and personal gifts, and effective promotional and marketing tools. You can buy them in wood, plastic, and metals like stainless steel and brass for the components and the body. The pen and ink itself can also be of different types and you can choose the one that matches your writing style and the convenience you need or, perhaps, the taste of the special person to whom you want to gift it.

Types of Personalised Pens

Pens can be the classic fountain pens that use ink flowing through a nib, roller ball pens, or pens with ballpoint tips. The ink in ballpoint pens is thick and oil-based while roller ball pens come with liquid or gel ink so writing with them is smoother and has a more fluid motion. Though, you can expect some amount of blotching or staining at the back of the paper, if it is too thin or of low quality. You might also have to give your writing a few seconds to dry before running your hand on it or folding the paper. Even so, you will love the neat finish that you can get with the roller ball pens. Ballpoints, on the other hand, are likely to last you longer and there’s less of a possibility of them drying out in a short time.

The traditional fountain, personalised pens come with a refillable cartridge that you can fill with ink or you can opt for the ones with disposable cartridges. These pens may seem old school, but they’re perfect for gifting to your parents or grandparents who have some amount of practice writing with them. In a digital age when youngsters are more adept at typing than writing with pens, a gift of fountain pens can evoke delight and nostalgia. No matter what kind of pens you like to write with, you can always turn them into cherished gifts with the right inscriptions. Check online and you’ll find lots of gifting companies that let you choose inscribed, personalised pens as gifts for your friends and family.

Corporate Gifts

You can use personalised pens as the ideal corporate gifts to present to high-ranking company officials and clients to express appreciation for their business. Many companies also order pens with inscriptions of the company logo and perhaps, slogans to distribute to their employees on special occasions like the holidays, or with promotions and raises. Some companies may order personalised pens to give out to their employees to commemorate a special event like the company anniversary or the retirement of an esteemed official.

When ordered for a special person, pens can be chosen according to the personality of the recipient and the style he or she is likely to appreciate best. Think smart, personalised pens in cases, tabletop pens that seem to float on their holders or even glass plate holders that can be inscribed with the name of the recipient and his or her designation in the company.

Marketing and Promotional Tools

Personalised pens with company logos can make excellent giveaways at high profile events such as conferences, meetings, trade shows, seminars, and business fairs that are attended by top executives. Gifs like these can serve as mementos and collectibles. You can also use them to promote your company brand name and spread awareness for it. In addition to the logo, many companies also choose to have the pens engraved with contact information in case potential customers would want to get in touch with them.

When crafted with expertise, personalised pens can reflect the ethos of the company that is giving them out. It is a well-known fact that when people have been using a gift from a particular company and have appreciated its quality, they are likely to get in touch with the company when they need to place an order or strike a business partnership. The high-quality, customized gift helps build trust and a special connection.

Engraving Techniques for Pens

Engraving names, logos, and messages to create personalised pens take a high level of expertise since the surfaces of the pens are so compact. The writing has to be neatly and precisely done so that the words are clearly legible. It must look stylishly done to deliver the intended impact. This kind of precision can be delivered by using the perfect engraving and printing tools. For instance, silkscreen printing, pad printing, engraving, laser printing, and visual foil transfer printing. Each of these techniques works beautifully to achieve the inscriptions that can impress the viewer with their finesse.

Fonts and Messages

You can choose engraving fonts that match the recipient’s taste. Look for traditional fonts with curving lines or contemporary sleek lines that spell élan. Consider having the recipient’s name inscribed or opt for a heartfelt message. Messages can be simple that mark a birthday, anniversary, christening, or maybe, even graduation. Or, you can just ask for the particular date to be imprinted. If you’re presenting a personalised pen to a family member by way of congratulations on a new job, you can ask for the starting date to be printed.

When personalised pens are given out at corporate events, organizers typically choose to have the date and name of the event noted as a memento. Instead of placing the message on the body of the pen, you can order that the engraving is placed on the lid of the case. Logos look very smart when inscribed on both, the lid or the inside of the pen case. If the pen is intended to grace a table, the printing can be inscribed on the base of the stand. With a little creativity and imagination, the possibilities are endless.

Specialized Pens for Men and Women

While pens are universal and can be used by people of any ages and both sexes, personalized pens can be especially ordered to appeal to the masculine or feminine eye. Men can choose from the more solid range of silver, gold, champagne, or maybe, a combination of the two. Many customized gifts companies take orders for sleek, slim pens that have been ergonomically designed for the convenience of women with colours and styles that are likely to impress them. These pens have very subtle touches that spell grace and beauty. For instance, a light hint of pastel colours in the designing or maybe, a stylish heart-shaped pendant hanging from its tip. Think mother of pearl and enamel finishing or crystal detailing for a little bling and sparkle.

Combining Pens with Other Items

Personalised pens are perfect gifts on their own. But, you can add to their appeal by choosing a set of two with a matching case. Opt for combinations from say, a roller ball pen with a ballpoint pen. Or maybe, a roller ball pen with a fountain pen depending on the possible requirements of the gift recipient. In place of a second pen, think keychains with butterflies or ballerinas.

Many gifting companies allow you to choose from coordinated pen and keychain sets or maybe, a trio gift set that also includes a trendy hip flask in matching designs and colours. Again, depending on what other accessories your recipient is likely to appreciate, you can opt for a letter opener to go with the pen or even a smart case that can carry business cards. Add that special touch by getting all of these gifts engraved with inscriptions.

Personalised Pens are Here to Stay

In a time when more and more people are opting to use gadgets like computers, laptops, mobile phones, and tablets for communicating and in academics, pens may seem like instruments that belong in the last century. However, market analysis conducted on the promotional products industries in the past few years have indicated that the market share of the pens and pencils being used as promotional gifts has remained steady. Despite a growing trend to choose gifts like USB accessories, and mobile phone accessories, people still show a preference for personalised pens as gifts. They continue to rank second in the list of top 20 products with market shares of 9.4% and 9.5% in the years 2013 and 2014, respectively.

What typifies a modern intranet portal is that there is a standardised user interface (“UI”) with a built in system for user authentication. In other words, the user signs in to the portal rather than simply accessing it. This brings us to the key difference; an intranet portal knows who you are, whilst with an old-fashioned intranet, the user is anonymous.

If the user authentication is properly linked to your employee data, then the portal will know things like (a) what grade the person is, (b) which department they work in, (c) what location they work at and (d) what job they do.

If the portal authentication is also liked to a metadirectory (along with the authentication for all the other systems the user needs to use in their job) then the portal will additionally know (e) which applications the user needs to do their job and (f) the rights the user has (from their security profile) to access different application functionality.

Finally, if an infocube-based web statistics package has been installed, the portal will know (a) which areas of the portal are accessed by the user and (b) the frequency and depth of that access.

The opportunity to personalise the portal experience

Clearly, given the knowledge above, it is possible to personalise the UI for each individual user. For example, if the user works in the sales function, then the homepage that greets them upon logon could be the Sales team homepage. If they work in Leeds, the facilities link on their homepage could be to maps, traffic, fire orders, etc. about the Leeds office (rather than anywhere else). If their specific job is as a field sales manager, then field sales performance graphs and management dashboard could be displayed on the homepage.

If the user is of a grade that places them on the company insider dealing list, then additional (price sensitive) real-time data might be displayed on the screen (which other users would not see). If statistics tell us that they are not reading important communications, then messages could be served to them that draw their attention to what they are missing. Finally, if they use functionality from three different (legacy) systems to do their job, then these could be brought together and surfaced via a portlet application on the portal page.

The prize is clearly a smoother and more integrated user experience, with key information “pushed” at the user in a way they can’t ignore and always no more than a single click away.

The depressing truth about personalisation today

Many portal vendors have undertaken research with their existing customer base to explore (a) how many customers have made extensive use of personalisation and (b) how many surface key business applications via their portal. The results do not make encouraging reading (with less than 20% achieving much beyond what Plumtree call “the empty portal”).

This prompts an obvious question. If the benefits to the user of personalisation are so obvious, why have companies not taken advantage of them? In fact, based on my experience, there are multiple reasons not to personalise, which I group into “bad” and “good” reasons.

Bad reasons not to personalise

There are a number of typical failings that tend to stem from a lack of courage, poor understanding or personal prejudice:

1) Failure to link through to employee data and/or a metadirectory

This can be due to a number of factors, including (a) the costs of software seen as too expensive, (b) a perception that implementation will be too difficult or prone to failure, (c) a lack of confidence in the quality of employee data and (d) realising too late that this work is important and having failed therefore to include in project scope or business case costs

2) Failure of vision and/or lack of confidence in personalisation benefits

Typical problems include (a) a lack of experience of using portals and thus a lack of awareness of the possibilities, (b) a nostalgia for the old-fashioned style of intranet navigation, (c) an unhealthy focus on the intranet simply as a communication channel, rather than as a business tool and – perhaps most interestingly – (d) a perception that personalisation is synonymous with (or otherwise encourages) individuals failing to observe and comply with single, enterprise-wide processes and policy.

Good reasons not to personalise

There are actually several valid objections to personalisation, which you would ignore at your peril. The two most notable are:

3) The whole is more than the sum of the parts

Many portal projects are built on the concepts of (a) increased knowledge sharing between teams, (b) better awareness of the “big picture” of what is happening in the company and (c) a sense of belonging to a single, enterprise-wide community. By personalising teams and individuals into “ghettos” where they only see information and applications directly relevant to them, the opportunity is lost to have them explore the intranet presence of other colleagues.

4) Log-in as a barrier to user adoption

A (valid) concern that requiring people to log-in each time they access the portal will act as a deterrent to them doing so, thereby reducing the portal benefits through a reduction in intranet usage. This has lead to some customers disabling the log-in feature! Of course, such problems can be overcome through the implementation of a single sign-on application, where rights to access the portal (without a separate log-on procedure) are granted when the user logs onto the network. However, companies often fail to plan or budget for such changes.

So is personalisation the right thing to do? If so, how can I make it happen?

On balance, of course, the benefits of personalisation, for most organisations, far outweigh the risks and costs. After all, why buy a Ferrari, then only use it to do the school run? If you were never going to use the portal for these advanced functions, why did you buy one? It would have been much cheaper to invest in your traditional intranet!

If you are looking to make it happen, however, you must recognise the organisational, financial and technical challenges inherent in the work. Firstly, you should ensure that your business case contains the full costs of integrating the portal with employee data and metadirectory capabilities. Ideally, you should also extend this to a single-sign-on solution if you can afford it. Secondly, you should showcase to sponsors what personalisation looks like, so that they can improve their understanding of the opportunity. Finally, you should not underestimate the technical grunt work involved in cleaning up your employee data and systems rights.

Do not neglect customisation

I define customisation as the ability for users to customise their own portal settings and appearance (as distinct from how I am defining personalisation, where the portal provisions information and applications authomatically, based on the user’s profile). By letting users “do it themselves” you allow for the possibility that they may wish to share knowledge and collaborate with people outside their immediate role. You can also learn (by observing their behaviour in customisation) where you could improve upon your personalisation.

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