Creating a client appreciation is about creating a “return on experience” vs “return on investment”.
I can’t remember where I read the quote that client appreciation events are for “friend-raising, not fund-raising”, but it is great advice. A good event involves all five senses of sight, hearing, touch, smell and of course taste, which is usually everyone’s favorite! It’s important to be involved with the client throughout the event so they do more than just see and hear you speak.
First, ask yourself: what do you want to accomplish?
- Build a foundation of trust, which solidifies loyalty,
- Reveal your depth of character to build friendship,
- Share your mission, your business philosophy,
- Show your appreciation,
- Gather important life information about your clients and referrals,
The secret to a successful client appreciation event is having an effective marketing strategy and planning. Now the planning part is obvious, but why is the marketing strategy important? You need to be aware of the perception the event is going to create and how the event will impact your business. By nature it is to show your appreciation for their business, but the choice of event and the venue will have a major impact on the results.
- Will you be mingling or sitting in an audience?
- Will there be an opportunity for your clients to network among themselves?
- Will they feel they are participating in a cause such as a charity event or simply enjoying themselves?
A successful event should be seen not only as an opportunity to make your clients feel appreciated, but it should demonstrate that you care about them too by ensuring they can meet new people and potentially help their businesses too. Keep in mind some of these events will be high touch and some will allow little contact with your clients.
Generally client appreciation events fall into four major categories:
- Charitable events: Hosting an event where the proceeds go to charity or paying the fee for your clients to participate in an event like a golf tournament or gala evening for a cause.
- Sporting and recreational: Hosting a golf tournament, family softball game, a night at the horse races, tickets to a hockey or baseball game, etc.
- Cultural and the arts: Inviting clients to plays, concerts, art shows, etc.
- Educational: Inviting clients to a seminar, to listen to a speaker, to learn something such as a cooking class or travel lecture.
When you choose an event, think about the following:
- Does this fit in with the image of me and or my business?
- Is it high touch or low touch? Will I be able to meet clients one-on-one?
- How much will the event cost?
- How much of my time will be required prior to the event?
- What will be the lasting impact of the event?
- What do I hope to achieve from this event? Intrinsic value? Financial return?
- Will my clients mingle well together or should I hold two events and segment my guests?
- How will I invite guests and ensure they actually attend?
- How will I thank my clients for attending?
Get your client appreciation dollars to stretch further and identify the kinds of events that will have clients remembering you in a positive light — and not just for the free food and drinks.
Start by breaking event ideas down into two basic components; place and activity. Next focus on making each of those components unique and as “outside the box” as possible.
Here is a wide range of ideas for events:
- Have clients collect winter coats and blankets and drop them off at a location where you serve hot chocolate and lunch.
- Rent a movie theatre or the IMAX theatre for a special screening.
- Host an educational event in which you bring in a guest speaker.
- Invite clients to a cooking class.
- Wine and cheese tasting at a local restaurant or wine store.
- Chocolate tasting at a local chocolatier.
- Private tour of the local zoo.
- Create a scavenger hunt for clients and a have a party after.
- Host a car rally.
- Old-fashioned family picnic with bouncy castles, etc.
- Halloween and holiday parties like an Easter egg hunt.
- Have a bowling tournament.
- Go to a local sports event.
- Casino night with proceeds to a charity.
- Rent out a public pool for a family swim night.
- Have a magician teach clients magic tricks.
- Host a dinner cruise.
- Reserve go-carts at the local track.
- Charter a fishing boat.
- Choose a date – don’t be afraid of week night events.
- Send actual invitations approximately 30 days before the event with an RSVP time of 10 days before the event. A rule of thumb is that one-third of invitees will attend.
- Call clients on the list after the RSVP date if you have too few attending. You can then start inviting new people or encourage your attendees to bring along extra friends and family.
- Be at the entrance to greet your guests.
- Have all guests wear name tags (preferably greet guests at the door after the name tags have been applied).
Tips for success:
- Have the event catered.
- Take lots of pictures or have a photographer. Think of using a Polaroid camera so clients can take pictures home.
- If you have staff or a team, have them do as little work at the event a possible so they can mingle and enjoy the guests – get outside help.
- Have door prizes and raffles for extra fun.
- Do not be discouraged if your first-year turnout is small.
- Send a thank-you note to attendees.
- Send a newsletter afterwards with pictures to all you have invited so everyone who did not attend can see how much fun it is.
- Do not have any business-related discussions at the event unless you are specifically asked, then ask to follow up with a phone call and book an appointment later – just focus on fun.
Worried about the cost?
Working with a sponsor way to lower costs on client events is to work with a partner, such as an accountant , mortgage broker, conveyancing lawyer, home inspector or floor plan or staging company that is willing to split the bill with you to reach the same type of crowd.
One of the key criteria for a client appreciation event is to provide an event that makes the participant feel like they are part of something special. Often it is not how much you spend on the event, but it is how you spend that will make the difference.
The bottom line is to really have clients appreciate the relationship they have with you and your business.