Now that we’ve entered the second half of the year, it’s time to start planning for the end of it. That doesn’t mean you should give up enjoying the rest of your summer, but good things happen with good planning. And if you’re looking to have a great event to show your clients how much you appreciate them, getting the jump on planning as the year speeds on toward the various autumn and winter holidays is a must.
Maybe you’re a pro at client appreciation events, and you have an annual tradition that your clients look forward to and want to see how you can use events for prospecting. Or maybe you’re new to client events, but you have come to realize how much you’d like to show your gratitude to clients who have stuck with you through a pandemic and wild market swings. Or maybe you’re brand new to everything, but you know you want to have client appreciation events be a touchstone for clients as you build your brand. Whatever the reason to be thinking through client events, let’s go over the main questions to ask yourself as you get into the planning trenches.
Type of Event
This is your first question for yourself. What sort of client appreciation event would you like to host? A holiday party you host for clients and their families? A shred truck event where you hire a shredding company truck to come to your office parking lot for a few hours and let your clients bring old documents they want to safely get rid of? A formal dinner at a swank downtown restaurant? An evening party with cocktails and live music? This will help you answer the rest of your questions as you plan.
This may seem like a no-brainer, but give some thought to the date of your event. You should generally start planning a big event five months in the future, which will let you secure the venue you want, order catering or hire entertainment, promote the event with enough lead time for clients to respond, and also build in time for any changes you need to make along the way.
If you’re planning it around the holidays, consider that your clients have many other commitments. Be mindful of their time, and also make sure that you send out invitations early enough to allow your event to get ahead of rapidly filling calendars. Just as importantly, consider the time of your event. Late nights won’t work for family events or work nights, and if you’re planning for a dinner, allow clients time to get home from work but not time enough to get too hungry before there’s food served to them.
Consider where you’re going to host your event. Is this a type of party with food and drinks that would be best suited to a local restaurant? Or are you looking to host a cocktail sort of event that would work well in your office? Consider the number of clients who are likely to attend when planning your venue. You don’t want a huge open empty space if you’re planning a more intimate gathering of your top clients, and you likewise don’t want everyone to feel crushed in a spot that’s too small. Either way, you’re looking to make your clients feel appreciated, not awkward.
Measure of success
During the event, it may be helpful to have some way of gauging how successful it is. Consider having a guestbook for attendees to sign in, along with their email addresses. This is doubly important if you’re hosting an event to which you’ve encouraged current clients to bring their friends, as you are not only showing your clients your appreciation but also potentially prospecting at the same time. You can also have something fun like a fishbowl for dropping in business cards to win a door prize, or some other way to gather information.
Obviously, you won’t have clients rating the event in a survey, but you and your staff can definitely keep an eye on the mood and the flow of people coming and going. Not every event will be a smashing success, for any number of reasons. Give yourself some information to work with later on, examples of what worked and what didn’t. You’re going to have more events in the future, so each one you have is also a data gathering for the next.
As we said, you’re not going to send out a survey after your client appreciation event as you might do for a seminar, but you should still follow up with your clients in some way. Give some of them, particularly you’re a-list clients, a call to thank them for attending and to express your continued gratitude. Post pictures from the event to social media and encourage your clients to post any that they took. If you have a blog or newsletter, do a little write up about the event and how much you appreciated every attendee. Make sure that your clients know that your appreciation doesn’t end with lights out at a party. You continue to appreciate their business every day.