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Despite a challenging economy, smart corporations aren’t cutting client appreciation events from their budget. In fact, these events are more important than ever, as competition for clients gets more intense. Client appreciation events are a cost-effective way to stay in touch with your customers and thank them for their support. But they require smart planning and some key ingredients to be successful.

As with real estate, an important factor in a great client appreciation event is location. Hosted parties at the office are the most popular option. This approach has benefits and drawbacks. Two advantages for the host are cost and convenience. There’s no room rental charge, and your employees won’t have to leave the building to attend. Another plus – the opportunity to offer clients tours of your operation. Typically, this choice is best suited to organizations that have plenty of space or something to show off, whether it’s an assembly line or other manufacturing process, a newly-built or renovated facility, or a sneak preview of a new product.

Why wouldn’t you hold your client appreciation event at your office? One reason might be the location of your clients. If you know most of your customers are headquartered in a certain locale, it may make more sense to find a suitable venue close to their place of business. That makes it easier (and more likely) for them to attend. Or, you may not have enough space available to host an event.

One of the most popular off-site options in the Metro Vancouver region for a year-end customer appreciation is the annual Carol Ship Cruises. Not only are they a fun way to celebrate the season, a cruise has a built-in start and end time, so you don’t have to worry about the delicate business of kicking out festive stragglers when it’s time to clean up and go home.

Above all, recognize that a client appreciation event shouldn’t be an excuse to party like college kids on Spring Break. It should be treated as an informal marketing opportunity. Take the time to identify your top three objectives before the event and meet afterwards to see if they were met. Make sure your staff is ready to network, build relationships, and talk to clients about their needs. In the long run, the most important measure of a successful client appreciation event is your organization’s ROI! We would love to discuss how client appreciation can be an effective part of your marketing efforts. Please give us a call, send us an email, or take advantage of our request a quote form to find out how Bright Ideas Event Coordinators can help you create a winning client appreciation event.

‘A’ List Advice

Most of us understand the reality that getting more business from an existing client is easier and more cost-effective than finding and landing new customers. That’s why, when planning a client appreciation event, it’s a good idea to give your best customers a little special treatment. It doesn’t have to be blatant and you certainly shouldn’t neglect your other guests, but here’s two ways you can give your most valuable clients a little bit of VIP treatment.

Assign them a personal host for the event. Choose someone who’s an ace at looking after other people, brief them fully on the person they’re assigned to, and make sure they are on hand to meet their assigned VIP. Once they’ve arrived, the assigned host’s duties would include ensuring their VIP has a chance to meet essential contacts in your organization, ensuring their food and beverage requirements are met, and being on hand to politely usher them away if they get pigeon-holed by another guest with one too many cocktails and way too many opinions!

Another option is to have VIPs arrive a little earlier, before the crowd. Split your event up with two invitations. Have your key clients arrive a little earlier (generally from 3pm – 5pm) with the main party happening from 4pm to 6pm. A little overlap is OK. Your VIP clients may decide to stick around until the end and that’s fine. The important thing is creating an experience for them highlighting your organization’s appreciation of their importance to your business.

One final item. Send VIPs a personalized thank-you note after the event. This might also include a small memento or gift that’s exclusive to these top tier guests. Top level executives are used to top-level treatment. It makes good business sense to ensure your client appreciation event is no different.

Staff Pic of the Month – Andrew Lee

Viva Las Vegas

This event was a complete experience for the guests. As they exited the elevator on the 19th floor of the Renaissance Vancouver Harbourside hotel, they found themselves embarking on a fantastic journey through the many famous casinos of Las Vegas!

A great time was had by all. It started with a few drinks, a few laughs and a lot of socializing before taking a seat for dinner at this amazing venue… the Renaissance’s top floor rotating restaurant… highlighted by fascinating, creative and amazing decor enhancing every area of the venue. Great food and a few speeches, then it was ‘playtime’. I loved the fun of breaking into teams, moving from casino game to casino game, in order to win ‘funny’ money from the dealers that could be cashed in to earn points. The MC played his role to the hilt, handing out bonus money and adding a deft comedic touch to the proceedings.

I believe Viva Las Vegas was a complete success, due in no small part to all BI staff having so much fun hosting the event. The enthusiasm they brought was contagious and guests quickly got into the spirit of the theme, making Viva Las Vegas an exciting evening for guests complete with unrivaled entertainment, fantastic prizes and memories for life!

Ask An Event Planner

What’s the biggest issue with client appreciation events?

Concerns over drinking and driving are a big issue for companies these days. Along with the legal implications, it’s a sign of good corporate citizenship to make sure your guests have safe options for getting home. You can offer taxi or transit vouchers, arrange for shuttle buses, or Bright Ideas can suggest some innovative new services that ensure both guests and their vehicles get home safely. It’s also crucial to offer non-alcohol options, such as gourmet coffees and other non-alcoholic beverages.

What are the best days to hold the event?

Thursday is the most popular choice. In our experience it’s the day most likely to have the best turn-out. Fridays would be the second pick, with a Wednesday afternoon event third. We don’t recommend scheduling for a weekend or early in the week unless the client knows those options are preferred by their guests.

What’s an essential ingredient that’s often overlooked?

Fabulous parting gifts! Make sure your guests go home with a gift bag or other memento. It’s probably the most economical way to make the goodwill generated by your client appreciation event have a lasting impact. There are all kinds of creative gift ideas available and Bright Ideas can suggest a number of options to consider.

Top Three Reasons to Hold A Client Appreciation Event

They Are Expected

Hosting your clients at some point in the year isn’t a frill anymore. Client appreciation events have become a standard item in most companies’ marketing efforts. Your competitors are probably hosting an event. It’s up to you to ensure your existing clients feel valued. If you don’t, the ‘warm fuzzies’ a client gets from being courted by another business can be a strong incentive to consider switching suppliers.

They Connect People

So much business is done by email these days that in-person meetings and phone calls aren’t strictly necessary. A client appreciation event however, lets your guests connect with your staff on a human, personal level. Generally, most people would prefer to work with people they know and like. The opportunity to get to know people beyond their business role can strengthen ties and build loyalty.

They Work

There’s no doubt that client appreciation events have an impact. While some organizations are skeptical and doubt the ROI, in our experience the companies that go the extra mile in making their client appreciation events something special receive great value on the investment. Further, by hiring a professional event planner they leverage the specialized knowledge and experience of experts to ensure their objectives for the event can be met, while freeing up their staff to concentrate on doing their jobs.

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