In the first part of this 3-part series we established the wide reaching benefits to the business in hosting a successful client appreciation event:
- Client Retention,
- Increased Client Spend,
- Qualified Client Referrals,
However, an event of this nature, without a clearly defined purpose and plan, can miss the mark entirely, and even create the converse result i.e. a vague, poorly executed, impersonal event that leaves clients feeling unvalued and generic.
Ultimately the fundamental objectives of a client appreciation is to get valued clients to attend (plus ideal a few accompanying qualified referrals), get them to stay, and—most importantly— achieve the REAL objective of making your clients aware of how much you appreciate them.
This is no mean feat when you are competing against an often crowded client social calendar.
If you consider the following 6 factors in your planning, you’re well on your way to delivering a top notch event that leaves your clients touched, moved and inspired.
Pre-plan the emotional outcome
Consider how you want your clients to feel when they are leaving the event. What emotion do you want to impart to your clients, having taken the time out of their hectic schedule to participate in your event. Fight for clarity and purpose here as this is the critical starting block of planning for a successful event.
For example an objective emotional outcome could be:
I want to deepen the relationship with my clients beyond the boardroom. I want them to feel appreciated and respected, and that their trust and loyalty in our business relationship is truly valued.
Extend the Reach
Expand the reach of your client appreciation event to not only your top clients but their adult family, advisers, vendors and even prospect clients. In doing so you are increasing awareness of your company and your brand, and the potential therein for qualified referrals. Plus it’s an opportunity for them to see you in your best light, both through their own eyes and through those of your current clients. Our only caveat to this is - don’t over invite to the extent the event becomes impersonal.
Align with your brand
Context is key; If you’re a provider of premium, cutting edge digital and technology services that are designed to revolution business, a sausage sizzle in the park probably isn’t going to cut it. Equally if you’re selling professional fitness and healthcare services to a corporate client base, a calorie filled cheese fondue and chocolate tasting degustation wouldn’t be perceived as congruent to your core values (unless you’re trying to be ironic!).
You also need to align the event to the nature of the relationship you hold with your clients. If you are a provider of wealth management services and hold a close relationship with your clients you may wish to host an intimate soiree in a private residence, or even your own home. If your brand is edgy and innovative and your relationships are fuelled by fun, creativity and collaboration you may wish to host a boutique beer tasting and mini MasterChef experience that captures the key traits underpinning your client relationship and your brand.
Know your brand, know your clients, and design an event that aligns with your brand values and unique client relationships.
A customer appreciation event is designed to be a platform to listen to the customer — to understand them, not to sell to them. Be sure to briefly acknowledge them for their trust and support, but don’t impose lengthy speeches, and avoid dominating the conversation. Make it about them. Ask questions such as: What challenges are you facing over the next 6-12 months? Where are your clients pain points? Consider can you offer a potential solution for their needs either through your own service solutions or a referral, or even simply some relief through their sheer entertainment value?
Avoid silly season
EOFY and Christmas are often the times of year chosen to host client appreciation events. Whilst these can be successful, we would advise against competing for valuable client time at this congested time of year. Determining the ideal time of year to maximise client attendance can be industry dependent, again it’s down to understanding your clients.
We would, however highly recommend making the event an annual celebration at a consistent time of year that your clients can pencil in the diary and look forward to each year.
Private Ocean, a US based wealth management firm, for example hosts a fully-fledged celebration at a winery with entertainment, food, and even face painting and exotic animals for the kids. In this past year they achieved an attendance of over 200 people including staff and their families.
When the founder was asked why they have such commitment to host these annual events, their response was:
“....the ROI of our client appreciation campaigns speaks for itself”.
Pre-plan for a personalised follow up to each event. This could be in the form of a photo reel or mini video montage of the event. Or you may opt for a short personal message of gratitude for attending and introducing them to whoever they brought. Whichever follow up medium you choose don’t drop the ball just before the finish line. Ensure your message remains personal.
In summary, in hosting a successful client appreciation event you are building community whilst deepening the connection with your clients and creating new client acquisition opportunities through a memorable experience. This of course can be built upon and amplified each year with great anticipation and buzz.
Stay Tuned for the final part in this 3-part ‘Client Appreciation Series’ > Next up: 5 Steps to Delivering a Successful Client Appreciation Event.
Managing Director - OzParty Events