Your clients are the lifeblood of your business.  Without them, you wouldn’t have a business and it’s vitally important that you show them how much you appreciate them.  Of course, you are already giving them top-notch service and products, but sometimes that isn’t good enough to retain your best clients and grow your business.  You must show them that you are willing to go above and beyond.  Coming up with new and unique ways to do so is vital in this changing economy and we have a few ideas to help you out!

Thank Yous and Gifts
Gifts for your best clients or customers are not just for the holidays!  While many people think about sending cards or giving gifts in December, you should be thinking about doing so during other times of the year as well.  Sometimes something as simple as a hand-written note thanking them for the business will mean the world to them and ensure that they will be loyal clients for life. Other times, you should go a little beyond that and actually get them little gifts to show your appreciation.

“Without your customers, you would not be where you are now,” points out Jeff White with Colby Ridge.  “Custom gifts are a hit in the business environment because it shows that you really went out of your way to make them feel special while promoting your business at the same time.  We do a variety of products for businesses which usually include but are not limited to: popcorn canisters (optional custom logos), heat-sealed bags of popcorn with custom labels which start at only $.99, chocolate covered potato chips and gift basket arrangements.  Here at Colby Ridge, we specialize in customizing gifts to fit any price range.”

“In our current economy, people are very value conscious,” explains Laurie Wolford with Spirit World.  “Everyone is shopping vendors and service providers to find the best value.  Providing excellent products and service is the first step, but you can create value by establishing good relationships with your clients.  Showing your appreciate their business is essential.  If they don’t feel appreciated, there will be no loyalty to your business when competitors try to move in.”

As Jeff White pointed out, food is almost always a good option when it comes to showing appreciation.  “Who doesn’t love good food?” Laurie says.  “Providing a nice meal for your clients is a relatively inexpensive way to show appreciation for everyone in the business.  A nice gift for the primary clients contact is great, too.  But chances are, your client contact isn’t the only person who does work on your account.  If you provide food for the whole office, it makes your contact look like a hero to the rest of the staff and everyone involved in the account feels appreciated too.  Many of our regular catering customers have lunch delivered to the client’s office.  We have a fantastic selection of gourmet boxed lunches that are more sophisticated than the typical brown bag lunch.  It’s a nice step up from the usual boring sandwich.  You can also send a gift basket full of delicious gourmet foods that they can share among the office staff.  We have pre-made and custom gift baskets available from $25 and up.”

Lunch and learns are also a great way to have one-on-one clients contact.  One of our bank clients takes lunch out to a small group of customers (or potential customers) and gives a short talk on a current topic.  Lunch and learns are perfect for businesses like banks, chiropractors, financial planners and others who can educate a group of people without ‘selling’ them.

Events and Gatherings
We live in a very competitive world and the environment will continue to be more and competitive as time goes on.  There are probably many businesses out there who offer the same product or service you offer and you want a loyal client base that won’t leave you just because the ‘other guy’ may offer them something a little less expensive or faster.  One of the most effective ways to build this loyal client base is to hold client appreciation events where you bring small groups of clients together to spend time with and get to know each other.  It’s also important that those clients get to spend time with your key employees as well.  The more people in your organization they develop a relationship with, the less likely they will be to take their business elsewhere. This is a low-cost way to strengthen relationships and you can also gain new clients from these events if you encourage your current clients to bring along a guest or two.  We have seen financial planners and insurance agents (highly competitive fields) who host a regular tailgate or bowling party that become can’t-miss events.  Their clients realize that it’s events like these that set their agent apart and they are not likely to leave when a new agent offers them a new quote.

Spending quality time in a fun environment and getting to know your client and his or her family or employees is very valuable, especially if budgets or cut or changes happen in a business and they need to make decisions on where to spend their money.  This can sometimes make all the difference between losing and retaining a key client.

“Host an event, such as a wine or cheese party, for you clients,” Laurie Wolford suggests.  Small get-togethers like this ensure that you have time to talk to each guest individually and that you won’t be overwhelmed and worried that you’re not showing everyone the proper amount of attention.

Having a larger party can also be a good idea and can sometimes be easier than trying to coordinate four or five smaller parties throughout the year.  If you are planning a larger party, make sure you get some help.  This help could come internally from your staff, or you could employ the help of a professional party planner to really take the work off your plate.  Depending on the number of people you are planning to invite, you can hold your party at a small venue (such as the party room of a local restaurant) or a larger location (such as a reception hall).  If you avoid the wedding and holiday season, you will probably have pretty good luck in finding availability.  However, if you want to plan your party closer to November or December, you should call right away to get your reservation in the books.  You’ll also have better luck securing catering, entertainment and other services if you plan your event early and before the holidays hit.

CRAVE in Midtown Crossing offers exceptional private and semi-private dining options accommodations for formal parties, networking groups as well as corporate lunches and dinners.  CRAVE, known for their fresh, vibrant and American cuisine can customize an event that fits your specific needs. “We are starting to get an influx of Holiday Party inquiries. I recommend booking your  client appreciation event sooner than later to get the date and time you desire,” Nick Huff (Group Sales and Marketing Manager) explains.

Taking a group of your clients out to a unique event is an excellent way to show your appreciation.  It’s even better if the event you take them to is also a client as you can bring them business as well!  Here are a few event ideas:

Taking your clients to a play is unique and different, especially if they are not normal theatre-goers.  “A good way to express your gratitude to your valued clients is to spend time with them,” says Kevin Mahler with The BLUEBARN Theatre, “specifically time where you are focused on fun and not something business-related.  For instance, treat them to a show at BLUEBARN in the Old Market.  At BLUEBARN, we strive to let our season ticketholders and all of our audience members know that their passion for contemporary, progressive theatre is the reason we are able to exist.  It is the reason we are able to create theatre that provokes thought, emotion, action and change.  When we interact with our audience members, donors, artists and designers, we strive to express our gratitude for this and this comes through in our productions.

The BLUEBARN Theatre produces four shows a year. Each show is performed at least 14 times Thursdays – Sundays. The BLUEBARN produces theatrical works that are rarely showcased in this region. Whichever show you attend, you will be amazed by the quality of the acting, design, and directing. This year, we are producing Red by John Logan, Who Killed Santa? by Neil Haven, A Behanding in Spokane by Martin McDonagh, and The 39 Steps by Patrick Barlow.”

Sporting Events
It’s likely that you have some sports enthusiasts in your sphere of clients and they would certainly appreciate a fun tailgating and sporting event with some of your other clients and staff.  Even if they aren’t current fans of the sport you want to take them to, it’s difficult not to have a good time and build relationships during a fun hockey, baseball or football game.

A perfect way to take advantage of this opportunity is to have a block of season tickets or a box or other reserved section so that you can always make sure you get seats together.  If this is a special section of the stadium, it’s also more exciting for your clients to get invited as they aren’t normally able to get seats in these areas.  You can even give them special drink tickets and sometimes even a free buffet or other food options to make the event complete.

In this current business environment, it’s more important than ever to think outside the box when it comes to retaining clients.  Keep providing the best product or service you can, but complement that with client appreciation gifts, gathering or events that can help set you apart.