Your clients are the lifeblood of your business. You’re already giving them great customer service and providing them with a wonderful product or service, but it’s always a good idea to go above and beyond and take your service to the next level. Often this means developing a relationship with your clients that transcends business and getting to know your clients on a more personal level. Developing these friendships allows you to give them better service and also provides a more satisfying relationship for all those involved. Of course, finding a way to do this can be a more challenging issue. Here are a couple of great ways to get started.
Taking clients out for a meal
Taking clients out for a meal is a great way to get to know them better. Whether it’s just one on one with your main contact or taking out a few key people in the office, a lunch or dinner shows that you’re interested in getting to know them outside the office. Here are a few tips for your client meal:
Research clients in advance. Look at your client’s profile on the company website or social networking site. See if you hold similar interests (groups you’re involved with, sports teams you both like, etc.) to help get the conversation flowing.
Find a place conducive to conversation. Avoid the temptation to impress your client by bringing him or her to the hottest new restaurant in town if it is a noisy environment. Visit restaurants first to ensure they are comfortable and quiet. You should also consider a restaurant that you already have a good relationship with (one of your clients, perhaps, or a place you frequent often and know the owners). It’s nice to continue to give them business and also looks good if you can greet the owner, managers or staff by name.
Maintain a professional attitude. No matter what happens, remain professional throughout the meal. Avoid trying to be too funny by making off color jokes and always treat the restaurant staff with respect even if mistakes are made.
Determine a goal for the meal. Having goals always helps direct your action. For example, do you actually want to make a business pitch at the meal or are you just taking your client out to get to know them better? Knowing what you want to accomplish will help you plan out what topics you want to cover.
Taking a meal to your clients’ place of business
Sometimes taking a meal to your clients’ place of business is an even better idea. You don’t have to worry about trying to organize everyone’s schedules to meet at a restaurant and their staff doesn’t even have to leave the office to have some delicious food. If you are planning on taking a meal to your clients’ office, keep the following in mind:
Make sure they know you’re coming. It might sound like common sense, but some people think that ‘surprising’ their clients is a good idea. The problem here is that you might stumble into a staff meeting or choose a day where half of the staff is out at meetings. If you make sure they know you’re coming, they can help you choose a day where the majority of the staff will be there and when they’ll have a little downtime so they can enjoy the meal at a leisurely pace.
Decide if you’re staying or not. Do you plan on bringing a meal and sharing it with your clients or are you going to just drop it off with a quick thank you? If you want to deepen your relationship with the client, you should consider staying, at least for a little while. However, if you’re just trying to thank your client for business, you might want to leave the food for them to enjoy along with a few ‘leave behinds’ (such as pens with your company names on them or another promotional item) to remind them where the meal came from.
Keep their preferences in mind. It would be a little embarrassing to bring in a meal of hamburgers only to find out half of the staff are vegetarians. The best way to get around this is to speak with your contact at the business and ask what everyone likes. Is it more of a salad group or would a taco buffet be more appreciate? Do they like sweets or should you forgo dessert?
Having a client appreciation event
Who doesn’t enjoy a party? A client appreciation event can be as simple as a get together in a restaurant party room with ten of your best clients or as large as a huge gathering of hundreds with a full bar, catered meal and entertainment. If a client appreciation event sounds like a good idea to you, keep the following in mind:
Make sure to plan well in advance. Not only do you need time to plan the perfect event, but you also need to give your clients plenty of time to clear their schedules and make plans to attend. Try to make arrangements at least a month in advance (longer than that if it’s a major event) and send out invites or make clients aware at least two or three weeks in advance.
Know who you’re inviting. Knowing who you are inviting helps you to decide what type of event to have. Is it for clients only? Client and spouses? Kid-friendly? Not only do you need to decide who will be invited, but you also need to make sure your invitees know if they should bring along family or a significant other.
Keep other events in mind. It’s never a good idea to plan an event when a number of other things are going on. As we approach the holiday season, make sure you keep in mind other events that might be on your clients’ calendars. You might want to work with someone at your clients’ places of business to get an idea of their calendars so you’re not trying to wedge an event into their already packed schedules. If everyone just seems too busy, it might be a better idea to bring food to their office or take individual clients out to lunch or dinner rather than planning a big event.
Work with the right professionals. What is a great event made up of? Perfect location, wonderful food, yummy drinks and exciting entertainment! You need to find the right partners to help provide these for your party, so make sure you work with the best! This is another reason why planning in advance is critical—you want to make sure you get first pick on the best caterers, locations and entertainment and if you wait too long, they might already be booked.
Great local places to help out
Working with the right people will help you pull off the perfect client appreciation meal or event. Here are a few local restaurants and companies that would be excellent partners:
Baja Grill is ideal for a small client meal or a larger client appreciation event. They have a quiet and comfortable dining area as well as a larger room that can hold up to 50 people with a big screen projector for slide shows and presentations and the option of a catered meal for larger parties. Excellent menu choices are enchilada, taco and nacho bars for larger parties that are kept heated and fresh in chafers and catered pans so your guests can eat throughout the event.
With its casual atmosphere, friendly staff and wonderful food, Café Annie’s provides a wonderful location for a low-key client meal (breakfast lunch, or dinner) or a private party. Café Annie’s can also cater to your off-site client appreciation party. And when you bring your clients to Café Annie’s you know you’re doing something good for your community as they are locally owned and work hard to work with local vendors to provide the freshest food options. Settle down on one of their comfortable couches by the fireplace and chat with a client or set up shop at a table with free wi-fi to conduct a casual business meeting.
If you’re looking for a fun, casual atmosphere to bring your clients, look no further than Fuddruckers. With their abundance of seating, private party room and extensive menu of hamburgers, exotic burgers (elk, wild boar, etc.) and shakes, Fuddruckers provides a great atmosphere for an enjoyable client meal. Fuddruckers also has wireless internet, shows all the Husker games this season (great for a client appreciation party) and caters so you can have their great food off-site as well.
With two Omaha locations, Brewsky’s is a great place to consider for your client meal or event. According to owner Jim Mumgaard, “Brewsky’s is best suited for entertaining clients when the desire is to place the client in a more casual atmosphere, yet retain a professional feel. I can’t even begin to tell you how many businesspeople have told me about deals that were done in our restaurant/bars, sometimes even on a bar napkin.”
Millard Plaza Ballroom
If you’re looking for a wonderful space with a good meal and quality entertainment for your client appreciation party, consider Millard Plaza Ballroom. They customize each event and work with entertainers, singers, DJs, tribute artists, dinner theater groups and have themed meals, so they can design the perfect event for your needs. Dee Hankins of Millard Plaza Ballroom suggests having a dinner theater group as a great interactive way to get all of your clients and staff talking and this type of entertainment creates a much more relaxed environment.
Party Time Rental
If you decide to hold your event at a park, in your home or at another location that is not already set up for a party, you should consider working with Party Time Rental. Equipment they offer includes tables, dishes, chairs, tents, linens and more. They have a number of different styles and colors to choose from that will be the perfect complement to your event.
Your clients are the reason you are in business. Go beyond the expected excellent customer service and products and show them how much you appreciate them by taking your relationship to the next level. A meal out, catered meal to their office or client appreciation party is a great way to strengthen the relationship and help ensure they will remain clients for many years to come!