Anybody involved in business will know that success is seldom achieved solely by issuing marketing spiel to leads and bombarding clients with promotional material. That all has its place, of course, but employing all the subtlety of a market trader is only really any good if you are selling fruit or dodgy designer gear to passing strangers. For the sleek and sophisticated operation that you will need to sustain your long-term business strategy, a little panache is sometimes called for.
One time-honored approach to keeping valued clients onside is through entertaining them, providing a congenial atmosphere in which they can see the human face of the person to whom they are giving their business and discuss any issues they may have in a civilized and sociable environment.
A Traditional Approach to Entertaining Clients
For most business people this would involve maybe a reception, or a business meeting or conference which included a social aspect at the conclusion as part of the winding-down process. The global media organization Fortune has produced some very interesting features on the whole subject of entertainment, exploring some of the less conventional approaches sometimes taken as well as the more traditional. And whilst paintballing weekends or an exploratory analysis of a blossoming business relationship in the jacuzzi may be for some, if in doubt the traditional wine and canapes reception can prove the safer option.
For the business-savvy host food and drink needs to be of sufficiently high quality so as not to risk an unwanted reputation for meanness whilst not blowing a hole in the company budget. If you can find a supplier which will provide a great red wine pack for under a hundred dollars and someone who can produce a display of nibbles which is pleasing to the eye and to the palate then generally speaking you will have cracked it.
The Beery Lunch as an Option for Some
In some industries things can legitimately be handled with a more casual approach. Deals are still done over a beer in a downtown bar and there will continue to be a market for that style of doing business, but it depends very much upon the nature of the business and the kind of rapport that the service provider enjoys with the customer. In the exports trade, for instance, new commercial relationships are often cemented semi-incoherently and pursued, if remembered, when normal service is resumed the next morning. It can be a surprisingly effective strategy for developing a commercial relationship, but one perhaps left to those whose area of expertise it is.
By whatever means the entertaining of a client is done, what it is important to remember is that the line between thanking them for past business and seeking out new opportunities is a much blurred one. Commerce is a dynamic process which thrives upon continued growth, and however grateful you may be for support thus far given, the real object of the exercise is always to keep the client on board with a view to a continued relationship.