Once you’re up and running and ready to bring clients on board, you may wonder how to go the extra mile to impress them – and hold on to them. The key? Great hospitality. You also need to look after yourself, too, and that means keeping on top of (or rather, below) your budget. Having said that, creating a pleasant environment for everyone goes
a long, long way – and the simplest things cost nothing.
Before meeting a client, drop them an email the day before, confirming the appointment and giving any directions or relevant information. Once they arrive, greet them by name and show them into the office.
Hospitality goes a step further than just persuading a client to choose your product or service. After all, positive feelings lead to a more positive impression of the hosting organisation, which can be a significant competitive benefit in the long-term.
WHAT CAN YOU OFFER?
Business is cut-throat, so any way of standing out from the crowd should be embraced. Critics might think of it as an unnecessary expense, but it can be a great investment, especially for up-and-coming businesses. Try these ideas:
TEA AND CAKE
When having clients in for a meeting, you don’t need to get the bunting out, just offer them a scrummy-looking cake to sweeten them up. The aroma of brewed coffee can trigger a comforting feeling, and makes clients feel at home or in a relaxed environment.
LUNCHES AND DINNERS
Everyone likes to be treated to a swanky meal out now and again and clients love being wined and dined. Obviously, impressing them can cost, but fear not, that’s where Tastecard (tastecard.co.uk) comes in. Tastecard membership gives you 50% off the total bill (or two meals for the price of one) at thousands of participating restaurants across the country.
JAMES' TIPS... One piece of business advice: lead by example
Take them to a sporting event, such as a football match or a day at the races, especially if they’re a fan of a team that’s playing.
Alternatively, hosting an event where your client can get involved is another way to engage with them and build relationships. Fun events such as racing around obstacle courses or a game of rounders helps to take the pressure off and gets everyone laughing.
If your client loves a little snifter to finish the day off, give him or her a bottle. Buying a big bottle of their favourite tipple will prove you’re showing an interest in them as a person, as well as professionally.
While it’s nice to offer clients the odd treat, small businesses in particular must be aware of the Bribery Act. Under this law, introduced in 2010, businesses must ensure that client hospitality is ‘proportionate to the risks you take and to the size of your business’ or face prosecution.
It’s wise to have a company policy for corporate hospitality in place. You can use gifts to show your appreciation but be aware of the bigger picture. For more information, search for Bribery Act 2010 and read all about it.