Let me entertain you

  • With Wimbledon filling the screens and my old chums at RBS coming under attack yet again, this time for laying out £300k on tournament tickets, I couldn’t help but stick my oar into an online discussion about corporate hospitality.

    Twitter led me to a blog post aimed at the professional services sector. The post held that entertaining clients and referral sources wouldn’t, by itself, lead to new client work. The phrase ‘by itself’ saved the post from being overly contentious, but I couldn’t stop myself jumping to the defence of good old fashioned client entertainment.

    The recession has led to a rapid reining in of hospitality. As The Marketing Eye reported in its news pages last month, many marketers have considered removing corporate hospitality from the marketing mix altogether. A corporate paranoia has emerged, where companies are afraid of being perceived as being profligate in their expenditure on clients.

    This is understandable, but we shouldn’t throw the baby out with the bath water.

    The value of corporate hospitality was reinforced to me on Friday when the business development manager from our printers came to see us. Brian might be described as being from the old school of sales. There’s nothing he doesn’t know about us: where we go on holiday, how many children we have, what our hobbies are is all information stored in his mental hard drive. And, of course, he doesn’t just know about us; he has the same information stored on all of his clients.

    Brian’s knowledge of his clients is second to none. The occasional lunch has been part of his information gathering strategy and has done wonders to reinforce our opinion of him as a genuine nice guy. The result is a loyalty that is hard to break.

    While we wait for the economy to recover, there are few better investments than getting to know clients. Generation Y decision makers might be satisfied with getting to know people through Facebook profiles, but until they dominate there is no substitute for getting to know customers face to face. Relationships will always be deeper, more enduring and more productive.

    Whether it is to seal a deal, embed a relationship or say thank you for the business, lunch or a round of golf is an ideal way of spending a concentrated period of quality time with a client or prospect. Just remember why you are there.

    Anyone for tennis?

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