Entertaining business clients isn’t just fun; it’s a proven business strategy used to attract and retain customers. Salespeople have been making connections with clients and forging long-lasting relationships in this manner for ages.

While the percentage of sales and marketing budgets allocated to entertaining varies from company to company, one thing’s for sure—when budgets are cut, it can get tricky. Check out these tips to maximize the time and money spent entertaining clients, from setting a budget to selecting inexpensive promotional gifts that hit the mark.

Budget-friendly tips and tricks

  • Determine your budget: Whether your budget is discretionary, based on client spend, or strictly determined by your company, provide salespeople with boundaries that outline how much they can spend, on what and how often. This not only helps salespeople prepare, it ensures their budget doesn’t run out mid-year.
  • Be thrifty: Do you (or your company) have a go-to place for taking clients to dinner? It’s not out of line to ask management at the venue for a special discount in return for your regular business. If you’re taking clients to a concert, play or sporting event, there may be discount codes available—shop around to ensure you’re getting the best deal.
  • Be creative: Taking a group of clients out for a lavish dinner and drinks may exhaust your entertaining budget, but when you host a dinner at home, the sky’s the limit. Make it extra special by inviting the sommelier from your favorite restaurant to do a wine and food pairing. Gifting a bottle of wine is a great way to end the night—dress it up with a branded wine tote for a beautiful presentation and a subtle reminder of your appreciation for their business.
  • Be active: Who says business entertaining has to be done over dinner? Invite clients to play a game of tennis, hit the trails for a hike or bike ride, or go horseback riding. These activities provide a great opportunity for face time. And don’t forget the small stuff— practical yet inexpensive giveaways, like a rain poncho, sunscreen or bug spray, come to the rescue when the unexpected occurs. Clients will be impressed by the thoughtful gesture.
  • Be thoughtful: Show clients you care by sending unexpected gifts. Warm up clients on a chilly fall day with tins of hot chocolate accompanied by logo’d ceramic mugs. Or drop off a popcorn tin for the entire office to enjoy. These gifts show you care and are sure to make a lasting impression.

Remember, entertaining clients doesn’t have to break the bank. Follow these tips and show your appreciation with inexpensive thank-you gifts to keep those customers coming back year after year.

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