Crash Course in ... Entertaining in a downturn

Christmas is coming, and it's time to organise the staff party and think about which clients you're going to wine and dine. But, hang on, maybe that's not going to look too clever with doom all around. Is it time for a wholesale re-think of your entertainment and hospitality activities in these straitened times?

by Alexander Garrett

Don't stop. First instincts may be to bring down the axe, but entertaining customers is part of your marketing mix, and there is a price to pay if you drop it. 'Entertaining is great for building loyalty, and as we go into a recession, it's important to retain loyalty from your customers,' says Izania Downie, a director at trade association Eventia.

Back to basics. Re-examine hospitality and entertainment as part of your business strategy; in particular, identify the objectives they are intended to meet. 'Your investment in face-to-face marketing should be focused in three areas: strengthening relationships, increasing customer loyalty, and retaining valued performers,' says Marc Balhetchet, co-founder of live communications agency Wave Marketing & Communications.

Cut the fat. Look for savings that won't damage the effectiveness of your spend; people will expect to see you curbing excess at this time. 'It's about being creative - you can save money by cutting out one course from a meal without affecting the overall results,' says Downie. 'Use professional consultants, who will know where the savings can be made.' Gratuitous extravagance could leave a sour taste, but having a good time is still allowed.

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