Even for SMEs, business entertaining can be cost-effective.
Business entertaining is sometimes seen as a waste of precious money for some SMEs, but if the right people are entertained in the right environment, it can be a cost-effective way of keeping business. But be aware of its limitations. It is rarely an opportunity for canvassing new clients - the golden rule is: use it to retain the customers you already have.
Set aside an annual budget (at least 2% of your client's typical annual spend with you) and allocate this to those in your company with direct responsibility for each client to entertain them on a one-to-one basis.
Establish a list of target clients and work through it systematically.
Find out what your clients really like to do - golf days, theatre evenings, wine tastings, dining out, private views at national or local exhibitions, adventure days or sporting events. Taking over a leisure venue with a myriad of corporate entertainment options will appeal to different people. You can, of course, organise a major event for several clients at once, but make sure you have enough hosts to go around - maximum levels for this should be four to five clients to every host.
If your budget allows, you may want to host a larger function and make it clear it is 'your event' with a clear branding. At such events you should allow clients to relax, socialise and network. Don't inflict your personal idea of fun unless you're sure it has wider appeal.
Shelley Sofier is managing director of Sofier Skidmore Turnbull PR, 0171 221 6222.