Where do you begin? Here are a few steps to get you on your way.
Know Your Customer. One reason we don't investigate quite often enough is why our customers do business with us. In today's competitive landscape, what is YOUR team offering that makes you their chosen vendor/retail/business partner? Your customer appreciation event is your chance to remind them of the reason why they want to do business with you. If it is because of your friendly, approachable style, choose an intimate venue, live band, to create a lively and engaging environment. If it is because of your corporate, professional style, perhaps a sophisticated networking venue like a hotel meeting space would be more fitting.
Choose a Date. Should you go for a Monday, Thursday, or Weekend? Again, this depends on how your customer's schedules. If it is a standing, cocktail reception style event, perhaps a 5:30-7PM time slot works for people going from work to your event before they attend their dinner engagements. If your customers are mostly parents with young children (ie. if you sell children's clothing), you want to avoid nap time hours and/or choose a weekend day where they can bring their children. To keep the children entertained while you are mingling with your customers, having a play area for the kids show your customers you go the extra mile for them. Another item to keep in mind and research is competing events. Are there other events competing for your customers' time on the same day? Doing a simple Google search can help you with this task.
Decide on a Budget. The easiest way to do this is to figure out how much each customer is worth to you. The best prospect of next year's earnings is this year's customers, so how much is each of them worth to you? A customer appreciation event is where you invest to increase your chances of securing next year's business. If your average customer spends $3000 on your company's products and services per year, then perhaps a 15% investment ($45/person) budget is what you are looking at. Multiply the per person cost with the number of attendees you expect and you have the first starting point for your budget.
Pick a Venue. When selecting a venue here are some things to consider:
Location/Accessibility - for your guests driving in, how accessible is the location? Is the location close to transit?
Venue Capacity - You don't want the venue to be too packed (aka. uncomfortable and hot), or too empty (aka. creating the perception that you don't have enough customers)
Food Options - Check with your guests for food allergies - ensure there are gluten-free, peanut-free, vegetarian-friendly menu items for your guests if needed.
Set Up/Tear Down - Does the venue let you move in with enough time for set up prior to your event starting? Do they give you enough time to clean up after the event without extra charges?
Extra Costs - Will the venue charge your extra for audio/visual, coat check personnel, washroom attendants, security, lighting, parking, green rooms, coffee/tea, bartenders, etc.? Find out all the extra costs because the miscellaneous costs can add up quick.
Prepare a Guest List. Who's coming to the party? Is the party an intimate gathering for your VIPs? Your first and second tier customers? Or can everyone attend? Consider how your guests will interact with each other - it's always important to consider the dynamics of the guests at your event. Also, you may want to invite some prospective clients as well so they can mingle with your current customers. Those who opt in to attend your event are likely to have nice things to say about your service and products, so this can be an indirect way for your customers to help you build some new potential relationships!
That should give you a head start on planning your customer appreciation event. Of course, if you feel overwhelmed by the amount of work that goes into preparing an event, our team is here to provide additional consultation or event planning services.
We with you the best of luck with your customer appreciation event!