During the 30th session of MAAWG, recently held in San Francisco, I learned a valuable life lesson that I wanted to share with our readership and the industry in general.
Companies are always entertaining their clients. Conferences and other such events are an effective way to meet your clients face to face and naturally build stronger relationships. These events are about building a network, finding your place in an industry and learning to take advantage of the opportunities that come your way.
Don’t entertain clients, entertain your best friends.
It’s easy to entertain your clients. When you recognize them for being your customer, they feel important, but where is the intrinsic value?
Entertaining clients differs greatly from entertaining your best friends. When entertaining clients, there is an invisible threshold that you cannot cross because of the need to maintain professional boundaries. The main benefit of professional entertaining is that it provides a “jumping off point” for businesses and clients to get to know each other, so that they can eventually form sound professional relationships.
Events that exude too much of a “corporate” vibe run the risk of seeming slick, cold, or calculating. In contrast, think of a gathering of friends, where trust and appreciation occur naturally, with no strings attached. It is important to remember that, even in the context of business, you are not entertaining an entity but rather a person with interests and opinions—some of which may be similar to yours. Taking an interest in them as individuals, can help you establish trust quickly and build relationships that transcend business goals.
Last week at M3AAWG for example, we entertained 70+ guests for dinner at Chambers Restaurant in San Francisco. It was a successful event, building budding friendships, where the conversation focused on other things than our product, and there was a real feeling of trust and camaraderie in the room. The event sold out in 5 hours after the mailing was sent. The one piece of advice I can give when entertaining clients is, simply, don’t. Instead, try to plan an event for a group of friends who happen to have some common business interests. And remember, always register early….:) We’ve already begun work on our next event, in Brussels. Stay tuned, it should be a great time!