The potential for that kind of damage can be minimized by sending a customer or prospect to dinner rather than taking them. Gift cards can be a very effective way of showing your appreciation. Granted, they don’t allow the bonding that can take place when you’re entertaining in person, but they can create a lot of goodwill. Think about it, who would you rather go out with, a salesperson or your significant other? Gift cards and sending are not always the best strategy, but neither is taking and picking up the check. It’s also worth noting that gift cards come in fixed amounts, so you know the exact amount of your investment.
Another suggestion for managing cost is to entertain at moderately priced restaurants rather than high priced ones. That’s what I meant by PF Chang’s rather than Ruth’s Chris. I’m not suggesting that you send or take your customers or prospects to a ptomaine palace. I’m just saying that a moderately priced restaurant will probably provide you with most, if not all, of the benefits of entertaining at a lower overall cost. One more thought regarding gift cards, though. Please don’t send me to Ruth’s Chris with a $50 gift card, because it’s going to cost me at least twice that much to eat there with my wife. By the same token, $50 would cover a very nice dinner for two at PF Chang’s.
Now, on to minor league rather than major league. I live in the 48th largest metropolitan area in the United States. We have one professional sports team, the NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes. We also have a couple of minor league teams in various sports, including the Durham Bulls baseball team, a triple A affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays. The difference in cost between a Hurricanes game and a Bulls game is very significant. I could take four or five people to a Bulls game for what it would cost to take one person to a Hurricanes game. The obvious question is whether I’d get as much impact from a Bulls game, and I’m not sure that I wouldn’t. It depends on whether the objective is to watch major league athletes perform or to build or add to the relationship with a customer or potential customer.
Customers and Prospects
Here’s something else to think about. As noted, I could take four or five people to a Bulls game for the same cost as taking one person to a Hurricanes game. That could be four or five people from one company, one person from four or five companies, or any combination of customers and/or prospects that adds up to four or five people. Do you see the value in putting customers and prospects together in a social setting? You’ve probably been trying to convince your prospects that you can deliver on whatever it is that you’re hoping to sell them. With wise use of your entertainment budget, you can engineer a situation where current customers will tell them that you can.
Remember, it’s all about return on investment. That means think before you spend. Remember, too, that it’s difficult to get people to go out with you in these busy times, and that’s all the more reason to be conscious of getting the most bang for your buck.
Dave Fellman is the president of David Fellman & Associates, Cary, NC; a sales and marketing consulting firm serving numerous segments of the graphic arts industry. Contact Dave by phone at 800-325-9634 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit his website at www.MyPRINTResource.com/10004781.