Tips and ideas for your next customer appreciation event

Customer appreciation events increase sales and retention, and provide your business with excellent PR. They also give you an opportunity to get to know your customers and clients outside of your normal transactions, humanizing your brand and increasing their trust in you, and therefore their loyalty.

The basics

The final details of your event will depend on your location, business model, and whether you’re in the service industry or retail, but there are some universal things every business owner should keep in mind:

Base the event on your demographics and what they like. A golf outing works beautifully if you’re running an accounting or insurance agency, but you probably won’t get a lot of interest if you own a boutique catering to women under 40.

Be mindful of what your core base expects from you. If you offer extravagant specialty products and services, your customers expect to be treated like VIPs; a cheap hotdog cookout behind your building isn’t going to cut it. Likewise, businesses that offer practical products and services should probably avoid renting out an expensive hall for a dinner that starts with caviar.

Schedule based on your customers’ lifestyles. Keep holidays, family situations, and your customers’ typical work schedules in mind when choosing a date and time for the event.

Take care when deciding who to invite. Some customer appreciation events, like flash sales, extend to anyone, but cookouts, dinners, tastings, and similar ideas require an actual guest list. For these, aim to invite 75% to 85% current, loyal customers, filling up the remainder of the list with prospects or new customers.

Be strategic with invitations to maximize turnout. Digital invitation services do a lot of the work for you, sending out the initial invitation and then reminders to people who haven’t RSVP’d yet. If you want to stay traditional and mail invitations, leave yourself enough time to send postcard reminders to the people you haven’t heard from yet.

Universal ideas

Organize a big event to celebrate milestones or holidays, hosting it at your place of business or at a local event center, restaurant, entertainment establishment, or park. Details will vary drastically based on your customer base, but key things to include are entertainment, food, beverages, and some type of gift. Happy hour at a local restaurant, renting out a movie theater for movie night, a family picnic at a park, or a catered dinner can all be personalized to fit your customer base.

Host a tasting or social that ties into your business and appeals to your base. A coffee and pastry event, a wine or microbrew tasting, or an ice cream social can all be casual or more elegant, and offer a similar feel to a full dinner or event with a long guest list, but with a lower price tag.

Schedule a private VIP event in your store for your most loyal customers. Let them shop a new collection with a discount, or get a sneak peek at new products or services. Include light refreshments and a small gift before they leave.

Take a few customers out for something fun. Buy a box for a local sports game, schedule a golf trip, or treat a few customers to a day at the spa. These are things that many professionals use to lure in new clients, but they should also be extended to those who’ve worked with you for years.

There are plenty of ideas out there, but if you’re having a difficult time coming up with something that works for your base and your budget, run some ideas past your most loyal customers to see what would interest them. Remember, you’re showing your customers that you appreciate them, so the event should be something special that they’ll enjoy.


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