Once your company reaches a certain size and you begin to deepen your client relationships, hosting a party around the holidays may seem like a good idea. In truth, a well-planned party can show your clients how much you appreciate their business and look forward to continuing the relationship. When done right, customer holiday parties may even be able to help win additional business from them.
When done wrong, the same customer holiday parties can be disastrous to the relationship and to your reputation. Let’s take a look at how good parties go wrong.
Phoning in the food
Since it’s the end of the year, you’re understandably busy with planning and projections for next year. Dealing with caterers and menu planning is the last thing you want to do. Instead, pick up the phone and order a few dozen pizzas. If you’re not a fan of pizzeria desserts, surely someone on your staff would be willing to back a cake or some cookies for the event.
After all, this is free food, so no one’s going to complain. Right?
Wrong. While tedious, the time you spend planning your menu can help set the tone for the evening. Selecting finger foods that can be eaten with one hand and aren’t messy may entice your clients to mingle. The more they mingle, the better time they’ll have, making your party a success.
Leaving the open bar unattended
Since you’re all adults, there’s no reason to guard the alcohol like this is a room full of teenagers. No one likes to feel as though they’re being rationed or judged for what they drink anyway. Letting everyone help themselves is clearly the best way to go.
Except it isn’t.
Not only is this strategy potentially expensive, but it’s irresponsible. Whenever you host a party with alcoholic beverages, you take on some liability for the actions of your guests after they leave. By having an employee or bartender serve the drinks, your guests are less likely to overindulge and, if they do, there’s someone to call them a cab.
From a hosting perspective, having someone pour drinks – even just a glass of wine – makes your event appear more elegant, again leaving a more favorable impression with your clients.
Acting like a guest
Parties are supposed to be fun and you’re the one footing the bill. Why shouldn’t you and your staff cut loose and have a good time? It’s not like your clients are expecting you to talk shop all night.
Unfortunately, some of them are. Even the ones who aren’t may not want to lose the illusion of you as a professional and nothing else. As the host, it’s important for you and your staff to mingle with the guests to ensure everyone has everything they need and is having a good time. Just taking the time to introduce guests to one another can make a big difference in the atmosphere.
Remember, the key to hosting successful customer holiday parties is to not do anything that would damage your company’s image in front of your guests. Since you know your clients better than anyone else, you’ll be able to tell where to draw the line between loosening up and staying professional.