It's No Party. It's Relationship Marketing.

Many new and small business owners tell me they would like a more robust marketing plan, but they don’t have a budget that permits them to do the things they want to do. The truth is, most businesses do NOT have the kind of budgets they want and are simply stuck as to how to utilize what resources they have available to them. Relationship marketing is a strong business builder and can be the best way to accomplish two very different objectives: new business development AND client/customer retention.

Planning a party has its own set of stressful to-do’s and don’ts, so it makes sense that business owners feel utterly overwhelmed by the thought of planning an event that should both engage and entertain prospects. Yet, an “event” is the most economical way to meet new people and deepen relationships with existing clients. That makes it well worth investing in exactly this type of Relationship Marketing, and allocating a portion of that budget to a marketing strategist who understands your business niche or has experience in corporate meeting planning.

Groups of eight to twelve people are ideal and there should be a common theme that invites discussion or interaction. This is not the time to organize a 50 person cocktail party nor is it the time to prepare a speech. “Well, how will I grow my business if I don’t tell them what I do”, you ask? Excellent question, and it’s easily answered. The idea is to open the moment to real conversation that gives people a chance to meet and have fun. It works because a professional event should be so well crafted that it invites sincere opportunities to grow relationships. This is what your clients will like, and the friends they bring will like it (and you), too!

One of my favourite examples of relationship marketing focuses on a pair of Financial Advisors I know who got tickets to hear a nationally known speaker at a small, semi-private auditorium. They invited their best clients, and asked them to bring at least one guest. The advisors rented a “fun bus” so that everyone met in one central location to make the trip, and once on the bus, each guest was treated to picnic fare type meals and beverages. In DC Metro traffic, the advisors had a full 2 hours to interact with and have fun with their guests; they learned the different reasons why people wanted to see this speaker which in turn lead the way to shared stories about common interests, which lead to a deeper sense of what some of their clients had never mentioned in their formal conversations about financial planning.

And? They had a blast!

In the competitive landscape of this particular business, and probably for most businesses, it is smart to have that depth of trust and understanding. Clients and customers do not focus on leaving a business that connects with them. Their friends will remember that connection, too, when they begin examining alternative resources for themselves.

The event described may sound daunting or expensive. Different budgets require different strategies. The point is, there are remarkable and memorable ways to develop similar opportunities that allow you to have fun with your marketing and business development planning. Some prefer to handle this solo, but you can develop this internally with staff as long as there are clear objectives and deadlines.

Or, hire someone to build the framework, draw a road map that gets you to the finish line, and even provide execution if necessary so that your business continues to be the focus of your time and energy. No matter how you manage the logistics of your event, know that it is the best Return on Investment for your marketing dollar, and the smartest way to connect with your ideal prospects and existing clients.