Well, the time has come to share the mystical secrets of success with clients with this seventh instalment of The Drum's guide to modern client entertainment. This week, we explore what it takes to flourish in real life social situations with marketing clients in the digital age.
Business is a new kind of social and so it grows more so. It doesn't take much of a crystal ball to see into a future (or is it already the present?) of increasing personal importance, in career terms for those in the media and marketing world, to have an effective professional social media presence. Leaders must lead. Now you must demonstrate your personal contribution to the debate,your specialist knowledge and also your highly engaged professional network – including connections with clients on Twitter and not just LinkedIn.
The best way to build your social network is to build your network socially. Making meaningful and new connections in the real world has perhaps never been more important to your future or continued success. And because there are evermore content-driven live events online, conferences speeches or videos to respond to, engaging and meeting clients today is certainly not just an in-person activity.
When it actually gets to the social situations, it doesn't just click for everybody, and for sure, some people find client entertainment harder work than others. Some seem to make it harder work for themselves and of course, a few make it hard work for everyone. There are a few simple actions that make client social situations easier all round:
Engage and connect online
Understand the universe of those you could or should connect to digitally, and then make the connections, starting with those you already know on the social media sites useful for your business. If you work in sales or generate fees particularly, then your list probably would include future possible clients and, for everyone, also, prominent figures you respect or even those you compete with. At a minimum, you should connect with every single one of your clients who currently has a business Twitter or LinkedIn presence. As well as direct dialogue, the cross feeds provide greater client insight. It's about better informed, as well as better connected.
Flick your switch
Tell yourself how awful client entertainment is, and more than likely you'll prove yourself right. Instead, only ever send your best self to attend client or industry events. We can all have our off days, but successful client entertainment means leaving your issues at the door and being your most fabulous self at the event: why kill the buzz with an absent mind when you could be making the most of every minute there? You need to be the person clients enjoy sitting beside or stood talking with, so get your game face on. Now.
Erm, lovely weather
It's lazy to turn up with nothing to say, or barely even a question to ask. Even spending 15 minutes online exploring the event, checking out the social media feeds of attendees, a few hashtag searches, and certainly that day's feed on the official feeds of the client brands, recent awards, reading the internal client notes or personal updates will give you enough material to ensure no awkward pauses.
The really serious will apply their own simple planning strategy to ensure they know exactly who they will catch up with, and just like at an actual business meeting, what it is they aim to discuss with each. The research process itself helps social business leaders identify new connections they want to make online in advance of meeting in person at said event. But, don't make it all business, don't forget about the day's news headlines and even a few funnies in case you find yourself in a really dry spot.
Anyone can choose to opt out of fashion, but none of us can opt out of caring about our personal presentation. There are fewer scruffy leaders in these 4k days. In client facing situations, we need to dress the part. In an image-obsessed business there is no point pretending it doesn't matter. Personal grooming matters even more than the threads you wear. (Bad breath anyone?) It makes sense that clients are going to make some kind of connection between your effort towards yourself and what they can expect you to do for them.
This is not a pressure to spend, spend, spend. It's a message to say, keep yourself nice. Your clients will appreciate it, and so will future employers. You want to look your best in the selfie, right?
You've got to turn it up for your clients, it's a minimum required standard. When clients are talking to you, it's a good time to practice listening with an open mind. How many times have you watched two people talking, and you can see the silent one just waiting for the first chance to speak? You know they are not listening to a single word; more like just watching the person speaking's breathing to jump in there at the next breath.
Listening is hard to do, but it's how we find out the truth about what the client needs from us. The open mind part is to think about what the client is saying, not just what you think about what they are saying.
Being nice at client events also means being very generous with your best manners: remembering people is rule number one. No one enjoys re-introducing themselves, especially in front of an audience.
Don't just introduce people – if there is something positive or interesting to say about the connection between two people as you are introducing them, then why not say it? That's not saying make up fake snaps, but if your introduction involves genuine and relevant praise for either, then you personally will come across better at that moment. People appreciate real gestures.
Eyes around the table
There's nothing worse than those with their eyes all around the room, which most of us do all the time, especially at client events. It's how we see people, but of course, we should be fully concentrating and engaged on the person or people we are talking with, not peering over their shoulders.
The most switched on are not only noticing the people they want to meet, but they will also notice those nearby who don't seem to be talking to anyone, and include them in the conversation. If you are hosting, then it's a must. To make sure that all the clients in the room or at the table are involved and engaged.
Table etiquette is a subject for another day, but personal standards have to come up to expected polite company minimums. Take a risk averse approach. Minding your manners in terms of what you say in client situations can be the difference between having a job tomorrow and not. Even if you are from the north, farting is a no no in front of clients and you should never assume responsibility, ever.
When it comes to alcohol and client social situations, it's true to say that having a drink is fine, but being drunk is not. Especially when it comes to farting.
Say thank you and follow through
Even if you hosted the event, write to your client the next day to say thank you for attending. If you discussed something with them or promised to connect them with someone, then be sure to follow through with that. Make it more than just a tweet – calling to say thank you is even better than writing. The client is most likely to take your call, and that is a great moment to discuss specific new business ideas or possibilities. If you attended as a guest, then show your manners and stand out by writing to say thanks the very next morning. Even tweet about the success and your enjoyment of the event if you want to, or if it’s appropriate. Attending events is important to our career, and attending well includes saying thank you.
If you had a great personal connection with a new contact, then the next day is a good time to make the digital connection with them. But not necessarily with every single new person you met, or were just introduced to, because that doesn't always come across so well: “Hi, you are a person I trust and I would like to add you to my personal network." We can only concentrate on so many business relationships, so let's make them all count.
Next week, we showcase some brilliant real life examples of current client event formats including some smarts around event planning and also good practice in terms of general client entertainment. It is all about the venue, fyi. See you next Thursday.
If you can't wait until then, check out the Twenty Rather Good Shouts for client dining courtesy of Mr. Sykes Modern Concierge.