Corporate hospitality: The secret to getting it right

Sam Coates
England v Wales - RBS Six Nations
If a key invitee doesn't like rugby, it's probably not the best idea to go (Source: Getty)

In today's business environment, hospitality remains a vital part of building and maintaining client relationships. As an increasing amount of day-to-day contact with our customers and potential customers is conducted remotely, “face time” helps build trust, candour and forge stronger working relationships.

It goes without saying that the need to demonstrate a return on investment or, in some instances, a return on experience, from client entertainment remains a business priority – as does securing a positive and memorable brand message.

However, with so many options to choose from, those booking hospitality experiences need to understand what they are buying, and ensure that they follow procedures outlined in their company policy regarding the use of gifts and hospitality.

With the summer’s sporting season nearly upon us, there are three simple steps that any organisation can follow to develop a compliant, efficient and engaging hospitality programme.

Make it personal

Selecting the right experience, at the right time and targeting the right audience is an increasingly essential part of any company’s hospitality strategy. It’s vital to do your research beforehand and fully understand your target audience, their likes, dislikes, requirements and expectations; this insight allows for a more rounded purchasing decision.

If a priority invite recipient dislikes rugby but loves tennis, they’re far more likely to accept an invitation to the latter. Meanwhile, if they’re senior and regularly receive invitations, they’re more likely to pick and choose, so it is essential to spell out the unique selling points.

By ensuring that you have invited an appropriate audience, mutual conversation and understanding will flow and allow for quality networking opportunities. This in turn will increase the customer experience and overall satisfaction of their purchase, ideally resulting in repeat business.

Make it official

Hospitality providers who do not have a direct relationship with the event owners are not required to offer a guaranteed service level, which has the potential to impact the overall experience.

Furthermore, these suppliers usually have to rely on secondary market routes to acquire tickets, which may be of a much lower category as those provided via official channels, or not available in the numbers promised for high profile events.

Official hospitality providers are contracted by governing bodies to design, develop, market and sell hospitality experiences on their behalf. This guarantees that everything, from the ticket and seating location, the food, beverages and on-day service levels are of the highest possible quality.

Make it responsible

Did you know that match-day hospitality profits from The Championships, Wimbledon and Aegon Championships are re-invested back into the sport? Epsom Downs is committed to a sustainable strategy of waste recycling, and uses free cycle to dispose of large items as well as ensuring all race cards are printed on recycled paper.

Organisations such as England Rugby are also leading the way in their corporate responsibility commitments, with hospitality revenues at Twickenham Stadium helping to fund numerous grassroots projects, including the development of 14 regional academies to help secure the future of the sport.

By highlighting and reporting on how your entertainment spend can help support these wider programmes, purchasers of hospitality will be in a stronger position to achieve compliance approval.

Corporate hospitality done well can bring great benefits to your business and, by following the three steps outlined, above you will be able to make the most out of your investment.

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