This time of year, every small business owner’s mind is running a million miles a minute. We’re reflecting on the year, and planning for the new year. Definitely working late nights now so we can have days off with our family! We might be regretting not taking care of our tax prep every quarter instead of once in January. Most of all, we’re thinking of how to thank our amazing customers, and wondering how to show gratitude to our employees in a meaningful way. We know your calendar is filled with holiday events: some with family, friends, clients and coworkers. Some cheesy, stuffy, and too “businessy.” The last thing you want to do is plan a holiday event that is standard and forgettable. You don’t want employees to feel obligated, forcing the fun to happen. Clients need to walk away feeling valued and loved on. So how do you throw a company holiday event that feels genuine, fuels connection, and benefits everyone?
Simply put, you have to have a purpose. Decide what you want to accomplish with your event. Don’t throw an event just because you always have, or because everyone else is. How do you truly want to end the year? Who are you serving, and how do you want to make them feel? What is the benefit you want your business to achieve? If you’re not sure, you have some homework to do first! And trust me, I hate homework, so I only assign it if absolutely necessary.
The key to throwing a great customer appreciation event is to put yourself in their shoes and respect their time. They have already bought in to what you’re selling. Now, you’re asking them to give up some of their time. How can you show your appreciation? Time to get creative! For those with a physical shop, this might look like opening late one evening with new exclusive products your customers can shop before the public. If you’re a chef, you might invite your top customers to a new recipe tasting. Service industry, like planners, photographers, therapists, florists, stylists, etc might unveil a new service option or launch a referral program, offering customers a way to benefit personally from referring you to their friends.
Additionally, take this time to talk to your customers. What they need and want from you might surprise you! Listen to their stories, ideas, struggles. Just take the time to hear about how the year has been for them. Some food, good conversation, and at least one value-adding reason for attending will make your event memorable, leaving customers feeling loved and appreciated.
Let your staff know you see how hard they work all year, and you appreciate them! As the CEO, you’ll want to address the room and thank them from the heart. Share the wins from the year, a few funny blunders you can laugh about together, and inspire your team to new wins in 2022 by talking about your goals for next year. Keep it short! You want this to be a time to strengthen staff bonds through socializing and finding common ground, so keep the “shop talk” to a limit. You’ll want at least one engaging event, but don’t over-structure the whole party. Leave room for people to mingle, chat, and laugh together. If it makes sense for your business, this is a great time to open up two-way dialogue about the past year. Maybe there were some changes or accomplishments you weren’t even aware of. Your employees might have some great ideas for next year. Open the floor to them, and see what comes of it!
If you’re on the fence about holiday bonuses, gifts, or gift cards, these are so impactful! Employment throughout the year is an exchange–money for time. When you offer a bonus or unexpected gift, you show your thanks to your employees for choosing you. They have options when it comes to employers, and the ship doesn’t run without them! I remember receiving $25 Martins gift cards or a $15 ham for my family’s Thanksgiving at previous jobs. It’s not a lot, but it was so exciting in the moment!
This time of year, customers are bombarded with Black Friday ads and sales, messages that they have to buy now to save, discount discount discount! It’s exhausting, and we don’t need more of that in our inboxes. They need a different reason to come to your holiday event. Instead of sales and discounts, communicate your value to your audience and highlight the unique experience you give your customers. You are worth every penny! It’s your job to show them why. An in-person event can be a great opportunity to meet potential customers and make sure they feel heard, and communicate your services as the answer to their problems.
We’ve covered purposeful and valuable. Now, how to throw a company holiday event that’s impactful. If you’re going to invest time and money into an event, you want to get the most out of it. Ensure this event doesn’t go by without capitalizing on its marketing potential. Capture the connections, behind the scenes moments, and festive season and turn that content into a valuable marketing resource. What if your holiday party could turn into your custom holiday marketing content for next year? Have an event photographer there to capture the experience, as well as the work and effort that went into putting it together. So many of you on my list are in the events industry. All that work behind the scenes to pull off something amazing rarely gets captured. You deserve to be highlighted! Take this opportunity to turn your event into a marketing tool for you business. Even your lowkey staff holiday party photographs have a valuable role in preserving memories to be enjoyed at staff birthdays, retirement parties, each year on Christmas, and in your company onboarding materials as you describe the type of work culture you’ve created.
Looking for a photographer for your holiday event? As a brand and event photographer, I am perfectly suited to capture the intersection of documenting your event and curating event images that are intentional for your brand marketing. I pay close attention to details, what’s going on behind the scenes, and how your customers are experiencing your event. Contact me for available dates and information.