How to Plan Client Appreciation Events that Guests Want to Attend

By Beth Buehler

Saying thank you never goes out of style, whether it’s via a note in the mail, phone call, thoughtful gift or invitation to a client appreciation event. The first three approaches are fairly cut and dry, but asking customers to attend a gathering is at another level since it takes time out of their busy schedules. I’ve written a fair amount about the “experience economy” and how it pertains to meetings and events, and it absolutely applies to client appreciation events. Let’s explore how to succeed in this category by integrating the great experiences that Colorado is so well known for.

I’ll use Destination Colorado as an example. The nonprofit is dedicated to providing resources, information and solutions for meeting and event planners and has hosted a customer appreciation event for several years. Why? It’s a chance for representatives from the organization’s 130 members (hotels, venues, destination marketing organizations and suppliers) to interact with and thank planners for their business.

When Destination Colorado decided to change it up from an annual golf outing held at beautiful golf courses around the state, staff and volunteers became focused on delivering customer appreciation events that surprise, delight, involve memorable venues and activities, and provide great networking opportunities. Now that’s an opportunity and experience few planners want to miss!

Let’s take a look at what’s on tap for 2019 and flash back to 2013 when the format began to change and what’s happened in between. On Oct. 24 – 25, 2019, during the “Fall into Fun in Fort Collins” customer appreciation event, planners will be treated to lodging at The Elizabeth Hotel in historic downtown, a farm-to-table dinner in the pumpkin patch of Bartle’s Farm, a New Belgium Brewery reception and tour, and a choice of fly-fishing, mountain biking, biking and beer tour, downtown foodie tour or historic walking tour. The closing reception is scheduled for Canvas Stadium at Colorado State University. Now that itinerary makes me want to attend, how about you?

The Elizabeth Hotel’s beautiful lobby in downtown Fort Collins. Courtesy The Elizabeth Hotel.

Destination Colorado began introducing alternative activities for non-golfers in tandem with hitting the links in 2013 and 2014 (like an Iron Chef-style competition and Amazing Race). Then the organization took a big leap by eliminating golf altogether and offering a national park photo safari in Estes Park for all attendees in 2015 and “Get Your Cowboy On” in Grand County for 2016.

A terrific wildlife moment captured by a Customer Appreciation Event participant at Rocky Mountain National Park. Courtesy WonderWorks Studios.

At Devil’s Thumb Ranch Resort and Spa in 2016, the group divided up in teams for “Get Your Cowboy On” activities.

Next, it was a 2017 Beatles tribute concert at the iconic Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Morrison, just west of Denver, with a reception on-site that featured plenty of costumes, a photo booth, and tasty food and drink.

Getting in the 1960s spirit before going to the Beatles tribute concert at Red Rocks. Courtesy WonderWorks Studios.

In 2018, in tandem with Destination Colorado’s 25thanniversary, the event was held in September at the totally renovated and newly reopened Hotel Talisa Vail. The first evening was focused on a welcome reception and cocktails and s’mores around patio fire pits. Breakfast was held at another partner property, The Arrabelle, and guests boarded the nearby gondola for on-mountain activities like riding the alpine coaster, tubing, hiking and dining at Eagle’s Nest.

There are plenty of places to lounge and network at Hotel Talisa, Vail. Courtesy Hotel Talisa.

If your client appreciation event is starting to feel a little stale, think about how to deliver an experience by tapping into Colorado’s truly unique venues, properties and activities using these examples. There are all sorts of options, and Destination Colorado members are happy to assist!

Beth Buehler is editor of Colorado Meetings + Events and Mountain Meetings magazines, has planned numerous meetings and events and enjoys exploring Colorado in all seasons.