It was only a few years ago that I sent out Harry & David fruit baskets for every client who had a baby, got married, got divorced, or seemed like they  needed a little special attention.

These days I look back at how much I spent doing that and can't help but wonder how I had that much money to toss around.

Keeping Clients and Budgets at the Same Time

There's no way we can afford that kind of luxurious gift giving, at least for the foreseeable future. So how do you keep clients engaged without the lavish spending? Here are some ideas that have been working well in the 'new economy'

  • 1) Group events - bring several clients together under the umbrella of "networking." You can get great deals on restaurant buffets and cocktails if you're entertaining 20 people instead of 5. Plus your clients enjoy the idea of meeting new people, and will appreciate the effort you've gone through to put a group of interesting people together.
  • 2) Be loyal to your Venues - if the owner of your favorite client-entertaining venue knows you'll be bringing new people to their restaurant every few weeks, they can make it worth your while to stay loyal. Ask them about meal packages or 'preferred customer' rates.
  • 3) Get back to basics - remember that a hand written note is worth its weight in gold. A few thoughtful cards and well-timed personal phone calls might just bridge the gap while you're figuring out your finances.

I've found that the recession has lent a bit more genuine friendship to my business relationships. We are all pulling for each other. Discussions are more about family dilemmas than work issues, because we've started to remember what's really important. I have to say that I like this better.

But sometimes I'd like to have a big steak too.

It would be nice if the recession would just end already. Sheesh.