In my own past, entertaining business clients has fallen into one of two categories, neither of which really hits that sweet spot. On one hand, some businesses just throw money at the clients in an attempt to impress them with their largesse. On the other hand, some businesses simply cut such spending to the bone, not bothering to spend more than the minimum spare penny on their guests.
I've found that in my current life, neither one really works. You can often really wow business clients without spending an arm and a leg if you just take a few minutes to do your homework up front.
First of all, get to know your client a little more. Find out what their interests are. What do they enjoy doing with their spare time? What types of foods do they enjoy? Don't hesitate to directly ask them these types of questions in advance.
Second, research the client. Befriend them on Facebook. Google them. Find out what you can about them with just a few minutes' worth of legwork.
The goal of this research is to create something of a list of things you can learn about your client. What do their Facebook status updates show that they value and deeply enjoy? What groups are they a member of? What about their Twitter feed?
Don't worry if you don't share the same interests as your client. We are all different and have different interests. What truly matters is that you respect the client's interests and seek out something engaging, worthwhile, and memorable for the client during their time with you.
Once you have some information about the client, plan something. Research opportunities to engage their interests in your local area. What does your area have to offer that matches their interests? Are there any bargains you can hunt up? Having some advance time for this before the client meeting can make an enormous difference.
What really matters here is finding things that really match the interest of your client. For example, if you discover that your client is a wine connoisseur, taking them to a wine tasting at a local vineyard or presenting them with a bottle from a local vineyard is a way to really make a statement at an inexpensive price.
If you find something that matches your client's interest, you rarely have to break the bank on it. Make sure to touch on an interest or two of your client, but act frugally in other areas. If your client values good food, take the client to a nice restaurant, but be conservative on other costs of the visit. If your client has other major interests, look for a good "bang for the buck" place to dine instead - or perhaps serve the client in your own home.
It's no different than one of the basic rules of personal finance: spend in the areas that truly matter, and save in the other areas. If you spend the time to find out more about your client and show that you truly care about them, your small spending in the area that really matters to them will make the entire visit into a home run.
Image courtesy of Flickr, Foreign and Commonwealth Office