Corporate hospitality has become an integral part of businesses’ growth and development strategies. Over the past few years the popularity of corporate hospitality has risen, with its now valued at an estimated £1.2bn.

When executed well, corporate hospitality in 2016 will go a long way to improving and forging client relationships, generating brand awareness, increasing brand value, as well as delivering significant return on investment (ROI).

Corporate Hospitality is most commonly used to improve existing client relationships and build new ones. Although it is always a good idea to get to know your clients better on a personal level, corporate hospitality, can be an important strategic tool.

Hosting a high impact event can place your business in the consciousness of a range of clients in a manner which might otherwise take many months, multiple initiatives and a considerable marketing spend to achieve. Research has shown that corporate hospitality is outstripping telephone calls, advertising, online and print as a popular means of improving business relations and driving brand metrics.

Treating your existing clients with events and experiences will help to strengthen brand loyalty, as hospitality is a physical expression of how much you value that relationship.

If your main objective is to win new clients, it’s crucial to think outside the box. A business of any size has to consider utilising the power of corporate hospitality, not least because they can be certain that their competitors are busy doing so.

Whether an overseas trip or a once-in-a-lifetime chance to rub shoulders with a celebrity, make your event unforgettable so it stands out in prospective clients’ minds for the rest of the year. This will in turn keep your business at the front of their mind and increasing the number of new client leads.

Corporate hospitality can be a significant cost for businesses, and determining how much to spend on events and experiences this year is often a challenging process. Your corporate hospitality budget should be shaped largely by the relative value of certain clients to your business, your business aims and the suitability of particular types of event.

Businesses must avoid blurring the line between acceptable corporate hospitality and bribery when treating clients. Before the Bribery Act 2010, speculation surrounded whether taking clients to sporting or other events, like the Six Nations or Cheltenham, might be considered bribery. Guidance from the Ministry of Justice acknowledges that gifts and hospitality, that better presents products or services, promotes the image of a company and positive relations between organisations is an important part of doing business and are permitted.

Large businesses may find that spending large amounts of money on corporate hospitality will not drastically improve the value of their brand, particularly if their brand is already very strong. Smaller businesses, on the other hand, may find that spending on cost-effective corporate hospitality events, such as dinners and parties, can massively boost brand awareness, and help them get noticed by potential clients and stakeholders. These stakeholders may be the key to the development of your business as a major player in your market.

Hospitality experts can help to really get the most from your budget when planning events as it can be easy to use up the funds without securing decent leads for the year. So it is worth taking the time to plan and structure your corporate hospitality throughout 2016.

By Megan Collins, Head of Marketing at Paragon