There is no better way to increase prospect levels then hosting a great customer event. Given the proliferation of customer marketing messages found online, in email and through social media, having a customer event is an excellent way to drown out the noise and gain quality time with prospects.
For some, the idea of an open house or customer event is greeted with little enthusiasm. It requires a lot of hard work and can be very embarrassing if only a few or the wrong kinds of prospects attend. We have seen print providers spend large sums of money to promote a customer event only to see it result in an expensive party attended mostly by company employees.
There is no shortage of creative ideas for events. A key question is, “Why hold an event in the first place?”
An obvious reason would be to generate qualified leads and prospects for your products and services. Other reasons include launching new products to existing customers, educating customers on personalization, web to print, or digital packaging ideas or simply to make existing customers aware of new capabilities.
Here are some steps that we have found to be essential in executing outstanding return on investments and time for customer events:
Set an Objective
The first step in any marketing initiative is to establish an objective. The objective will determine how much cost and effort an organization will be willing to exert. Many organizations set a revenue target based on the amount of sales generated by the event.
A more reasonable approach would be to set objectives based on the number and quality of the attendees. Then later on, there can be a calculation on how much incremental business was generated over a longer time period.
Do the Research and Planning
Great customer events are built on good planning. That means determining who you will target, what is the budget, what is the purpose and what must be done to make the event a success. Event types can range from a webinar, trade show, or off-site customer recognition event, to an onsite training extravaganza.
Successful event planners are great at creating “to do” lists. The list becomes part of a project plan based on what needs to get done, deadline dates and who is responsible. For most print providers, every person in the organization should be involved in some way and committed to its success.
Build an Event that Will Drive Interest and Excitement
Based on our experience working with many print providers, showing print products alone will not be enough to gain attendance. To get customers to come out of their office, there must be something in it for them.
Having a fancy theme and providing free gifts or food is not good enough anymore. Look at the customer’s perspective. Give them a reason to go. Most of all, buyers are looking for value for their time. New ideas to make customers successful will attract even the busiest buyers. Creativity and excitement will not hurt attendance either.
Get the Word Out
Using a cross media approach makes a great deal of sense for print providers. Not only does cross media generate better results, but it is a great way to show off your capabilities.
Building an online registration site will help reinforce what the event is all about and allow for tracking of attendance. This combined with email blasts, video and direct mail, will provide multiple touch points.
For most small and medium size print providers, customers will not respond just to email and direct mail pieces. Salespeople and CSRs must personally follow up on invitations and reinforce the value of the event.
Also, it often happens that customers will sign up to attend and then forget to come. Reminding each customer just prior to the date will increase the likelihood of attendance. In addition, online registration sites can send automatic reminder emails to guests.
Make the Day Memorable
This should be a day that each attendee will remember and be inspired to take some new action. Ensuring that each guest is greeted by name and thanked for attending is a must. A common mistake is not having enough staff at the event to ensure that all customers are personally addressed.
Shortly after the event, quickly following up with customers is where business results are generated. Here is where assigned sales and marketing personnel can qualify each attendee and ensure the appropriate next steps are taken.
Whether or not to hold a customer event is an important marketing decision. The question is can we attract customers, build loyalty and penetrate accounts as effectively using other marketing methods? Most successful print providers have at least one event per year. Given all the choices, a customer event is a perfect place to differentiate and build a deep relationship with both new and existing customers.
Joe Rickard is the founder of Intellective Solutions. Intellective Solutions (www.intellectives.com) works with printing and technology organizations to improve their sales, marketing and operational effectiveness. The Intellective team enjoys providing Customer Event marketing services. He can be reached at 845 753 6156. Follow him on Twitter @joerickardIS. This article was published in Quick Printing Magazine and MyPrintResource.com