Customer events are great opportunities for companies to foster deeper, more strategic relationships with their customers. Research shows that customers who attend events have fewer support issues, are more loyal, and enlarge their spend.
The benefits are a two-way street. Users yearn for the chance to interact directly with their vendors and with each other. Because of the information they obtain from these interactions, they leave more knowledgeable and better equipped as an end user.
Business Value of Local Events
While some companies can afford to manage annual end-user conferences, many cannot do so—and this is particularly true for most small businesses. Large events require substantial logistics, resources, time, and cost. On the flip side, local customer events are much easier to orchestrate for small businesses. Many customers also prefer intimate events where they can have more substantive conversations with other local users.
Even for companies that host annual end-user conferences, reoccurring local user groups provide considerable value, as not all customers can attend an annual conference due to travel and budget. But they can attend a two- to three-hour event hosted locally.
Despite being easier to plan and execute than an annual customer conference, a locally hosted event still requires significant logistics. Its overall effectiveness is contingent on the time and planning behind it.
12 Recommendations for Planning a Local Meeting
Davinci has hosted thousands of customer meetings for our customers over the past decade through Davinci Meeting Rooms. As a result, we have extensive experience into what works well and what does not. The following is a checklist of some of the most prominent issues companies need to consider when hosting a local customer event.
- Determine the best day and time. The best day and time is determined by several different factors. For example, if you are hosting a user group and the users are individual contributors who need to be onsite during business hours, a time in the middle of the day would be undesired. Rather, a time near the close of the business day would accommodate their schedules much better. Likewise, a Friday meeting date for this same user group meeting—with detailed and perhaps technical presentations and discussion—would conflict with personal schedules and early weekend activities.
- Partner with other businesses. The chance to partner with another local company in hosting the customer event may deliver a lot more value than reduced costs. Specifically, including businesses with complimentary solutions (that might even be official partners) provides customers with a chance to understand the integration points of a combined solution and how these may amplify business outcomes. Further, if the other company also invites their customers to the event, you may suddenly have cross-sell opportunities and new sales leads.
- Logistics of location and facility. Finding the right location for the event is critical. One venue companies often consider are restaurants—and they may be a good choice in some cases. However, they are often crowded and loud (not to mention expensive). Rather, a more formal meeting room setting may serve the purpose of the event much better. Even then, you need to select the meeting room carefully, factoring into consideration issues such as location, ease of parking, room size and configuration, availability of a greeter, presentation tools and equipment, and much more. With Davinci Meeting Rooms, we offer full service meeting spaces that include everything from wireless Internet access, to a lobby greeter, to food and beverage catering, to LCD screens and projectors, to full business services.
Hotel conference rooms are another option companies often consider when arranging customer meetings. These lack various amenities (or they must be purchased for an extra charge) and the environments can also be disruptive. Further, most hotel conference rooms are nearly twice as expensive as a comparable space with Davinci Meeting Rooms.
- Registration and check-in. Often overlooked by companies planning customer events, the experience customers have when they arrive and check-in for the event is important. They need to find parking easily and have clear directions on how to find the meeting room. With Davinci Meeting Rooms, our facilities are clearly marked and a lobby greeter comes with each location. Customers are greeted upon entering the meeting location. For check-in, you may want to consider a cloud-based event management tool (which can also be used for registration). If possible, you will want a solution that integrates with your sales automation system (e.g., there are AppExchange event management tools that bolt onto Salesforce.com).
- Integrate into your customer community platform. An aspect of digital marketing and engagement that is often neglected, a customer community platform can create better engagement. Specifically, with an online community, customers have an opportunity to find answers to their questions, engage with each other and with members of your marketing, sales, product, and customer service teams, and demonstrate their expertise by posting blogs and/or answering questions posed by other customers.
Also consider creating individual groups on your community for each customer meeting or local user group. This gated approach enables you to target communications for each customer meeting and provides the group with the opportunity to have meaningful exchanges in an environment where they know who will be reading and responding to their comments and questions.
- Communications. The successful buildup to the event requires the right type and volume of communications. Invitations to the event can be sent via email (preferably through your marketing automation system). These need to represent your brand and concisely convey the value proposition of the event. Then, leading up to the event, companies need to send one to two reminders to those customers who have registered. As part of this process, it might be worthwhile to sate their appetite by disclosing some of the content details or even asking for their input on the agenda.
- Empowering customers for engagement. Customers will become more engaged in the event the more they are engaged. User groups are a perfect example; customers typically enjoy the opportunity to host an event and even serve on user group boards.
- Food and beverages. Most customer events require some form of food and beverage. This needs to be planned beforehand. If you are planning to serve alcohol, you need to have safeguards in place to ensure no one over imbibes. Davinci Meeting Rooms include the option for catering food and drinks. As such, our team can assume ownership for ordering and managing food and drinks so that you can focus on the customers.
- Content. While customers will attend events for an opportunity to network with each other and meet with subject-matter experts, they primarily opt to attend customer events because of the content. Companies need to understand the critical pain points of their customers and what content they will find most helpful. For example, in the case of a technology company that recently released a new product, customers likely want a deep dive on the release’s key features. Companies may even want to think about allowing customers to help determine the content for a meeting, something that is particularly effective when it comes to managing user groups.
- Speaker(s) and presentation format. Not everyone is a good presenter. It thus is important for companies to mentor and grow their list of “certified” presenters. A poor presenter—even if the content is of great interest—is about the worst recipe for a customer meeting; customers will disengage and question why they took valuable time from the office to attend. Further, getting them to reengage and attend future events becomes virtually impossible.
For user groups, customers often want to hear from other customers, and thus including a customer presentation alongside a presentation from the company is often well-advised. Companies also need to heed presentation formats; a stand-up, formal presentation is not always the best approach. Depending on the topic and the backgrounds of the customers attending the meeting, a roundtable discussion or another more interactive format might be more effective.
- Follow up. Prompt and relevant communications are required following a customer meeting. A feedback survey asking attendees to provide input on the meeting is something that is warranted in most scenarios. All of the action items that were logged during the meeting also need to be reviewed in the email and next steps listed. In some instances, phone calls or even subsequent one-off meetings are needed. Indeed, opportunities to grow revenue with existing accounts often hinge on how well a company does in its follow up.
- Measure the business impact. Companies need to measure the results of customer meetings. Key measurements must be determined beforehand, and the right processes and tools need to be in place to capture the requisite data and then measure the results. This cannot be done after the event; it is too late. The business outcomes will vary from one company to the next and from one meeting to the next. Measurements could touch on any number of different activities such as customer loyalty, customer advocacy, account growth and penetration, improvement in product engagement, reduction in customer service issues, and more.
More on Davinci Meeting Rooms
Customer meetings can be a great tool to engage with customers. If you are looking to host a customer meeting and need help, send us a message, call us at 1.888.863.3423, or chat with us. You can also visit www.davincimeetingrooms.com for more details on Davinci Meeting Rooms.