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6 reasons why user conferences need to be part of your marketing strategy

01 Jul 19

Customer events are powerful tools for organisations, regardless of size. In 2018, Salesforce’s Dreamforce drew in 170,000 registered attendees and 400 partner companies. Whilst you might not draw these crowds for the first few years, remember the old saying that the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step!

Regardless of the popularity of Salesforce and the sheer size and scale of their global presence, other companies are also successful in bringing together vast numbers of people, predominantly in mid-senior positions, who are so eager to learn about new developments and network with other users that they will pay thousands to attend the event.

Events which bring together users are a growing trend – here’s why they might be right for you:

Customer Loyalty

Trust us on this – if you want build a loyal fan base of customers, this is the way to do it.

Customer conferences are unbelievably effective at building customer loyalty, particularly if you manage to achieve a heady mix of education, inspiration, and entertainment! The face-to-face contact between you and your customers in such a positive environment – which has been created by you, for them – is worth a hundred phone calls.

If you want to know what customers will respond to best, check with your Product Managers. They’ll help you tailor programme so it hits the spot with attendees, provides the best use of their time, and helps them justify the expense of attending the conference so they can come back again next year.

For the extra sizzle, use an expert agency to light your stage up – metaphorically as well as literally!

ROI

Let’s face it, you’re under pressure to show why you’re spending your company’s valuable cash, especially if you’re not just creating an ‘ordinary’ conference, but an absolute humdinger of an affair with all the bells and whistles.

The good news is that time spent educating customers on product developments is virtually guaranteed to result in new orders. With the programme designed exactly how you want it, as a mix of keynote, breakout, and interactive sessions, you’re able to show off your products in exactly the way you’d like. You can answer questions from customers, nipping in the bud any niggling concerns, with all other customers present to hear your carefully crafted responses. So, your customers get an improved understanding of current and future products, and there’s a positive impact on sales and renewal rates. Win-win!

It will be no surprise that with so many tech firms congregated in one place, other companies want a piece of the action. By including an Exhibition area, you can charge sponsors handsomely to be present. Make sure your programme allows sponsors to get adequate face-time with attendees – that will keep them writing cheques year after year.

Finally, ticket sales can also deliver a welcome boost to the coffers, although that’s a decision you’ll need to make as part of the planning process, as by doing away with ticket charges, you open up your products to a wider user base.

Product Direction

If you’ve done things right, your most passionate customers will have an unquenchable thirst for knowledge about the future direction of your product. Be sure to indulge them, but don’t be fooled into thinking this should be a one-way process!

With so many knowledgeable customers present, it’s an unmissable opportunity to conduct some market research. Gather key respondents to discuss pertinent issues and encourage audience participation in presentations. They’ll give you invaluable feedback, suggestions, and insight, which will be worth its weight in gold.

So as well as blowing them away with a top notch agenda, full of informative content that engages, excites and empowers, make sure you carve out time to get their input. Focus groups are a headache to organise, not to mention expensive and time-consuming. Consign them to the archives by using your customer conference to the max!

Community

Lots of conferences provide speakers, sponsors and delegates with a quality experience, but not all of them successfully create thriving communities.

So how do you build a community? Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as just gathering a bunch of die-hard customers who know your products like the back of their hand and hitting them up with a few Powerpoint slides.

The truth is…it’s kind of an emotional subject. No seriously…it’s an emotional subject. Because true communities are built when customers feel an emotional connection with your brand. So if you can make them feel valued, acknowledge their needs and opinions, allow them influence, and invoke feelings in them they never knew themselves capable of… you’ve just taken your conference to a whole new level, and your customers are now your strongest advocates.

So ditch the Powerpoint, hire a live event specialist, and get ready to reap the rewards.

Networking

People who attend conferences aren’t just going for some time out of the office and the free vol-au-vents. They want to learn new stuff, meet new people, and have fun while they’re doing it (we’re kidding ourselves if we think they don’t come for the party too)!

But if there were a prize for the most under-rated feature of conferences, the gold award would go to the networking benefit. Because it’s a unique opportunity for fellow professionals to learn not just from you, but from each other - which helps them not only to become better at their job, but also to show added value to their own employer.

After all, who doesn’t like to discuss something they’re passionate about, with people who share their interests? Put that into a conference setting, create some structured and unstructured opportunities for conversation, and before long the atmosphere will be super-charged with attendees swapping information, war stories, and business cards.

And guess what? It’s all down to you. Award yourself some brownie points.

Evolution

Any decision to spend marketing budget isn’t one that should be taken lightly.

But let’s face it - there’s only one way to find out how a user conference is going to deliver for your business, and that’s by holding one. By starting off small and setting some clear objectives, you can quickly get to grips with what works best for you. Pay close attention to customer feedback, and there’s a good chance you’ll develop your client relationships, customer insight, product offering, and market positioning.

You’ll evolve quicker than other businesses, and stay ahead of the competition. In anyone’s book, that’s a worthwhile exercise.

And finally…

Remember, any conference should have a goal and a set of measurable objectives. After the conference is over you must measure the payoff in order to justify the payout. Take into account all aspects – revenue, customer feedback, and the number of people already signing up for next year!

Ollly