Crown's Director of Live, Simon Hambley, gives his advice on a simple strategy for creating customer events.

Having worked with hundreds of brands over the past 20 years I've seen the good, the bad and the very ugly.

Face to face engagement is the most powerful way to build relationships but its also the most expensive. So if you are going to do it, do it right and reap the rewards.

As with all things in life common themes develop and in this simple presentation I've tried to summarise the common themes that define really great customer events. Follow these simple strategies and you will create lasting relationships that grow and ultimately payback the investment many times over.

1. Why go to all the trouble?

There is a simple reason why successful brand invest in face to face events
Bringing your hi-value customers and prospects together is a sure fire way to build loyalty, advocacy and trust in your customers and discover and stimulate new revenue opportunities.

2. How do I get people to come?

Firstly its a product like any other. Sell the customer the benefits and develop a USP:

  • Be first to hear future strategies and technologies
  • Get one to one time with senior leaders and experts
  • Thought leadership – they hear from independent and company thought leaders in the industry
  • Networking – a vital opportunity to share their experiences with their peers. Something that will be immeasurably valuable to them and you are the catalyst of

3. What's in it for you?

  • Quality time with your top customers and prospects
  • Gathering insights that will help you develop future strategies
  • Fast track the sales funnel
  • Build lasting customer relationships

4.Think carefully on timing?

Think about when you would hold the event:

  • Do you want to kick start the year or focus people for the final push?
  • How long should the event be? To get the most from it and with people travelling long distances 2 nights / 2 days would be a good starting point
  • Check it doesn’t clash with any other big industry events or school holidays

5. Style and tone

  • Decide what your ‘style’ and ‘tone’ are – you probably have brand guidelines, what about your brand tone of voice?
  • Where the event is held and the way its run, even down to the dress code, invitation and event look and feel should be in line with your brand values
  • Make sure your event ‘lives the brand’

6. Consider your commercial proposition

  • Some companies make their customer events about recognition and relationship-building. An event that’s as much about a ‘thank you’ as it is about the business. In this instance you need to fully fund the event AND do it somewhere that lives up to the billing
  • Some companies make their customer events about adding value. They ensure that its as valuable for the customers as it is for the host. Taking this approach they can charge people to attend, attract sponsors and charge for exhibitors. In this instance it can be a more business like environment. They can make their events cost neutral

7. Involve third parties to add value

  • Involving relevant third parties can add value to the event both in terms of content and financial benefits
  • If you have key supply chain partners who will benefit ask for contribution through sponsorship support, which can be tiered
  • If you pass through business to benefit third parties such as a distributor channel, hardware or software manufacturers then sell them space in an event exhibition to increase revenue and offset your costs

8. DON'T try to do too much in year one

  • Start small and expect to have to fund the majority of the first years event
  • Focus on quality not quantity – think long term
    Be realistic about costs
  • Measure the outputs and refine for the years ahead

9. Finally - Be creative, make it fun and engaging

  • DON’T just hold presentation after presentation
  • Look to create an agenda that mixes up information delivery and involvement
  • Be creative – hold some brainstorming sessions with customers to involve them in the business planning process
  • 2 way is the way!

This article was originally published on LinkedIn.