Five Tips to Help You Shape and Market Your Print Buyer Events
In my last column, I wrote about an incredibly successful workshop I’d attended, given by my email management company. One of the many follow-up emails I received after that piece was published had to do with the distance I traveled and other logistical details.
The printer who sent this email was obviously thinking of how to get his customers to an event. So for this column, let’s get down to the brass tacks of attracting print customers to your events. It’s something I know a little about, having produced buyer conferences, boot camps and dinner programs for a decade.
Was it easy to get print buyers to travel to a buyer event? Not always. It took an incredible amount of work and a broad reach. With every new event under my belt, I learned more about what and what not to do.
Before I share five tips about how to shape and market your print buyer events, here’s why I think you should host them: done correctly, they’re mutually beneficial. They can be as valuable to a printing company as they are to attendees…if not more. You’ll have a captive audience of customers and prospects in your facility (or in another meeting space), with no competition.
You have a chance to impress them, engage with them and learn more about what products and services they want from you. You’ll give them a rare opportunity to socialize with their peers. You’ll be differentiating yourself from your competition. Getting clients out of their offices and into a business/social event where they can learn something they value and meet other print customers is a winning combination.
Follow my five tips for marketing your own print buyer event:
1. Ask your print customers what kind of event they’d attend. In an earlier PI column, I wrote about the value of customer surveys. Whether you poll your customers about the type(s) of events they’d respond to as part of a broader customer survey, or you send a short survey to them about potential events, it’s where you should start.
Indicate on this survey the types of events you’re considering (all-day conference, half-day educational session, lunch-and-learn, dinner event, single-topic workshop) and have customers vote. Your buyer event must be educational as well as social. Make this clear when polling customers. If you’re not certain which topics would draw the best crowd, poll them on this as well. It’s effective and easy.
This one step will narrow down the right type of event and the potential topics you should cover during your event.
2. Plan your buyer event far enough in advance. Events are more work than you think. Naturally, a breakfast or lunch session is quicker to pull together than longer events, which take months. An annual, daylong event—with multiple presenters—can take a year to plan and attract enough customers. It’s a lot like a wedding.
Picking the right date is important for the obvious reasons. You need to avoid holidays and school vacation weeks. Steer clear of potential conflicts with other events. If you serve certain vertical markets that have busy seasons, avoid these as well.
By planning in advance, you have enough time to build the program, promote it and attract the optimum number of guests. Buyers need approval to attend a professional meeting, especially if it’s not local. You never want to “spring an event” on your customers. I’ve found that even four weeks out is not enough lead-time.
3. Go heavy on the social as well as educational aspects. Lighten up on the promotional. Print customers respond best to an event that’s educational or informational. That’s why surveying them first, to identify topics they want to learn about, is important. What will they carve out time for? What will customers travel for?
Ideally, you know the level of print sophistication of your guest list. This will shape your content. Real pros at print buying will require a very high level of subject matter expertise. (If you lack the in-house talent to deliver such content, find an industry expert.)
It’s important to build in sufficient time for guests to socialize, even if you’re hosting an event around a meal. Give them time to just relax and get to know one another. Have guests wear nametags. They’ll remember the people they met at your event. This is a major benefit.
4. Build your guest list carefully. Customers will be invited, but it’s as important (some would say more important) to attract prospects to your event. But how do you go about it?
Involve all of your sales reps when building your guest list. Add all warm prospects. I’d tag the guest file accordingly (customers versus everyone else), so that your promotional content can be tailored too.
Why not let your customers bring a friend? If service providers aren’t eligible, make that clear when you invite customers to bring a “+ 1.” Make sure you have a mechanism whereby you can collect the contact information of everyone who’s coming, so that you can communicate with them going forward.
You can also invite people through your social channels. Spell out who’s eligible to attend (and not), and promote your event multiple times in every channel where you’re active and where print buyers might see it. Link these online promos to a guest list sign-up form, allowing you to vet all would-be attendees.
5. Follow-through for any print buyer event is imperative. These events should have long tails. You want attendees to keep up the positive chatter after they return home to their offices. Think of how you might accomplish this.
First of all, have a thank-you email, complete with a feedback survey, all set to go before your event ever starts. Send this out only to those who did indeed attend (the no-shows get a different email). Solicit honest comments and collect (fingers crossed) kudos that you can use in a post-event PR campaign as well as to build interest in your next event.
Ask how you might improve this event and what topics would attract customers in the future.
Create a multi-pronged, follow-up campaign over the next few months that will engage attendees and deliver more information that relates to what they learned at your event.
Private print buyer events help strengthen your relationship with your customers and can attract new ones. They’ll set you apart from other printers. You’ll learn things about print buyers in general that you can’t learn anywhere else. Since you’re the only print provider present at your own events, how valuable an opportunity is this? PI
About the Author
Long regarded as a print buyer expert and trade writer, Margie Dana launched a new business as a marketing communications strategist with a specialty in printing and print buying. She’s as comfortable working in social media as she is in traditional media, and now she’s on a mission to help clients build customer communities through carefully crafted content. Dana was the producer of the annual Print & Media Conference. Although she’s exited the event business, she is still publishing her Print Tips newsletter each week. For more details and to sign up for her newsletter and marketing blog, visit www.margiedana.com
Long regarded as a print buyer expert and trade writer, Margie Dana launched a new business as a marketing communications strategist with a specialty in printing and print buying. She is as comfortable working in social media as she is in traditional media, and now she’s on a mission to help clients build customer communities through carefully crafted content. Dana was the producer of the annual Print & Media Conference.
Although she has exited the event business, Dana is still publishing her Print Tips newsletter each week. For more details and to sign up for her newsletter and marketing blog, visit www.margiedana.com