Want to Really Engage Your Customers? Host an Event!
Customer events and open houses are fantastic opportunities for print service providers to demonstrate new capabilities and engage customers. No other promotional or marketing effort can match the impact of interacting with customers in-person at your facility. You’ll have the full attention of attendees and ample opportunities to show them the benefits of working with your firm.
These carefully planned events also allow you to change notions people have about your company and give you a chance to show off the investments you’ve made to handle your customers print and digital communication demands. If changing customer relationships is part of your business plan, an open house or similar affair is an ideal way to launch the effort.
Done right, customer events yield new opportunities. But this doesn’t happen by chance. It takes work to pull it off and produce results. Shortcuts don’t exist. As you speak with customers while showing them around your operation you and your staff can demonstrate new ideas and applications. You can share success stories and highlight the talent on your team. This is a chance to re-frame your company as a solutions provider and enabler of business goals, not just a vendor for printing, mailing and fixing files.
Small Thinking Yields Disappointing Results
We have worked with many clients to help them plan and execute events and open houses. At some point, someone usually says “Can’t we just keep it simple?” They want to limit their preparation to buying some food, planning a presentation, and setting up a tour.
Simply getting a few people in the building should not be the object of your efforts. How does that help your company?
This is a chance to encourage customers and prospects to see your firm in a new light; to facilitate networking and enable your sales and client services teams to elevate customer conversations. You must craft an experience that promotes idea sharing and generates interest in new programs and services. You’ll want to attract the decision makers that occupy your customer’s executive offices, not just the print buyers. There is no simple event plan that will create those results. A minimal effort is a sure path to disappointment and frustration.
Position Your Firm as a Solutions Provider
Place customers in an environment where they can network with colleagues. Arrange for them to spend time with staff they don't normally see. Customers are typically willing to share their larger goals and objectives when immersed in a relaxed and non-threatening setting. Creating a comfortable social and educational environment is what a customer event, open house or facility showcase is all about.
Well-managed customer events lead to conversations with decision makers who recognize your firm can offer them much more than quoted print jobs. An environment where customers can engage with your departmental managers and network with others will often change perceptions about the benefit of working with your firm. Your sales team can engage at higher levels and demonstrate value by sharing success stories and business results your firm has delivered for other clients.
Client service and account managers usually connect with customers by phone and email. In-person events give these key staff members the opportunity to bond with clients in person and deepen their relationships in a way that raises their credibility in future interactions. Many sales teams get referrals to higher level decision makers for program-based work as a result of conversations at customer events. These referrals are priceless revenue growth opportunities. Many of our clients credit their customer events for new sales, new applications, deeper client relationships and engagement with higher level decision makers.
Take Pictures and Video!
Another benefit of running a great event is content creation. During the event, you will be able to capture content in the form of video, pictures, and testimonials. Several of our clients have furthered their marketing efforts with this new fresh content. Event-generated content supports sales follow-up and provides new website content for many of our clients.
Run your event as if you were shepherding an important customer project going through your shop. Embrace this approach and you will experience the same benefits we’ve observed in the companies of many Gimbel & Associates clients.
How to Run a Successful Customer Event
What are the keys to planning and executing successful customer events? Watch for my next post where I’ll be sharing 12 specific steps you can take to ensure your next event generates highly-desirable outcomes.
Lois Ritarossi, CMC®, is the President of High Rock Strategies, a consulting firm focused on sales and marketing strategies, and business growth for firms in the print, mail and communication sectors. Lois brings her clients a cross functional skill set and strategic thinking with disciplines in business strategy, sales process, sales training, marketing, software implementation, inkjet transformation and workflow optimization. Lois has enabled clients to successfully launch new products and services with integrated sales and marketing strategies, and enabled sales teams to effectively win new business. You can reach Lois at highrockstrategies.com.