10 WAYS TO BUILD LOYALTY FOR YOUR EVENTS
EARLIER THIS WEEK IN OUR EVENT TRENDS FOR 2017 POST, WE PROMISED A DEEP DIVE ON SOME OF THE TOPICS WE COVERED. WE WILL WORK ON THAT THROUGHOUT THIS UPCOMING YEAR. BUT ONE TOPIC SEEMED LIKE IT NEEDED ATTENTION BEFORE THE NEW YEAR. IT'S THE THING MOST BRANDS ARE STRIVING FOR: LOYALTY. WE'VE HEARD PEOPLE ARGUE THAT BRAND LOYALTY IS A THING OF THE PAST, OR THAT IT'S AN IRRELEVANT GOAL, BUT WE DISAGREE.
REPEAT BUSINESS IS ONE THING IN THE MARKETPLACE, BUT TRUE BELIEF AND REAL ALLEGIANCE IS ANOTHER. TRUE LOYALTY IS ORGANIC, BORN OF A DEEP CONNECTION BETWEEN THE COMPANY AND THE CONSUMER. SO, HOW TO APPLY THIS TO YOUR EVENTS? IF YOU PLAN TO CREATE AN ANNUAL EVENT, THIS IS ESPECIALLY IMPORTANT IN ORDER TO HAVE BOTH CONSISTENT ATTENDANCE, AS WELL AS INCREASES IN ENGAGEMENT. EVEN IF YOU DON'T HAVE AN ANNUAL EVENT IN MIND, APPLYING SOME OF THESE PRINCIPLES TO YOUR COMPANY, YOUR BRAND, OR YOUR EMPLOYEE RETENTION, CAN CREATE THE KIND OF DEVOTION ANY COMPANY WOULD BE GRATEFUL TO HAVE.
#1 GIVE PALPABLE VALUE
Since tickets to most events are usually at a premium, make sure that attendees feel that their ticket cost is worth the expense. Make sure that they come away with a strong sense that their investment has been money well spent with quality foods, top shelf entertainment, and a smooth user experience. Even more importantly, any kind of special moment that leaves a lasting impression, a real experience for attendees, is what leaves people wanting more. They will be more likely to sign up for next year as soon as you offer tickets.
#2 CREATE REASONS FOR ATTENDEES TO RETURN
Building on the above, attendees will be more inclined to ante up again if you have given them a great experience the year prior. Keep the hook in by teasing aspects of upcoming events that you know will appeal to your core customers, to build on the loyalty you've already created. Creating repeat and new business can come in the form of discounts, bonuses for bringing new, like-minded attendees to future events, affiliate programs or other incentives.
#3 FIND WAYS TO CREATE UNEXPECTED EXPERIENCES FOR YOUR BEST CLIENTS
Everyone loves two things from brands they love: the things they depend on from that brand to keep things consistent, and the things they don't expect to keep them interested. Using the brainpower of your experienced team, find ways to keep the repeat clients fascinated. Build on the things they already care about and count on from you--great quality and service, for example--but surprise them with things they haven't imagined, like a special VIP pass, gift or exclusive perk.
#4 VALUE QUALITY OVER QUANTITY
Several clients who give repeat business are more valuable to your brand than a handful (or more) of one-time customers. A lot of brands make the mistake of trying to score loads of new customers by luring them in with big discounts or wild promotions. However, sometimes these types of things can even alienate core customers who suddenly feel forgotten or cast aside when when before they felt catered to. Especially where events are concerned, make sure you are handling with kid gloves the group of people who paved the path of your success and listen to what they want on an ongoing basis so you keep them interested for a long time.
#5 HAVE SUPERIOR CUSTOMER CARE
With events, this translates to great service--attendees feeling special from the moment they sign up to the moment they pick up their jacket at the coat check. For many successful brands, great service is THE hallmark of their work. I'm sure we could all rattle off brands that have given us amazing service like Zappos, L.L. Bean, or Nordstrom (three industry stand-outs for customer care). As far as events go, these same principles apply: give amazing value and show the attendee you care about their experience from soup to nuts. Their happiness is your #1 priority. Almost nothing builds more loyalty than this.
#6 BE AWARE OF TRENDS BUT STAY TRUE TO YOUR BRAND VISION
Knowing who you are and what you are offering--be it the best documentary film festival ever or a Southwestern US regional local foods conference or a school fundraiser--is the clearest path to success. Know what you do well and stay true to it. But don't get stymied by what you do best, either. Make sure you stay abreast of trends (we have some great posts on this, FYI) but be judicious about the ones you choose so that they fit well with who you are and your event purpose. Don't be trendy for the sake of being trendy--that will feel hollow. If your core is bohemian at heart, for example, be sure that if you embrace a bunch of new technologies, that your event doesn't lose the organic, authentic feel that your attendees have come to love about it.
#7 ENGAGEMENT IS KEY
When you listen to your core audience, you'll keep them engaged and when you keep them engaged, you'll keep them coming back. When attendees feel included, when they participate in the event, it creates a feeling that they have contributed to something, added meaning, value and importance to the event, rather than just merely attended it. If all people feel is that they have slapped on some fancy shoes, eaten a decent meal and listened to music or a speaker or two, they may not feel like this is worth their while again. After all, it takes a lot for people to schlepp to events: leaving home, schedules, travel, etc. and it's key to make them feel like their presence is not only valued but seen, noticed, and felt.
#8 FOCUS ON AND CATER TO YOUR CORE CUSTOMER
The mistake many brands make is trying to appeal to too wide an audience and this is especially true of events. Of course you want your attendance to make the expense of the event worth it. Your ROI is your bottom line here. You have to pay venue fees, speakers, insurance, your event planners and producers (ahem, Blackstone Productions), service people, etc., etc. so you darn well better have rear ends in all those empty seats! However, if your event is going to be a true success, a value for you and for the guests, they need to be the right rear ends. You want people who are going to leave that venue and spread your gospel for you--to friends, to family, on social media. So be sure that you are crystal clear on who you are trying to get and make sure that every aspect of your event is aimed at their unique desires.
#9 BE TRUE TO YOUR PROMISES
We all know how critical it is to have follow-through. The above is based on one of the Four Agreements (amazing book if you've not read it, by the way). Author Don Miguel Ruiz phrases it a little differently: "Be impeccable with your word" but you get it. The idea here is not to make grand guarantees and then flake on them. Not cool, man, not cool. And your people will see right through you and they will not come back. Especially if you are throwing grand-scale, annual events and you want this to be the annual trip they cannot miss, you MUST adhere to this tenet. So, what to do? We think of it like the way we talk to our kids: don't promise specific things you might not be able to deliver. Suggest that exciting new things are coming--enough to pique interest and get them curious but not enough that you are bound to any one outcome.
#10 LISTEN TO FEEDBACK
In order for any of us to do our best work and do it repeatedly, we must be open to constructive criticism. Yes, it's hard. Listening is hard, taking feedback is challenging. It's tempting to get defensive, to tell people your intentions were good. Of course they were good--and most people who were a part of your event know that your intentions were pure. But things can, and will, go wrong. So, the best thing you can do is hush your mouth and listen with both ears wide open to anyone who can help make your next event even better: service workers, planners, attendees, staff--you name it. The car company Subaru does this so, so well and they have a constant open forum for feedback from all employees from the janitors to the president. Because you never know where the best ideas will come from. And the ones that change your events for the better? Reward them. Say thank you. Always find a way to say thank you. Appreciation always goes further than you might imagine.
SO, GET ON OUT THERE AND MAKE SOME GREAT EVENTS. WE CAN HELP YOU ANY STEP OF THE WAY. OR JUST GET SOME MORE OF OUR THOUGHTS HERE ON OUR BLOG, LEAVE US COMMENTS, CHECK US OUT ON TWITTER. WE'RE HERE FOR YOU!
COMING UP: OUR FIRST Q&A COLUMN! WE ARE TAKING YOUR FAQs (SEE, WE ARE LISTENING) AND ANSWERING THEM AS COMPREHENSIVELY AS WE CAN. NEXT WEEK WE TACKLE EVENT MICROSITES AND WHY YOU NEED THEM.