User conferences. What a beautiful way to engage your customers, show them how to use your products in new and exciting ways, and (hopefully) convince them that your solution is the cat’s meow. In fact, if you’re not positioning your user conference as an advocacy channel, you’re missing out on a great opportunity to market your product to new and similarly aligned customers. Here are some suggestions on how to create true customer advocates from your attendee base.
Taking specific measures to address your customers as individuals will help you create a lasting impression on them. For example:
- Use your data, customer histories, and the relationships between your sales representatives and customers to personalize your interactions with attendees.
- Pre-populate the registration form to save your customers’ time.
- Ask your sales staff to personally (telephone calls when possible) invite customers to the conference.
- Develop suggested conference agendas based on customers’ engagement and purchasing histories.
Sourcing conference content from your attendees builds the relationship by providing them with a seat at the table. Here are some crowdsourcing techniques:
- Ask them for input on the hot topics, pain points, and desired education that should be addressed during the conference.
- Create a customer advisory board to weigh in on programming, content, and special events.
- Solicit input on everything from what to call the user relaxation area to the name of the official cocktail.
Giving your customers channels on which to evangelize your products makes it easier for them to spread the word. For instance:
- Create and publicize a Twitter hashtag for the conference.
- Set up a Facebook, LinkedIn, or other online group specifically for the user conference.
- Install digital signage at the conference that shows other attendees the live feed from social channels and encourages them to comment.
- Create games with embedded educational content (here are some ideas) to reinforce product features and benefits that can be passed along to others after the conference.
Allowing your customer to deliver the education, especially if one or more of them are high-visibility or influential brands, can add credibility to your brand. You can:
- Send out a call for proposals to your user group.
- Involve customers in a variety of educational activities, including workshops, birds-of-a-feather round tables, fireside chats, meetups, tweetups, or lunch-and-learn sessions.
- Work with your customers to refine their content and ensure that they are accurate.
Nothing says, “we don’t value you” like a horrible experience navigating the destination. Paying attention to these details can go a long way:
- Pay or provide instructions for your attendees’ transportation from the airport to the hotel.
- Provide your guests with in-airport and/or in-hotel remote event check-in.
- Simplify navigation by delivering information in an easy-to-use conference mobile app with maps, agenda, alerts, and networking capabilities.
Train a hand-selected group of customers to be evangelists during the conference. Include these elements:
- Assemble a team of customer advocates whose sole purpose at the user conference is to answer questions about the product. Call it a genius bar, help center, explanation station, or whatever suits your user base, but encourage your advocates to be honest and authentic in sharing their experiences.
- Consider giving your ambassadors uniforms, ribbons, or pins to draw attention to their expertise.
- Reward your ambassadors with specialized training, early access to new products, or free admission to the conference.
Bringing users face to face with your employees—engineers, product developers, trainers, technical support staff—and other users is a unique experience in the lives of customers and the company. With the appropriate strategy around serving, involving, engaging, and educating your user conference attendees, you can convert a group with few things in common besides the use of your product into enthusiastic brand advocates.