Where Do Customers Fit into Your Company’s in-Person Events?

April 17, 2024

There are a few types of in-person events that companies offer. This article focuses on customer user groups. Done well, they are a great way to develop relationships with and between customers and should be at the heart of your customer marketing program.

Event types:

1. Prospect round tables.
These are generally done in multiple cities and are run by field marketing. Often 1-2 customers are invited to act as a reference.

2. Annual conferences.
These are generally done in a few key countries for both customers and prospects. It is a good idea to do a user group the day before or as part of the agenda. If your company does not hold an annual conference, make the case for regional user groups.

3. User groups.
These are the mirror image of prospecting events. They are done in multiple cities and run by customer marketing. Often 1-2 prospects are invited to help move deals along.

Here are examples of in-person events I organized pre-pandemic. London had about 40 attendees and San Francisco had 20.

Where do customers fit into your company’s in-person events?

Customer User Groups, step 1.

If you are new to user groups, one way to dip your toes is to pick a handful of cities where you have the most customers (having accurate customer contact data helps!!). It would be great to have 15-20 customers at the first ones. To test the level of interest, find a centrally located restaurant with a truly private room (not just a curtain) that has a TV monitor (Open Table can filter by private room). Schedule it from 12-2pm and avoid presenting while people are eating. Kick it off by going around the room with the host curating introductions. You will know who the most engaged people are and as a follow-up ask if they are open to hosting at their company which lowers costs, allows for different formats and lowers costs. This is much harder post-pandemic, but worth the ask. Another option for venues is Peerspace, the AirBnB for events space.

Customer User Groups, step 2.

The best months are March-June and September-November, and it is best to start planning up to five months in advance. For those in the USA, when scheduling, watch out for the regional school vacation weeks (spring only) and avoid NYC when the UN General Assembly is in town. Schedule them back-back (e.g. 2 p/week, every other week for two months). This way, you can promote it as a series and catch those people whose location data may not be accurate in your CRM. It’s hard but limit it to 3-4 people from your company (one should be a notetaker, another the host who interacts with the venue and moderates the user group). CSM’s with customers attending are a plus to have at the event. If possible, engage a local employee in each city as it reduces costs. Plus, they can scout locations and help with any snafus. Sales will want to attend, and they need to bring a late-stage prospect as their ticket.

Customer User Groups, step 3.

The agenda is tricky, and the company needs to be clear as to what the goal of the user group is, and does it align with how you are describing it. User groups mean something specific to customers. It is a chance to network and learn from other customers, not get sold to. When setting the agenda, you may want to consider asking customers what topics are most important to cover. It may sound counter-intuitive, but I am generally not a fan of Product Marketing presenting the product road map. It sets the expectation that this will be a give and take and it might be better if somebody else gives the road map highlights. I would suggest kicking off each user group season with a Product Marketing-led customer webinar.

Customer User Groups, step 4.

What happens after the user group can be as important as the event itself. Ask for feedback at the event, don’t wait. Debrief with colleagues who attended, send a read out of the event across the organization, iterate for the next user group, and follow-up immediately with customers who had specific questions.

Also, keep track of product engagement at the account level for the next 90 days, renewals, and upsell revenue by customers who attend. There will be an impact as these are your most engaged customers, and it is important to document the ROI.

There are many other details and considerations.

1- What do you do about large metro areas? For example, in San Francisco do you have the user group downtown, in the valley or both on consecutive days.

2- Consider teaming with field marketing to do a prospect event and a separate user group on the same day or the day after.

3- Name tags, thank you gifts, registration forms, reminders, dietary options.

4- When you hit about 50 people, consider breaking it into newbies vs. more experienced customers at some point during the event.

5- Things that are out of your control which may lower attendance such as a subway shut down, bad traffic, storms…

Twice in this article I mentioned having accurate customer contact location data. This will help with selecting cities and sending invites. Imagine inviting a customer who lives in London and works for a company in Boston to a user group in Boston. Having accurate contact state and country data will also help with compliance with email privacy regulations. To help companies with their contact location challenge, Repetitos is offering a one-time database clean-up and enrichment at an amazingly low cost per customer.

If you need help getting started, I offer a FREE customer contact database health assessment. I will ask about 30 questions over the course of an hour and will provide a benchmark score along with short-term recommendations focusing on data accuracy and enrichment, contact maintenance, and more.

This is a guest blog by Irwin Hipsman, member of the Advocacy Mavens Coalition.

The Advocacy Mavens Coalition is an association of open for contracting customer-led professionals, each with extensive industry experience. We’re experts in building advocacy and community programs, designing experiences, running advisory boards, creating content, managing and migrating platforms, and more.

Our members are experienced advocacy marketing strategists, community and customer success managers, educators, designers, video producers, analysts, and technical consultants. Whatever your program goals, this coalition has you covered!

Want to hear more about our services? Drop us a note! https://bit.ly/amc-asks