Do You Want Satisfied Conference Attendees Or Loyal Attendees?

Image by graffiti.freiburg.

Do you want a satisfied spouse or a loyal spouse?

Think about that. Which one is it? I don’t know about you but I want a satisfied and loyal spouse!

Now, do you want satisfied customers or loyal customers?

Ok, committed relationships and marriages are not the best analogy for business relationships. Marriages are one-to-one relationships. Most business relationships are probably not one-to-one relationships. Yet some of the interactions needed to sustain relationships are the same.

One thing is for sure. You don’t want dissatisfied customers.

So which are better? Satisfied customers or loyal customers?

Satisfied Or Loyal Conference Attendees?

Let’s put this in the context of your conference attendees. Would you prefer satisfied attendees or loyal attendees?

Of course we want satisfied attendees. Without attendees, it’s hard to sustain any type of conference. Sponsors won’t donate dollars. Exhibitors won’t display. Vendors won’t advertise. Speakers won’t commit. Any conference organizer without a focus on attendee satisfaction is playing with Russian Roulette with their future conferences.

So are satisfied attendees enough to maintain a self-supporting conference every year? In my opinion, no.

If you only have satisfied attendees, eventually your competitor will connect with those attendees and offer something better that makes them happier. Then their repeat attendance at your conference will decrease. And with decreased repeat attendees comes decreased dollars.

Maybe you are saying, “We don’t have any competitors.”

I submit that other conferences and self-organized communities compete for your attendees’ dollars and share of mind. So satisfied customers could easily become bored with an average experience and start looking for something better.

Three Types Of Conference Attendees

1. Dissatisfied Attendees

Looking for another conference or opportunity to meet their needs, and provide a better experience and service

2. Satisfied Attendees

Open to better offers or opportunities from competitors

3. Loyal Attendees

Repeat attendees despite attractive competitive offers and those that recommend you to others 

Note: Do you even track your repeat conference attendees? If not, you should. It will tell you how firm a foundation your conference has. And you should compare at least three years of data to see if you have loyal attendees that attend at least two out of every three years. Healthy sustained conferences enjoy a 65% or greater amount of loyal, repeat attendees.

Transitioning Satisfied Attendees To Loyal Evangelists

So how do you move satisfied attendees to loyal customers that are committed to you?

Loyalty usually doesn’t happen overnight. It accrues over time with each successful touch an attendee experiences with your organization. To build committed loyalty, conference organizers must create a unique experience where attendees’ expectations are consistently exceeded. With each successful positive experience, from pre- to post-conference, attendees’ level of satisfaction increases until it changes to long-term loyalty.

This means that conference organizers must provide extraordinary customer service every time an attendee interacts with conference staff. Not only must the customer service be unparalleled, the conference experience must be as equally astonishing.

Ultimately, cultivating an attendee relationship is critical in achieving loyal attendees and your desired business results.

So which do you prefer, satisfied or loyal attendees? How can you grow a satisfied attendee into a loyal one?

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  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by nancyrubin, Zerista Pro. Zerista Pro said: RT: Do You Want Satisfied Conference Attendees Or Loyal Attendees?: Image by graffiti.freiburg…. #eventprofs […]

  2. mike mcallen says:

    I get alumni emails from some of the conferences I have attended or spoke at. Just being called an alumni makes me feel more connected. Like I am recognized as a graduate, and a respected part of the community. It actually put me over the top for the upcoming Blogworld Expo which you are speaking at.
    I have been to Blogworld and Portable Media Expo for years and years. I was on the fence about going but the website knew I was an alumni and I started to think about all the people I see each year at the conference. I then pushed the register button. They cemented my loyalty. Their website is really crappy looking but effective. 🙂
    Thanks for this post!


    1. Jeff Hurt says:

      That’s a great example of creating a connection and building a relationship with past attendees. I love that idea of calling past attendees alumni. Thanks for sharing that with us!

  3. ‘@Jeff,

    Great question and one that no one things about often enough.

    I struggle with the choices presented. Loyal attendees can be dissatisfied and satisfied attendees can be disloyal. If forced to choose one I’d prefer a loyal attendee hoping that loyalty comes with a high degree of happiness.

    I think one way to up the loyalty factor is to make the experience more unique quest than schedule/agenda. What experiences will I get that this conference that I can’t get anywhere else?

    Another way is to engage veteran (as @Mike said “alumni”) in shepherding the new attendees. This can be meaningful, especially at larger events in helping create new loyal attendees and keeping veteran attendees coming back, in part to play the role of sage elder.

    One other note about loyalty. Do you know of any conferences using the idea of the Net Promoter Score (NPS) to gauge loyalty? I would think the simple idea of NPS (one simple survey quesiton, “How likely are you to recommend this event to others?”) would provide new and interesting feedback for most conferences.

    Thank you Jeff for continuing to bring up challenging thoughts. More questions like this are the beginnings of great ideas.

    1. Jeff Hurt says:

      I agree with you and Dave that two of the most important questions to ask on surveys/evaluations are 1. Do you plan to attend again next year? and 2. Would you recommend this conference/event/workshop to others? I used those two questions all the time and they became important gauges for us. When we saw our percentage of people who would recommend us dropping, we knew we needed to examine what didn’t work and make changes for the next year.

      Now, if we can just get meeting and event professionals to start thinking about satisfaction and loyalty when planning their conference and events!

  4. Dave Lutz says:

    ‘@mike, I too love your alumni example! We often recommend to clients that they do something a little special for their past attendees. Organizers can give them a chance to register first, make it easy for them to say yes by pre-populating registration info from the previous year, etc.

    @kevin I think if you have a loyal, but dissatisfied participant that can be a good thing. They’ll tend to tell you why they are dissatisfied whereas the non-loyals will just vote with their feet and may not give you the chance for the save.

    Love your recommendation on teaming up new attendees with loyal ones. Mentor programs can be very effective in the on-boarding process. Thanks for adding that!

    Net promoter scores are huge. I learned long ago that there are only two critical survey questions that matter. 1) Will you buy again? and 2) Will you recommend us to others? On surveys that I’ve reviewed those 2 questions are there maybe 50% of the time.

  5. […] can’t get no conference satisfaction, I can’t get no conference satisfaction, ‘Cause I try and I try and I try and I try. I […]

  6. chris uschan says:

    Hey Jeff — Great timing on this article as I just thinking about how event organizers solicit feedback regarding their events.

    I wrote this article after receiving “another” long post-event survey:

    The Flawed Logic With Post-Conference Surveys

    1. Jeff Hurt says:

      Great post with some good provocative questions. Thanks for sharing that with us. And for reading too.

  7. […] better, what is your conference attendee loyalty? Do you even know how many of your attendees have attended two out of the last three years? […]

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