Turning Attendees Into Repeat Loyal Customers


Most conference organizers focus on meeting their paid attendee goals for their upcoming annual event.

They are so focused on that one event that they rarely take time to step back and think about the sustainability of the event for the next several years.

They concentrate all of their energy, time and resources on meeting that year’s event goals only. What they fail to recognize is that if they were to focus on creating loyal customers, who wanted to attend every year, they could then focus on also growing new customers. Instead, they treat each event as if it’s a start-up event and they have to get new customers for the first time. This wastes valuable time, energy and resources.

Four Indicators To Identify An Attendee’s Value

One of the first things conference organizers need to do is identify the value of their current attendees. They need to measure the value of their customer relationships, or return on customer as Martha Rogers and Don Peppers call it.

Here are four basic leading indicators as identified by Rogers and Peppers to determine the value of a customer in the first place.

1. Attitudinal Measures

These are things like customer satisfaction, willingness to recommend your organization and event, and the likelihood of a repeat purchase. One retailer found that customers with strong relationships delivered 48 percent more sales than customers who had an average relationship with the company.

2. Behavioral Measures

Behavioral measures include the number of initiated contacts, services contracted or products bought, the number of complaints or comments submitted and the number of payments that were made or not made by the customer.

3. Life-Stage Measures

Life-stage measures represent the attendees’ stage of life or their lifestyle. This includes whether the attendee is a novice or veteran in the industry. Novices may purchase additional products and services as they start their career. However, five years later, unless they are really bad at learning from experience, they don’t need those same products. Similarly, many conference organizers ignore planning education for veterans, which is a mistake. The more you can provide advanced topics, the more you’ll attract veterans and novices.

4. Lifetime Value Measures

Lifetime value measures things like share of customer, churn rate and return rate. It also considers acquisition costs of new customers when it does not have a high repeat loyalty.

Determining The Value Of The Event

Conference organizers need to start their conference planning by asking the following questions:

  • What do I need to do to get people involved in the conference and change their behavior?
  • Which customers are we targeting that have market growth potential?
  • How do we maximize the value those customers will bring to our company?

Then the conference organizers can determine the potential value of the event to the company as well as decide the appropriate budget.

In the end, we need to think not in terms of what the budget is going to be. We need to think about how many targeted potential attendees there are that we can and want to sell to. Then we think about what we need to do to get them to attend and once onsite, we we need to do to change their behavior so they create more revenue for the company.

What are some tools needed to be able to track and monitor conference customer relationships? What organizations are doing a good job of measuring the return on customer or return on attendee?

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  1. Shwetha says:

    Hi there! great article.. Which research method would you suggest that would be best suited to get a better idea of the second bullet-point: “What customers are we targeting that have market growth potential”.. Also would you mind elaborating on the actual development of a conference program, including writing effective copy…?

  2. Francis Bacon says:

    Hi Jeff, interesting post.

    I think that private social networks can play a role here. If organisers provide an online space for delegates to interact then this can provide some interesting metrics for each delegate on their level of involvement and possible future value. Its early days but there is certainly an opportunity there.

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