July 17, 2012 by Jeff Hurt
The traditional approach to understanding your conference attendees has been to consolidate and analyze their transactions, attendance and activities at various events.
Knowing the customer has been confined to segmentation, statistical averages and historical inferences.
This is no longer enough!
Organizations need to have a much more holistic view of their customer based on how he or she engages in the rest of the world, not just their organization.
I’m an animal lover. I carry dog food in my car and am known to pull over anywhere, any time to feed a stray dog. I’ll do the same for kittens or injured wild animals.
I’ve given to many animal organizations to help manatees, bats, elephants, whales, wolves and tigers survive in their natural habitats. I’m against the old-style of zoos where animals are caged and support zoos where people are caged and animals have natural habitats. I don’t like the traditional circus full of exotic animal acts either.
So imagine my surprise recently when attending a conference VIP association event at a ranch that I discovered it was a hunting ranch for exotic animals. The destination had organized the outdoor event for the association’s board of directors and chapter leaders attending the national conference.
The ranch had significant historical significance. It was the home of a former state governor. He had entertained Presidents Nixon and Johnson at his ranch. He had ridden in the same car as President Kennedy when he was shot.
The ranch was beautiful. The service unbelievable. The food fantastic. The heat was unbearable!
I was surprised on a number of levels including that the event was outside, in the heat, in the dead of summer. I was more surprised that they expected the nicely dressed crowd to take a hay ride from the ranch home to the hunting lodge.
The ranch’s fenced fields were full of zebras, Oryx, Addax, Waterbuck and more. The ranch boasts more than 250 exotic animals for photo safaris. At least that’s what I was told.
The experience was lovely until I asked the critical question. Why did the ranch raise all of those exotic animals? Was it for conservation purposes?
Nope! It was for exotic hunting safaris for those privileged enough to afford it.
My entire ranch experience was now tainted. My respect for the destination and conference organizers plummeted. And I was not the only attendee that disapproved of this experience. Six others sitting at my table were just as shocked and disappointed as I was.
We were never told that we were going to an exotic animal hunting ranch or I would have not attended. The words hunting were kept quiet and silent. Transparency was lacking.
The organizers did not take the time to get to know us as individuals. The destination and conference organizers did not know what some of their leaders value. Had they known that, they would have never approved of this location for a VIP event.
Customer insight has been the golden prize in the past.
But that pursuit has changed today. Segmentation, statistical averages and historical inferences is not enough.
It’s important to get to know your customers and engage them as individuals. It’s about a holistic view of who your conference attendees are. They each have attitudes, interests and life circumstances that color their preferences and needs. They each have a set of personal values. And they want to support organizations that align with their own values.
Had the local destination and conference organization got to know their leadership better, they would have realized that some of them were offended by this ranch experience. Instead, their potential customers walked away with, “They don’t get us. Why would I want to bring business here?”
To remain relevant today, organizations must move beyond consolidating and analyzing traditional customer transactions. They must piece together a more holistic view of the customer, their values and how they engage with the rest of the world.
What would you do if you discovered that the VIP leadership event location that you were attending went against your personal values? With the amount of raw data that many organizations have about their customers, why do so few of them mine it critically?
Filed Under: Event Planning
I agree it must have been appalling!
But how could this be avoided? Where can an organizer get this personal information about the attendees?
Great question. Social media is a great place to collect data about attendees.The conference organizers could search these leaders in Google or Bing and they’d pull up a lot of data about them. Also, asking some personal questions during registration such as what are your hobbies, do you belong to any other organizations or support any causes gives organizers opportunities to get to know their attendees.
IMO, this could have easily been avoided if they would have thought it through at all. They should have known that the location would cause some controversy instead of automatically assuming that everyone supports hunting of exotic animals. I would never suggest this type of venue for any of my meetings or special events for that very reason.
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