Conference Growth Rests Squarely On Attendance Centricity

Bulls Eye Cluster by Marney Reaney

Since the dawn of time, things tend to follow the Pareto Principle with 80% of results driven by 20% of customers, give or take 10%. Translating this dynamic to the world of conferences and trade shows, more often that not:

  • A very high percentage of revenue will be primarily dependent on (or influenced by) key customers and top investors.
  • Others will participate because they are there.
  • The lion’s share of expense and staff attention will be spent on attracting and serving the “once and done” attendees and 10 x 10 exhibitors.

In today’s competitively-charged business environment, it’s crucial that we understand and delight the customers and suppliers who are moving the profit needle most. Many segments will be served, but this elite group deserves extraordinary and highly customized attention. Without their loyalty and support, our value proposition unravels and in time, bottom line results decline.

Customer Centricity Defined

Many people think Customer Centricity is about focusing on the needs of all customers or the average customer. A better definition is emerging, thanks to champions like Dr. Peter Fader, Professor of Marketing at Wharton and author of Customer Centricity: Focus on the Right Customers for Strategic Advantage.

Customer Centricity zeroes in on two critical metrics:

  • The Lifetime Value of each customer.
  • Their impact on profitability.

Taking a page from Dr. Fader, we believe that premium products like conferences should embrace Attendance Centricity.

Attendance Centricity is very difficult to get your head around. It requires a detailed analysis of repeat attendees. You must understand these repeaters and their attendance justification story, at both the individual and company levels. For a conference that draws 3,000, it’s likely that 500-600 are responsible for or help drive a significant portion of your revenue over multiple years.

These are your Economic Buyers and you need to understand:

  • Their Company Loyalty — Which companies are regularly sending multiple people to your conference?
  • Their Individual Loyalty — Who has attended and paid multiple times?
  • What do these economic buyers value most about your conference experience?
  • Which exhibitors and sponsors are investing at high levels and repeatedly?
  • How does conference participation impact customer or member retention and spend for other products and services?

Investing Too Much in the “Meh” Segment?

This powerful infographic from Monetate: What does it mean to be Customer Centric? includes an example from Dr. Fader that maps out how three customer segments might fall for a typical company:

  • 10% are defined as Great Customers
    True blue loyal customers with extremely high lifetime value.
  • 20% are defined as Good Customers
    This group has solid lifetime value with potential to be nurtured to advance to the Great level.
  • 70% are defined as “Meh” Customers
    As you might expect, lots of churn here and low to no lifetime value. Unfortunately, this is where many conference organizers focus the majority of their attention.

As you map out your conference growth strategy, here are a few tips to consider around segmentation and attendance centricity:

1. Get Clear on Who Your Great Customers (Attendees) Are and Go the Extra-Mile for Them.
What drives their revenue machine? Know their top problems to solve, as well as their top growth opportunities to seize. Make sure the majority of education and networking experiences map back to these critical issues. Develop VIP experiences just for them.

2. Protect Your Good Customers and Work on Advancing Them to Great.
For this segment, invest time to nurture relationships and personalize their experiences. Show ’em you know ’em with suggestions that will help them advance in their career.

3. Mass Blast the “Meh” and Monitor Movement.
A portion of this “Meh” crowd might be fence-sitters who are not yet convinced that your conference is a fit. With solid delivery to the Great and Good customers, you’ll attract others who will show behavioral cues that they’re ready to level up.

Every attendee matters and you want to deliver solid value across the board, but some matter more than others. Make sure you’re investing time and resources accordingly to ensure a healthy, profitable and sustainable future.

What obstacles might make it difficult to embrace Conference Attendance Centricity? Who are your follow categories of attendees?

Adapted from Donna’s Meeting Innovation post on Cvent Event Planning blog. ©2015.

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  1. SmartCrowdz says:

    Thank you for sharing this thought provoking article, Donna. It’s an interesting fact to be mindful that a high percent of revenue at a conference will be driven by key investors or participants, consistent with the Pareto Principle you discuss. When organizing conferences and events it is essential to target key participants. It is true that all attendees matter, but you make a great point that it’s important to prioritize focus and customer centricity defined by Dr. Peter Fader, as “focus on the right customers for strategic advantage.” We provide an event planning app, and this is a great article to share with some of our event planners that are organizing conferences and events to help them focus in on the most important participants to maximize revenue and profitability from their conference or event.

  2. Donna Kastner says:

    ‘@SmartCrowdz – Glad you enjoyed this post. Zeroing in on top targets and designing extraordinary conference experiences is crucial in today’s competitive market. Thanks for stopping by to comment!

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