Established, successful conferences have leadership that are usually adept at incrementally improving their event each year.
They focus on securing better content and speakers. Or improving registration and marketing practices. Or creating unique receptions and parties. Or decreasing expenses and increasing revenue.
One improvement tactic–curating conference programming that meets your customers’ needs–is foundational yet proving to be insufficient for innovation and new growth. Conference organizers must focus on both their customers’ needs—their pain points and problems to solve—and their aspirations—their wants and professional goals. Ultimately, a successful conference leadership team must focus on creating a customer-centric conference strategy.
What Is Your Conference Centered On?
What is your conference centered on? Exhibitors, sponsors, Tier 1 cities and venues, marquee speakers, meals and breaks, tradition, competition, networking, programming, offering CEUs?
Sure conference organizers have a tendency to follow the money. And yes, many of the conference components listed above are a source of money. In the end, your conference revenue is dependent upon customers from your target marketing registering and attending your event.
If your conference customers stop purchasing registration, everything else become immaterial. Why have speakers if no one attends the event? Why offer exhibits if no one walks the trade show floor? Why have sponsors if no one participates?
Centering your conference on your customers is the critical and logical choice. It’s really the only choice for growth. And conference growth—in quality, customer loyalty, profit, and revenue—becomes the necessity.
(Hat tips Customer-Centered Business: 10 Keys to Organic Growth by Lynn Hunsaker.)
Start Here: Needs And Aspirations
Your customer-centric conference strategy must start and end with your target market customers.
You want to tap into satisfying your customers’ needs—what keeps them up at night, alleviating their pain points, solving their challenges. And you’ll want to fulfill their wants—what makes them get up in the morning and go to work, their aspirations for advancement and growth, tactics to accomplish their ambitious goals.
Many conferences focus on providing programming that meets their customers’ need. Needs are elementary and basic. Needs are rational and sensible. Needs are static and boring. And frequently needs have been commoditized. Every average conference seems to be in the customer needs-fulfilling business.
Wants are emotional and responsive. Wants are transformative. Wants are hopeful. Wants are exciting and passionate. Wants are aspirational. Wants are deeply personal. And wants are where the profits are. Only truly extraordinary conferences are in the business of helping their customers solve their problems and satisfy their wants by helping them achieve their aspirations.
Your Conference Customer-Centric Decision Filter
Centering your conference on customers means nothing is done in a vacuum. Your customers’ context, their real world work, and their wants and their needs, are the framework for every conference programming component. “Is this in the best interest of our conference customer?” becomes the plumb line and filter for all your decisions.
You put your conference customer first. You take care of their needs, their wants and their aspirations.
This puts the horse before the cart. Feed the hand that feeds you and you will be fed says customer-centric guru Lynn Hunsaker.
When conference organizers become more focused on their customers, their needs and aspirations, and providing a unique exploratory conference journey for them, they position themselves as an industry resource. And they become the successful conference unlocking innovation and new growth.
What is your conference and its planning process focused on? What can you do to get to know your customers’ needs and wants better?