This week, I’d like to address the event industry’s age old challenge: ‘How do I ensure my next event’s success?’ The uncertainty I’m referring to, in this case is ‘Loyalty’ i.e. repeat attendees who will continue to buy passes, invest their time and hopefully money in your event year-after-year!

Check out the following statistics we dug up to impress upon you, just how important repeat attendees/customers are:

  • A 5% reduction in the customer-defection-rate can increase profits by 5-95% – Bain & Company.
  • It costs 6–7 times more to acquire a new customer than retain an existing one – Bain & Company.
  • The probability of selling to an existing customer is 60–70%. The probability of selling to a new prospect is 5-20% – Marketing Metrics.
  • A 2% increase in customer retention has the same effect as decreasing costs by 10% – Leading on the Edge of Chaos, Emmet Murphy & Mark Murphy.

Regrettably, retention rates for many events/conferences are nowhere near what management would like them to be. Nevertheless every conference organiser has a certain amount of control over some elements – This offers a huge opportunity for increasing ticket sales to past attendees and building a loyal base of repeat attendees.

Today we will briefly explore the following strategies to retain and increase the number of attendees/consumers who are your target audience.

Remind them to mark their calendars!

Not just that! We recommend you take it a step beyond simply reminding them of the date – It is essential to remind last year’s attendees/customers of what made your event so exceptional! They may have attended a lot of conferences after yours and the memory of your event could use a little freshening!

Use any of the following 3 strategies to reach out and reignite their memories:

  • Share a well-designed and published event report and highlight key takeaways from the previous event. Further ensure its impact by using great visuals of the networking and plenty of direct quotes to show how much everyone enjoyed it!
  • Invite them to view presentations/speakers from last year (if you didn’t video them, then you could at least post their PPTs on Slideshare)
  • Another option is to invite them to view the event photo gallery – This will serve as a reminder of the great people they met, speakers they heard, and the brilliant social events they participated in.

    If you’ve got a friendly / quirky brand, or don’t mind taking a risk, you could even incentivise the gallery by offering a prize for adding the best caption to a photo (moderated by you before being shared publicly of course).

Build Ownership through Involvement

It is within your hands to do the due-diligence and personally call your influential, enthusiastic and loyal attendees from the previous year for suggestions and comments. If you’re strapped for time and can’t call all your attendees, then you should at least solicit their feedback through a survey.

If the survey doesn’t work, try reaching out through social platforms to get their feedback via the channels they hang out on the most.

Perhaps the most effective way of soliciting real feedback is to prove that their input will be valued – and makes a difference. Some kind of a direct action pledge might sharply increase your previous attendee’s involvement.

(Mid Body)

Give them the ‘V.I.P Treatment’

What makes a celebrity? Who are they? …If you can’t recognize them on the street, or tell them apart from the ‘Average Joe’? Point here being – Recognition is a powerful tool for building loyalty.

Gabe Zuckerman talks about it a lot when exploring the effectiveness of gamification, with a prominent example of airlines that offer their loyal customer special boarding queues and coloured luggage tags in order to show them special recognition.

Of all the ways to make your returning attendees/customers feel special; we recommend you try the following:

  • Send them handwritten invitations with a personal message, telling them how much you appreciate their presence, participation and how you’re looking forward to seeing them again.
  • If that’s too much work you could simply inform them, they’ll be able to collect their delegate passes early or via a special line for returning guests – While you’re at it, why not give them different coloured badges & passes too!
  • Set-up a ‘Mentorship Program’ if your event is a fixed annual event. Long-standing return attendees/consumers get recognised as veterans and can become mentors to new attendees.

To conclude, we hope that you enjoyed reading this post and try some of our suggestions for your next event/conference. Leave us a comment/ feedback if you’re feeling generous and would like to let us know you care!