Monday, December 21, 2009

'Tis the Season for Retention

The plethora of Top Ten Lists are out – either Trends for 2010 or Best/Worst Lists of 2009. As you’ve probably perused enough of these lists at this point, I’ll truncate and offer my list of One Priority that Event Marketers Need to Focus on in the Coming Year:

1. Retention

Given the year the economy – and in turn the events industry – has been through, it is time for Event Marketing leaders to strategize and make an investments in developing and implementing strong attendee retention strategies. In many cases, event marketing has been in “churn mode” for too long – continually putting time, effort and investment into attendee acquisition activities without a plan in place to manage attendees post-event. Part of this is understandable – managing the frequency and volume of events from a marketing perspective is a daunting proposition. However, now is the time to develop, execute and – most importantly – stick with – a retention strategy to ensure long-term survival.

Why now? A couple of reasons:

1. Cost – although there is not a set metric in place, it is more expensive to acquire a prospect than it is to retain them – in other words, bringing a cold prospect through the entire AIDA cycle costs more than a person who is already beyond, at least, the Attention/Interest phases. (Tracking and testing the cost per attendee without any retention initiatives in place vs. how the initiatives impact the cost is also important – if nothing else, as an internal benchmark.)

2. Reputation – A retention program in place will re-focus your communication channels so that they map to the various audience segments you define. As you learn more about your attendees – their functionality, buying patterns, needs, etc. – and develop actions around this knowledge, it will lead to their receiving and (hopefully) registering for future events via the channel and timing they prefer – and will decrease push communications and, by extension, challenges around today's SPAM prevalent environment. Having a program in place will also, almost by definition, ensure a new focus placed on the customer/attendee - pre-event, onsite, and post event, cross-functionally various stakeholders should be working to ensure there is a renewed urgency on customer satisfaction (especially if the emphasis on Retention is coming driven top-down!) if the strategy is to encourage them to come back next year/for another event.

3. Most importantly, The Tools are There: Database modeling services have been with us for a while; however, over the past year Social Media had developed into something that can provide Event Marketers with a number of tools to effectively incorporate into a retention strategy. Facebook fan pages and groups, LinkedIn groups, Webinars, communities built with Ning, YouTube, Twitter, Slideshare, etc. are some of the portals that can be utilized to share information and knowledge and keep your contacts abreast of your content and activities. (Of course, traditional offline and email channels are part of the mix as well.)

How you do it is up to you – but the timing is right for you to plan and execute on this. And do plan for the long-term – results, by definition, will not be immediate, but will be worthwhile.

Good luck!

And all the best for a Happy Holiday and a terrific 2010!!!


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