In-person events are one of the most, if not the most, popular marketing tactic within the Cisco partner community. Although, we’ve been talking a lot about social media marketing in this blog, it’s important to note that social media and traditional marketing can live side-by-side and effectively complement each other. And let’s face it — our sales teams love to be in front of customers. So, I wanted to take a minute and suggest an event format idea that I hope you find interesting and valuable. We all recognize the value in creating customer success stories whether in print, video or podcast format. What if you could take customer successes and turn them into something more? What if your customers could become true ambassadors for you in the sales process?Ask yourself the following questions:
- • Are you trying to cross-sell or upsell existing customers to newer or complementary Cisco technologies?
- • Are some of the products/technologies you are selling a little ahead of the marketplace?
- • Do you have some prospects that seem to be laggards? How can you educate them and move them from head-scratchers into hand-raisers?
Now, think about your customer-base. I’m sure you have some current customers that are early adopters, have had significant success with implementing new technology and are passionate about technology in general. These are the types of customers that you want to have evangelize your products and services. So here’s my recommendation:Ask these customers if they would personally host a tour of their own data center for 10-12 of their IT peers from other local companies and organizations. After all, for many prospects seeing and hearing first hand from a peer can make all the difference in getting them to move further down the consideration funnel.To make this as easy as possible on your customer, you would have to own and handle all of the event logistics (sending invites, paying for food and beverage etc.). You might also consider giving your customer some recognition. For example, you could recognize them for being an early adopter of the focus technology. Public recognition goes a long way in building loyalty with your customers. Once you have a customer lined up to host, you will need to determine who to invite. Look at your in-house list and pull IT executive names from companies within a specified geographic radius that makes sense for your location. It will not make sense to invite everyone on this initial list. So you will need to consider suppressing some contacts based on certain criteria. For example:• Any organization/company that your host customer asks you not invite e.g. their direct competitors.• Anyone who doesn’t meet the criteria for the target audience you are trying to reach with this event. • Anyone that has received other marketing touches or event invitations in the past month. You want to be sensitive to the frequency of touches to your customer and prospect database.Now you’re ready to market your event:I would probably do this with a combination of direct mail, email and telephone outreach to your target customers. Most responses will come from email and the telephone outreach. Because this event is very intimate with only 10-12 attendees, I would further screen respondents to ensure they are truly the right “cheeks in the seats” for you. To do this, you could call back all registrants for the event and ask for a little data that you may not have on them and their company e.g. titles, type of organization etc. If the individual does not meet your target criteria redirect them to another relevant resource such as a white paper that directly meets their needs. You can also choose to re-invite attendees to another similar event in the future. Some event logistics suggestions:Having a customer talk about you, your products and services is one of the strongest, most authentic ways you can get the word out to your prospects. In light of this, I would have your sales rep or executive act as the MC of the event e.g. break the ice, present the award to the host customers and introduce the IT director that will be giving the tour. Do not make a sales presentation. Let your customer’s passion and successful deployment speak for itself. I would also consider hosting a nice dinner at a nearby restaurant for networking. Your sales reps can meet casually with prospects and gain additional info to help them with the sale later.Don’t forget to follow up immediately with a nice thank-you note and ensure your sales team follows up those that asked for additional information. What do you think? Are you doing these types of events now? If you are, are they successful?