Lessons From Our In-Person Customer Event

Last Thursday was our Annual Customer Trade Show.  If you are a reader of this blog, you know we have been doing this show for over 15 years…and we have been talking about it for months!  We love the opportunity to give our customers the chance to see products and suppliers from all over the industry.  It’s a fun event and (hopefully) we create a lot of value for our clients.

On the other hand, it’s a lot of work to put the event on!  So after each year, we take a look at what worked…and what didn’t!  And let’s face it…this year is different.  We were not able to do the event at all last year, and we are still in a world where events are not the same.  That’s a kind way of saying that, right?  So…I felt like it might be interesting and helpful to give you some lessons I learned from doing our in-person customer event this year.

Re-Set Expectations For Attendance

We live in a different world now than in 2019.  We know that.  But sometimes it doesn’t hit us until we try and recreate something from our past.  This year’s event was great.  But attendance was down (based on previous years).  While my initial reaction is to be a bit disappointed by that, I think it’s important to re-set our expectations.  While things are certainly getting better, it’s not 2019.  This is a new time…and we need to judge it that way.  And for what it’s worth…that’s okay.  We were incredibly happy with the customers that were able to come.  The conversations and opportunities created were amazing!

Focus On Top Client Attendance

File this one under “what we did right.”   While not every client will be able to attend any event you host, getting your top clients there is key.  In nearly any business, 80% of your sales results will come from 20% of your clients (I talk about that here), so make sure you focus your efforts on that group.  We were successful in doing that…and it helped make the event extremely productive.

Give Safety Options

We are still in a time that is filled with trepidation and doubt…so I feel like it’s important to address that.  Our solution to safety concerns was to make masks “recommended but not required.”  Then, as a team at Hasseman Marketing, we wore masks during the event.  We did not want to anger customers that did not want to wear masks, but we wanted to make sure everyone felt safe and comfortable.  As you might expect, we provided mask options (branded of course) for anyone that wanted them.  As a result, around 50% of people attending wore masks.

Create An Experience

If you want to have a great event, you need to create an experience.  That has always been true, but it’s great to remind yourself now.  Let’s face it.  When it comes to hosting events, many of us are out of practice.  Our theme was “Fall Fiesta” and that helped us to create an atmosphere that was fun.  And since we built decorations, food, and music around the theme…it made for a successful experience…in addition to the business that was done.

Stock Is A HUGE Issue But…

We have been talking about this for months too.  Inventory is a huge challenge.  In addition to that, the labor challenges have created longer lead times.  That is why we have created our “In Stock and Ready To Rock” program.  Suppliers at our show last week were talking about these challenges too.  It’s real and it’s not just in our industry.  On the other side, there are items that are in stock.

The advice is simple…order your year-end gifts as soon as possible.

Those that wait until the last minute are going to be frustrated AND they are going to pay more.  In addition, my advice is to create an option A and an option B.  That way, if you order your favorite item and they are out of stock (and that is happening a lot my friends), you can move quickly to your next option without missing a beat.

So those are a few lessons I learned from our in-person customer event.  If you are interested in hosting an event, we would love to help.  And a special thanks to everyone that was able to attend this year’s Fall Fiesta!  We had a blast hosting you!

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Written by: Kirby Hasseman

Kirby Hasseman is the CEO of Hasseman Marketing & Communications. Kirby hosts a weekly Web show called Delivering Marketing Joy where he interviews business leaders from around the country. Kirby has published four books. His most recent is “Fan of Happy.” His book, called "Delivering Marketing Joy" is about doing “promo right” and is perfect for people in the industry and customers. He also wrote “Think Big For Small Business” and “Give Your Way to Success. All are available on Amazon.