Five Steps to Building Your Customer “Event”
Has anyone noticed that there are a plethora of trade events in the channel lately? Yes, that was rhetorical. Whether you have attended one event or 10 over the last few months, it is hard to miss the fact that there is a different event in a different city almost every other day, all of them focused on some aspect of the channel. So you want to learn about PSA? There are three major events for that. Marketing? Several there too. General industry? I can think of eight without any effort, and attended them all last year. So when is your customer event? Is it on your schedule? Sometime in October?
The customer event doesn’t exist. There is no artificially scheduled get together to allow you to share information, address issues, plan future activities, or anything else of the sort. That, my friends, is a problem, but it is one that you can fix. Here are five simple steps you can take to make sure you are focused on your customers.
- Quarterly Business Reviews – Virtually every blog I write references the need for this, and many of you are actually doing it. If you are not, you need to. Make it a priority. Some really successful MSPs are actually getting paid to engage in the sales (and consultative) effort by their customers and everyone in the room is winning.
- Communicate on a quarterly basis with your customer base about what is happening in your business. Focus on everything, not just new products and billing opportunities. Who did you hire? Who has moved on? Have you reached any significant milestones organizationally? Are you working on some project for the next quarter that they might be interested in? What are the current trends in the industry and why should they care? Do any of your customers have news of their own that you can help them share? If you do it quarterly, if you make it interesting, and if you send it with a note from the owner, people will pay attention.
- Invite two customers per month out for golf, dinner, or an event – this is plain common sense sales effort in much of the world, but it doesn’t really happen all that often in the SMB Channel. Figure out who your top customers and prospects are and wine and dine them a little bit. Get to know them in a more informal setting and let them talk about their business. The more you know about them the better. As a word of warning, don’t take your customers out to golf if you have never golfed, etc. Everyone will be frustrated and you will not accomplish your goals.
- Take your customers to an industry event – if this sounds like a potentially bad idea, you are correct. So don’t take them physically, but make an effort to go see five to 10 customers before whatever event you are planning to attend and ask them if they are looking for any specific solutions. Let them know where you are going, what you are planning to learn, and what you think they might be interested in. There are a dozen different and positive outcomes that result from this effort. You get another touch point with your customer, they learn something about where your business focus is, and they are forced to take a moment and concentrate on their IT needs. Finally, you gain additional focus on what to look for while you are out of the office. Events are a great way to sharpen your skills, but they cost money and if you can return to the office with sales essentially in your pocket, so much the better.
- Pick your battles – Success requires that your business be focused on your customers, not your vendors. Choose to attend two or three events annually that make sense for your business, and go with a game plan in mind (see #4). Look for vendors who understand your business and build their product around your business model. Make every effort at each event you attend to try to cut unnecessary and repetitive tasks out of your operations, thereby saving you time to focus on new and existing clients.
While putting together an actual customer event is expensive and divides your focus, sometimes it is the right thing to do, especially when you have a narrow vertical focus and your business can communicate the same value proposition to a large audience during a short window of time. If an actual event isn’t the right solution for your business, follow the steps above and plan engagement with your customers as if you were planning a mini event for them.