Are You Ready to Host a User Conference? 5 Ways to Tell the Time Is Right.

Are You Ready to Host a User Conference? 5 Ways to Tell the Time Is Right.

What are these events for? User conferences are designed by vendors to: Educate, inspire and encourage networking among customers and prospects Build brand awareness around a vendor’s projects, features and customer success stories Provide customers with best practices, upcoming products or features, and additional value through through face-to-face contact While you may read most frequently about tech and healthcare user conferences, any company with a critical mass of customers using its product or service can find value in hosting its own event. So, should your company hold a user conference? Then, as your product evolves, customers will benefit from training sessions, one-on-one consultations and best practices -- ideally shared from in-house experts and fellow customers alike. Billed as “the ultimate customer success event,” Pulse allows attendees to network and learn and share best practices in managing customer relationships. The right event, then, encourages customers to share their enthusiasm, build community and brand loyalty, and share best practices to address common challenges. Marketo’s recent Marketing Nation Summit featured a mix of entertainment, learning and networking. Whether it’s a cocktail hour or something else, such opportunities reward customers and staff for their loyalty and passion. Make your conference fun and memorable by planning unique social events and inspiring keynotes embracing your host city. That's the kind of time commitment needed to put on the best event possible.

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Are You Ready to Host a User Conference? 5 Ways to Tell the Time Is Right.

Microsoft Ignite, Oracle OpenWorld and Salesforce.com’s Dreamforce: These tech conferences are household names in the software community, and each company has a customer base broad enough to warrant having its own user conference. What are these events for? User conferences are designed by vendors to:

  • Educate, inspire and encourage networking among customers and prospects
  • Build brand awareness around a vendor’s projects, features and customer success stories
  • Provide customers with best practices, upcoming products or features, and additional value through through face-to-face contact

While you may read most frequently about tech and healthcare user conferences, any company with a critical mass of customers using its product or service can find value in hosting its own event.

So, should your company hold a user conference? Yes, because, when it’s done right, a conference can prove that your business has “made it” and serve as a rite of passage for your company.

Yet there are caveats here: Kicking off a user conference too early can backfire, resulting in poor attendance. On the other hand, waiting too long can mean missed opportunities (and missed new customers).

How do you know when you’re ready? (Hint: just because competitors are doing it doesn’t mean it’s time!) These five signs show that the time is right:

1.Your customers are asking for it.

Customers asking for a user conference shows that your business has a passionate fan base. So, there’s certainly no harm in holding an event as long as you keep it small and intimate. The venue should be full, not empty.

Based on existing customer relationships, you can determine a ballpark attendee headcount. Conduct a customer email campaign or survey to determine a potential number and consult your account managers. These team members are more familiar with your users, have insight into agenda items that would appeal most and can provide honest feedback on whether you can fill a room.

Before proceeding, get executive and key stakeholder buy-in on exactly what you want to achieve. Doing so will ensure that everyone shares one, aligned event goal.

2.Your customers will gain more value from your product by attending.

Your product may have features and capabilities users are unaware of. Now is the time to demonstrate and prove the product’s value — and to get customers really excited. And what’s great about a conference is that fostering customer enthusiasm is far easier to do in-person. To this end, leverage case-study sessions as a way for users to “sell” your offerings to peers in a way that doesn’t feel forced.

Then, as your…

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