• Warren Leppik

The marketing opportunity many event organizers overlook

Updated: Sep 19, 2019

I am currently enjoying UNMARKETING by Scott & Alison Stratten. As I pondered the topic for this week’s blog, as fate would have it, I listened to Chapter 42 entitled “Testimonials”. He talked about a trend at conferences to get video testimonials of the attendees talking about what they thought about the conference. Scott writes “They’re not looking for honest feedback and constructive criticism, but rather a collection of WOW clips to help sell the next conference. The problem is when they force attendees to record it. Someone from the conference will walk up with a camera and say “please say a few words about the conference”. Kinda of puts you in a bad spot, especially when you didn’t like the event. So for your business get comments from real people, real clients and real satisfied customers”.

I completely agree. But will add that many don’t even go to that trouble.

One of my pet peeves is the typical and generic conference or event sizzle reel intended to promote future events. Usually cut to some dance track, you see people watching presentations, people presenting, people eating, people drinking. There is no voiceover and there are no stories from attendees. It is essentially a mediocre music video with an even more mediocre soundtrack. What is anyone expected to gain from watching something like this? How is this piece of content expected to motivate anyone to take action or participate the following year?

And while some events actually take the trouble to talk to attendees, rather than a thoughtful conversations about the experience, they are only looking for, as Scott calls them, WOW clips. We’ve all seen them: “This is the best conference ever!”, “I never miss it!”. Hardly insightful or relatable. There is no clear articulation as to WHY you should attend because the questions being asked are so superficial. Also, 9 times out of 10, the person asking the questions knows nothing about what they are asking. A videographer is sent out cold to ask a list of questions that mean nothing to them. Hardly the basis for a meaningful conversation with someone about the experience they had which is dependant on knowing enough to probe deeper about the key differentiators of the event, without leading the witness.

Questions like “please say a few words about the conference” are too generic to be valuable. To expect anything more than “it was great!” is optimistic. If the person doesn’t have to give a bit of thought to what they’re going to say, how valuable could those comments be?

As you know, I am an advocate of first-person testimonials about the customer experience a company provides. Unbiased, first person proof of what it’s like to deal with you. There no better way to drive business growth than an authentic, verifiable testimonial about the pain, that a prospect is also currently experiencing, that was alleviated by dealing with you. Some say it gives a prospect the privilege of going second.

Gathering video testimonials at a conference or trade show is a golden marketing opportunity. But, like anything, its HOW you do it. I believe success is all in the questions you ask and WHO is asking the questions.

The importance of eliciting the services of an experienced interviewer cannot be understated. An experienced interviewer will do the research required to understand the conference value proposition, the problems attendees face and hope to solve by attending and can provide conversation starters enabling people to talk authentically about the experience without being told what to say.

With this sort of preparation, I believe you can politely ask for random people for the input, without putting people on the spot. But it can’t be a hard sell. If they no, they say no. What type of feedback are you going to get if you had to coerce someone into giving it. I have covered enough conferences to know that the more “streeters” you do, the greater the odds of finding someone who will say something authentic and valuable. But there’s a way to stack the deck.

One of the biggest challenges for companies that do business across the country or around the world, is that their raving fans may not be able to drop by the office to give a testimonial. And you having to fly to see them for a testimonial could be a logistical and budgetary nightmare. Even if you paid for their travel expenses to come and see you, cutting that deeply into anyone’s crazy schedule is a BIG ask. You can hope to snag them the next time they’re in town, but people travelling on business tend to have pretty packed schedules. Beyond people who are attending your conference simply because of the value they get out of it, if you’re customers attend, conferences are an amazing opportunity take advantage of your raving fans all being in one place. But its not something to leave to chance. Prior to the event, ask customers, whose feedback will entice prospects in your target verticals, if they would be willing to give a testimonial and book the date, time in place in advance. Asking a customer for 15 minutes of their time, if they love you, will not be a big ask. In my experience, these customers are happy to oblige. If you want to sweeten the deal, comp their conference fee as a thank you. No, this is not a bribe., These are people who know why they love you and don’t have to be convinced. You’re simply thanking them for taking the time to share why the customer experience you provided met or exceeded their expectations.

I am happy to report that Pete Pigott described the conversations I had with his conference attendees and customers, in a Recommendation on my LinkedIn profile, as follows: “More than just interviews, he put people at ease. There’s a genuineness to the discussion. The person was actually thinking, pondering the question, taking time to gather a deeper thought, delivering thoughtful comments. It really came across quite strongly in the interview style.”

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