These days, most of us don’t shop at a favorite store or grab a cup of coffee without a personal loyalty program card (or phone app) in hand. We have become a society of perk-loving, discount-expecting, points-accumulating consumers. These programs are called loyalty programs because companies believe that they bring customers back to purchase again and again. With competition at an all-time high, loyalty programs are often the most effective marketing programs for customer-driven industries.
While there are few formal loyalty programs in the conference planning industry right now, a smart event planning professional understands that building loyalty is critical to the success of a conference year over year. If you are strategizing about how to increase repeat event registrations, many of the principles of building loyalty by offering incentives are absolutely suitable. Here are five actionable ideas to get you started during your conference planning process and beyond.
- DISCOUNTS: The most basic of perks can also be the most effective. Offer returning guests an event registration discount or a discount on a special social event. Work with partners to offer discounts on hotel rooms, car rentals or other services. For most consumers, saving money is always the best incentive.
- SPECIAL VIP ACCESS: Invite returnees to a special event with the keynote speaker or a highly regarded industry professional. Offer returning guests VIP seating at your larger events or backstage passes at social events.
- CONFERENCE SWAG AND SERVICES: There is always a lot of takeaways at conferences. Most of it is not what you’d consider memorable. Ask your best sponsors or exhibitors to offer a limited number of premium items for returning guests. Make sure that the item is something useful and branded to keep your conference top of mind after it is over. Offer free premium services for loyal attendees such as free WiFi, bag check, or breakfast.
- ONGOING COMMUNICATION: Make a commitment to communicate with loyal conference attendees in between events. Don’t let them forget about the impactful time they had at your conference. Build a relationship with them. Start the conversation with an email or letter thanking them for attending your conference and asking for their feedback. After that, offer previews for upcoming events and other incentives to stay engaged. Use your CRM system to track demographic information and interests so that you can personalize your communications.
- EXCLUSIVE CONTENT: Offer unique and valuable content to your loyal guests. At the event, provide access to free digital or printed content from keynote speakers and sponsors. After the event, keep in touch by offering white papers, survey content, industry video talks and other useful information.
There are a multitude of conferences available for your potential attendees to choose from. To be competitive, your conference planning must include strategies to build a loyal customer base. Don’t just focus on the conference you are planning today. Focus on the conferences you will plan for the next 5-7 years.
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