Driving Repeat Business Part 3: Customer Group Meetings

August 2002 Marketing

Business-to-Business companies are increasing their focus on repeat and referral business. While this may represent a sound strategy, the bird’s eye view often looks different from the ground. In this third installment on driving repeat business, we will explore the tactic of using Customer Executive Meetings and User Group Meetings.

Customer Executive Meetings and User Group Meetings are used by firms selling products/services that affect mission critical functions in their customer’s business. From foundation level ERP systems to more specialized business applications, business software vendors have found Executive Meetings and User Group Meetings useful for a number of reasons. The business value of customer group meetings includes capturing evolving customer requirements, gaining competitive information, and understanding trends within the industry. Concurrently, customer group meetings are a forum for requesting referrals or driving the customer base to an upgraded product platform. With each of these values, customer meetings drive the creation of stronger bonds between the company and its customer base.

Regardless of the hosting company’s purpose of these meetings, the attendees of these meetings are expecting to gain something from their involvement beyond a few days in a luxury hotel and a pow-wow with their friends. Content is the key.

Executive Meetings are for the customer corporate executives. Outside speakers and well-prepared business seminars are part of the content value-offering in Executive Meetings. The topics that will interest this audience will be those of broader industry issues affecting the customer company. The effects of new government regulations, changes in their industry structure, their evolving customer trends, threats of substitute products or services in their industry, or new sources of competitive strength for their company are some sample themes used in Executive Meetings. The presentation of these issues at Executive Meetings reinforces the concept that the hosting company isn’t just a vendor of products and services, but a friend to be trusted as the industry evolves. The hosting company is working to improve its revenues by improving its customer company’s competitive position.

User Group meetings are for the customer end users. These include both the technical and non-technical portions of the customer’s company. User Group meetings for technical individuals include how-to presentations such as how-to install an upgrade, how-to create an interface, or how-to implement customization. These also include case studies presented by the technical users themselves describing their handling of a business requirement. For the non-technical portion of the User Group, presentations include issues of solving business problems, increasing productivity, or simply accomplishing common tasks. Likewise, case studies presented by end-users themselves are of compelling interest.

In many industries, professionals within a particular field are required to participate in a minimum number of hours of instruction to maintain their certificate of good standing. If it is possible, User Group meetings that are certified by the appropriate agency will increase the customer benefits of participation in the meeting. As such, this opportunity, if it exists, can dramatically improve attendance.

These Executive Meetings and User Group Meetings build a stronger relationship between the customer and the hosting firm. These relationships drive revenue through a greater willingness to purchase from you whenever their needs change, or a greater inclination towards referral business.

The May Report, TECH BUSINESS BRIEFS, Aug 13, 2002

About the author

Tim J. Smith, PhD is the Managing Principal of Wiglaf Pricing, and an Adjunct Professor at DePaul University of Marketing and Economics. His most recent book is Pricing Strategy: Setting Price Levels, Managing Price Discounts, & Establishing Price Structures.

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