Wow, what an exciting day!
A little background first - One of our clients has engaged us this year to develop and execute summits where people in their industry get together to discuss issues and opportunities in their respective arenas. We held a summit in Boston in March and one in New York City in May. This has been a very successful initiative that has posted an outstanding ROI. A large majority of the participants have moved through the sales funnel from prospects to leads, and some have closed business within 30 days of the summits.
From our client: "The ROI on this has been huge. Among others, we had one very significant deal close and it can be directly attributed to this summit."
The sales people are turning cartwheels at the opportunity to gather all their prospects, leads and customers in one room to have open, yet structured dialogue relating to the products and services they sell, yet this event is anything but a sales function. Rather, it is a chance for people to become more educated and interact with their peers. There is no sales pitch involved. None.
However, as is the case for most everyone on the planet, budgets are tight. The desire to conduct more of these summits is huge, but the funding for such get-togethers is not. So, on to Plan B.
Today with our client, we held their first "Virtual" summit via WebEx. In all but a few respects, this online summit very closely mirrored our Boston and New York summits. We had a Keynote speaker, a panel discussion and breakout sessions complete with white board functionality. Our client even had a box lunch delivered via FedEx to all of the participants! Of course there are things you do differently with this format, but at the end of the day, we had interactive dialogue, and the post-summit surveys completed by the attendees point out that it was another successful function. We will know more in 30 days as we complete the ROI analysis, but early indicators look good.
So I guess the bottom line is, you can't just say, "We don't have any money, so I guess we can't engage our customers." When the economy hands you lemons, find a way to make lemonade. At the end of the day, your customers need to hear from you and you need to hear from them, no matter what the financial constraints might be.
Oh, as a post script, an unforeseen but very cool thing also happened. During the summit, one of the attendees was Twittering about what a great conference she was attending. So she was pushing out to her audience what a great job our client was doing via this summit. You can't ask for a better customer advocate than one who takes it upon herself to tell your story live as it happens.
Let me know if you want more information about this. It really rocked!