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The 'Art' of Real-World Customer Events

Marketing tactics may have evolved to focus more on virtual connections with prospects and customers, but there is no replacement for face-to-face relationship building. In-person events give you the opportunity to have the deeper conversations with customers that build trust and understanding. There is no doubt that in-person events require significant time and effort, but the rewards are worth the investment. 

From technical seminars to catered parties, the goal of the event should inspire the venue and shape the content. A Microsoft store is a great place for a sales-oriented technology launch but a customer appreciation event needs a more creative approach.

A Colorful Venue
Creativity itself became the theme for the recent BlueWave Computing customer appreciation event held at an Atlanta art gallery. An IT managed services provider with 130 employees, BlueWave has earned a place on the Inc 5000 list of fastest-growing companies for the past five years.

"We wanted an event that was both informative and fun," said Steve Vicinanza, founder and CEO of BlueWave. "People don't usually think of art and technology together, but the 'Art of IT' theme for the party came from the play on state-of-the-art and art."

Renting out a renovated warehouse turned avant-garde art gallery, the BlueWave team went all-out in planning the invitation-only event. A jazz band, great food and unique location were designed to thank customers for their business and loyalty.

Offering sponsorships to a limited number of vendors, BlueWave was able to offset some of the costs and give customers an opportunity to talk to vendors directly. "The vendors' financial support enabled us to do more than we could alone," Vicinanza noted. "But on top of that, it became not just a BlueWave event but a technology event with Microsoft, Dell and other vendors lending credibility and a bigger presence."

Connecting with Customers
To promote the "Art of IT" event to customers, BlueWave started early and built buzz and excitement over time. Starting with a professionally designed logo to brand the event, they sent a save-the-date announcement followed by formal invitations.

As the event got closer, account reps talked up the event with clients to encourage them to register. The promotion efforts paid off, drawing over 200 people to the gallery event. Well received by customers and vendors alike, "Art of IT" was judged a huge success and is now set to be an annual event.

The results for BlueWave have been twofold. There were immediate service opportunities identified as a result of clients talking to vendors and BlueWave employees about new technologies. And there are the long-term benefits to come from a better understanding of the value that BlueWave can bring to their clients.

"The event gave us the opportunity to go to another level of relationship building," Vicinanza said. "We got to expand our clients' perception of BlueWave. Now they know that we provide a total technology solution and that we care about creating a sense of community among our clients."

Real-World Connections
As Vicinanza noted, "This event was real-world, not virtual. It's an approach that many companies seem to have forgotten or ignore. I think we really touched the people who attended in a way that is impossible with an e-mail or on a Facebook post."

In a marketing world filled with e-mails and social media, spending the time and money to plan and hold a live event may seem unnecessary. But in-person events provide the unique opportunity to build deeper, personal relationships with prospects and customers. What could be better than sharing good food, drink and a little technology with your customers?  

How are you maintaining real-life connections with clients? Add a comment below or send me a note and let's share the knowledge.

Posted by Barb Levisay on October 18, 2012