Andrea Gillmar, Project Manager, Rooster Strategic Solutions

It’s official … Farm Progress Show 2021 is live and will be held at the outdoor site in Decatur this September. After more than a year of webinars, Zoom conferences, and online panels, I’m itching to get some face-to-face time with my farmer friends and colleagues.

Your customers likely feel the same way, which makes this a perfect time to host an appreciation event. For starters, it’s good business. Highly engaged customers who attend in-person company events have a better impression of the company and are significantly more likely to purchase from that company. So, as you plan your next customer event, use this checklist to make sure you’re getting the most for your money.

What do you want to accomplish? Or, to ask another way, what do want your customers to know or do when the event is over? Are you celebrating a business milestone or anniversary? Will you highlight or demonstrate your products and services? If so, will it be a recap or a “sneak peek” of things to come? Or do you simply want to say thank you to customers whom you haven’t seen for a while? Nailing this down is an important first step.

Will it be a blowout or an intimate affair? There are good reasons to consider either option. A large event, whether hosted at your office/store or an alternate venue such as a park or meeting space will obviously allow you to interact with more people. For instance, you can invite new prospects as well as current customers. Consider tying the event to a special sale, clinic, demonstration, or training event. An intimate affair is just that – a VIP event for your top customers to remind them how important they are to you. Rather than catering to the masses, this kind of event lets you laser in on your best clients.

Provide something of value. One of our clients has a rule for the speakers they bring in to talk to their customers: The presentation must include at least one tangible idea a customer can put into practice immediately to save time or money. This not only helps the customer, but it also gives you the chance to show off your knowledge in a specific area. Is there a pain point that your customers have? A knowledge gap that you can help close? What questions are your customers routinely asking? Informing or educating your customers at the same time you thank them for your business is a win/win.

Make time to listen. An appreciation event is a perfect opportunity to gain insights on what your customers need and how you might be able to help them in the future. Set up time for a Q+A or set up an old-fashioned suggestion box. You might consider asking a few key customers to help you plan your event, which not only provides additional ideas, but gives your best customers some skin in the game.

Measure the ROI. Putting on a successful customer appreciation event should be successful in terms of future sales, too. For smaller events, you should require RSVP’s. For larger events include a way to ensure you capture the names of attendees. You can measure how sales increased for those who attended versus those who didn’t and track any sales from new customers who came to the event or were referred by someone who attended.

Follow up with a quick thank you. A quick e-mail will suffice, thanking them for their time and reminding them of any calls to action such as a sale or discount, special promotion, etc. You may even want to add an additional savings or deal as a way of saying thank you. If you presented any materials, consider attaching them to the e-mail. And don’t forget about those who couldn’t attend. A quick e-mail letting them know they were missed could pay future dividends.

As the weather warms up and masks come down, customers like me are anxious to get out of the house. A customer appreciation event is a perfect opportunity to reconnect with your base, reminding them how valuable your partnership has been and promoting future collaboration. If you have any questions or need some help putting your ideas into action, I’d love to have a conversation.