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August 05 2013

Why You Don’t Want Satisfied Attendees

By David McMillin, Staff Writer



Every meeting planner wants attendees to leave the closing session feeling good about the time and money they’ve invested to participate in the past few days of education and networking. However, there’s one word that meeting planners may want to consider removing from session evaluations and post-meeting surveys: satisfied.

“One of the biggest mistakes that companies make is that a satisfied customer is a great customer to have, but that’s wrong,” Lara McCulloch-Carter, founder of consulting agency READY2SPARK and founder of the well-known online event community #eventprofs, told participants at last week’s Exhibit & Event Marketers Association Red Diamond Congress held in Chicago. “That simply means that you’ve met their expectations.”

“It does not necessarily mean that they’ll ever choose to do business with you again.”

Climbing Above Satisfaction

McCulloch-Carter shared a pyramid that outlines how to go beyond meeting the expectations of attendees, members and customers to turn them into your evangelists. To climb one level above satisfaction, planners must deliver a program that meets attendees’ emotional needs and helps them overcome fears or frustrations. When an organization can connect with customers or members on an emotional level, McCulloch-Carter says they can inspire a true sense of loyalty with attendees who will come back year after year.

SEE ALSO: 3 Questions Meeting Planners Need to Answer Now

Reaching the Top

However, even loyalty isn’t enough. McCulloch-Carter says that planners should be striving to turn attendees into true evangelists who will spread the word to their friends about why a meeting is a can’t-miss experience. In today’s social media driven world, everyone relies on recommendations from friends and colleagues.

Ultimately, turning attendees into evangelists relies on an organization’s ability to deliver programming and opportunities that attendees did not even recognize they were missing.

“You have to know your customers so well that you can anticipate their needs and you can predict their unarticulated wants,” McCulloch-Carter said.

Perhaps the most in-your-face example of a company that’s mastered this art is Apple. The company consistently focuses on creating new products that customers didn’t have before and yet can’t live without once they become part of their daily lives. It’s that focus that has led to customers proudly displaying the Apple logo and telling their friends why their MacBooks, iPhones, iPads and Apple TVs have revolutionized their lives. For meeting planners, that word of mouth success is essential to appealing to new audiences and increasing registration numbers.

“It’s not longer about how you tell your story,” McCulloch-Carter said. “It’s how others will tell it for you.”

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