How Recurring Relationships and Events Can Lead to Recurring Growth

Sumyukthaa S
• January 5, 2023

(6 min read)

Businesses that stand the test of time—especially times like these, riddled with unpredictable highs and lows—don’t get there simply by cultivating steady sources of leads, pipeline, and revenue. Those are simply the benefits of great customer loyalty and affinity.

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Getting referrals, selling additional licenses, or promoting new use cases to already-loyal consumers is an easy way to impact revenue—these channels are equally as important as acquisition. Combining customer affinity with a strong, continuous event calendar has the potential to build the kind of community that makes growth inevitable. And seeking the right balance of Discover, Engage, and Grow events is one of the pillars of Event-led Growth.

What is the Grow stage?

While the Discover and Engage stages of events are all about making yourself known and teaching prospects and customers that you’re a partner in their work, this phase of Event-led Growth is all about the difference between brand awareness and affinity, which can feel like a fine line.

How do you know when your Engage audience has crossed that line? Katie Brunette, Sr. Director of Global Events and Campaigns at Seismic, has a definition:

I think it’s when they organically post about your product on social media. It's when they're choosing to come to product launches and community events and when customers start answering the questions of other customers. It's when customers are asking to speak at events. It's when they join an advocacy program and raise their hands to say that they’ll be a reference for you. It's the moment when they become engaged with the brand outside of just using the product.

So much competition and noise exist today, so what can truly help you stay secure and future-proof your business is your loyal community. That’s your biggest moat right there. Nurturing a community means asking yourself, what can we do for them? That’s why the Grow stage is all about connecting your customers with more opportunities to learn, network, and boost themselves.

Understanding the Grow audience

The Grow audience has gone the distance with your company. They know your product inside and out, have attended all kinds of events, and are happy to sing your praises to their friends. 

These audience members have a strong customer-product fit, they are long-time evangelists, and they’re loud about their love of your product and organization. You might even see them wearing your swag. In order to keep this mutual admiration society going, it’s important to provide just as much value to your Grow audience as they provide for you. This is where events come in.

Katie Wengenroth is the Director of Field Marketing and Events for the sales execution platform Outreach. She knows that leading with exceptional, in-demand experiences is the key to this audience’s heart.

Going to a current customer and asking them to talk to references without giving them anything in return seems like a one-sided relationship. You should be providing opportunities to connect with peers and helping them with their careers.

The mindset of this audience is going to be key when determining event type and experiences, so take it from an expert: “This group is likely coming to our events to connect with like-minded attendees, so that guest list is important,” says Katie. “They’re already fans of ours who know our capabilities, which means they probably trust us and the community we’d bring together. Meet that trust with execution.” 

Finally, it’s integral to look at this audience like you would any VIP. Because of all they’ve done or have the capacity to do for you, they’ve earned the chance to gain more access to you and your resources. “In my mind, they’ve earned the right to give feedback and really be heard,” says Katie. “They’ve even earned some insight into the future of the product.” This audience loves exclusivity and the chance to share their wisdom, so give them that access.

Knowing what outcomes to measure

Understanding the key outcomes for the Grow stage can help determine the right experiences for this audience. Expansions, Referrals, and NPS are some of the outcomes you might see associated with a Grow stage event. 

In other words, the more you’re able to wow your customers with a continuous cycle of memorable experiences, the more likely they are to refer you to new leads, advocate for you, and remain loyal customers who renew and expand their contracts with you year over year.

Packaging matters: Deliver the right experience

When choosing an event type for this group, so much is about the feeling you create. The Grow audience should leave your event feeling special, connected, and like they’re leaving with new opportunities or information. Consider event types that facilitate that kind of atmosphere like community meetups, user conferences, pilot programs, and user groups.

“Customers can be your best reference and your best referral, make sure you’re keeping them happy and engaged and showing them what the company can do for them outside of the core product,” says Katie. 

Agenda items might include the opportunity to hear from other customers, discuss the product roadmap, feedback sessions, and some kind of wine and dine or gifting, either in person or virtually. Every step should be carefully curated to provide maximum value for your MVPs.

Building and engaging a community through events

Building a community comes with an inherent promise: that you have plenty to offer without yet asking for anything in return. If you want to adopt a growth mindset when it comes to building your event strategy, start by wondering what you can do for your community and how to bring that offering to life. Next, start building that community with intention. 

Zoë Hartsfield is the Demand Generation Manager for digital learning and enablement platform Spekit, and she knows the Grow stage is all about deep, meaningful relationships that get better with time. Therefore, they are full of expansion opportunities. “Customers can be your best reference, so I think making sure that you’re keeping them happy and engaged and showing what the company can do for them outside of the core product is so important,” she says.

Having a continuous event strategy that targets this audience is a great way to measure your success because communication is a two-way street. What’s working, what’s not, what could make things better—it’s always great to get this info directly from your customer. Getting it from your top customers is even better. “I think it all comes down to relationships,” says Zoë. “People buy from people they trust.”

Sales and customer service have become a lot more consultative these days. It’s less about selling a product and more about dissecting a customer’s business problems and initiatives for the next quarter and finding a solution that fits. When it comes to a Grow audience, you can even push the bounds and find a fit that’s outside your company—because it’s all about trust. In that way, the Grow stage trickles into the creation of fans and evangelists who become referrals or resources for any number of teams moving forward.

Who’s doing these events?

If you’re on the lookout for great Grow-stage events, Airmeet’s own Power Hour is a great example. Power Hour is Airmeet’s monthly crossover event that’s part customer workshop and part meetup. The monthly cadence gives the Airmeet team to explore the depth and breath of use cases, product roadmap, best practices, and success stories. Another upside to running it monthly is the opportunity to build engagement loops within the community. There’s no better sign that you’re on the right track to building strong customer affinity than repeat attendees who show up to your events regularly.

These events are a chance for power users and brand evangelists to get firsthand access to new marquee features, live customer success stories, the opportunity to network with industry peers, and the ability to collaborate with Airmeet’s product team. These events are more than just about learning best practices; they’re a pathway to a more intimate relationship with a brand.

A well-balanced event calendar

With Grow being the last stage of events in a cycle, it’s reasonable to ask how to strike a balance between so many event types and audiences.

A well-balanced event calendar is one that matches your business objectives. Growth comes from different avenues—generating new prospects and moving them along, or nurturing your leads with the hopes of building a community of evangelists. You identify your levers and let that dictate your event strategy.

When planning your event calendar, consider the following:

  • Your revenue plan: How much growth are you expecting from the acquisition of new accounts, how much acquisition do you need from existing customers through upsell and cross-sell, and what is your retention target for those customers?

  • Your product roadmap: How many launches are you planning? Do you have one or two big launches or do you have recurring, smaller launches?

  • Your ICP and markets: Where does the revenue come from—regions and buyer persona? Are you looking to expand into new regions, markets, or verticals? Who are you targeting?
  • Based on your answers, you can begin slotting in events across your entire year’s calendar to help you meet your goals. True balance isn’t about an equal proportion of the three types of events but about meeting your business goals. Depending on which, your event calendar might be weighted more in one direction. If you’re focused on improving retention, more Engage and Grow events will fill the calendar. If new acquisition and brand awareness in a specific region are your focus points, Discover events take the place. No matter what, there is an event type that will drive impact for your business.

    Once you’ve determined where events can help you reach your goals, you can drill down into your event calendar with event themes, topics, and relevant hosts. Ultimately, ELG is simply a core go-to-market strategy that works across the customer journey—A strategic initiative across the entire company.

    The only cues you’ll need to set up the best event strategy for your show business!

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