January 13, 2022

Event Strategies

Run Events That Delight and Retain Customers


Corrine Stratton

Customer events can be used to activate, reengage, and expand your customer base. Learn why they’re a can’t-miss marketing channel.


Congratulations! Your prospect made their way through the buyer’s journey and is now a signed customer. Your marketing efforts and hard work got them across the finish line — but you’re not done yet. 

A survey of small businesses found that more than 50% of annual revenues were generated from repeat customers. They also found repeat customers spend 67% more than new ones. 

Now is the time to nurture your customer base by planning experiences that build customer loyalty and create unwavering brand advocates. (Cue amazing customer appreciation events that delight, retain, and expand your customer base.)

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So, how do you build an effective customer event marketing program that keeps your customers coming back for more? We chatted with five transformational marketers who understand the power of event marketing in deepening customer love and producing event ROI and continuous revenue opportunities for their business. Check out why they embrace producing events for customers and how they help their customers continue to shine.

Great Customer Events Lead to Account Expansion

“Even though you've earned a piece of business, you need to continually make those investments and experiences for more and more people across various buying committees or verticals to get them introduced to your brand for the very first time.” - Nina Butler, Sr. Director of Revenue Marketing, Alyce

Nina recognizes that Alyce’s customers are their greatest advocates. If they want to expand their accounts, they need to capitalize on the positivity.

“A great way to get new people introduced to your brand is by riding the coattails of people who already know you, love you, and want to refer you.”

Check out how Nina and the team at Alyce use events for customers to help their target audience and customers meet, experience, and learn about their brand. 

Your Customers Are Human Too

“Events are human led, so you get that human touch that a lot of customers are really lacking at the moment.” - Andrea Attard, Senior Team Manager, Marketing, Hubspot

The last year and a half was challenging for all of us. Marketers and event attendees alike are looking to create connections in an increasingly virtual world. EventMB found that 36% of planners consider engagement to be the biggest challenge when pivoting to virtual. Andrea knows Hubspot’s customers are no different. They crave interaction with their peers and opportunities for active engagement. 

After Inbound 2021, Andrea and her team ran post-Inbound customer roundtables where customers asked specific questions and learned about the latest product announcements. Andrea shared what made the roundtables so successful:

“We organized these events that were really specific for customers with the product manager, some of the product marketing managers, and the GMs of those products. Customers could join a table with subject matter experts of this brand-new product and listen to a deeper dive into what this product means to them as customers. We set up different scenarios and different solutions – if you're a customer that has this product, this is how you could use this new product.

It was very interactive and a two-way conversation where customers had questions answered live by experts and it was a really great event for customers to take these new announcements and apply them to themselves.”

Andrea and her team make sure their customer events feel like more than just another virtual time-suck. They constantly seek to add a human element to everything they do. By making the event easily accessible, incorporating live chat, giving away swag, and actively speaking with their attendees, Hubspot’s customer events engender powerful two-way conversations. They create an environment where attendees are heard and feel valued.

Customers are the real VIPs

“You can host a customer appreciation event that is just that: a fun event where your goal is for your customers to have an enjoyable experience. Let them know you appreciate them.” - Kiana Ghassemi, Senior Manager, Experience Marketing, Postal.io

The goal of an event doesn’t always have to revolve around deal acceleration or revenue generation. Sometimes it can be as simple as delighting your customers and making sure they feel valued. 

Events that focus on building relationships with attendees and hearing directly from product users show your customers that you care about more than just the bottom line; you want to make your attendees great at what they do. By hosting customer appreciation events built around fun activities, sharing exclusive product news, and soliciting direct feedback from users, your customers will walk away feeling like the VIPs they are. 

And just because your event’s goal isn’t aimed at customer upsell doesn’t mean it won’t happen. Hear how Kiana and the Postal.io team generated an upsell opportunity after a recent customer appreciation event.

Set Your Customers Up for Greatness

“Events can be used in many different parts of the customer lifecycle, and I like to think of it similar to any other channel that you'd use such as email or different contact points. My personal favorite is using events as early as you can as a way to onboard customers, educate them, make them feel supported when they are first getting started with the product or service.” - Alessandra Colaci, VP of Marketing, Mailshake

Events are a powerful marketing channel you can activate when and where you need them. Alessandra and the team at Mailshake host weekly webinars to onboard and educate their newly acquired customers. These events give their customers a chance to ask questions and feel confident about using Mailshake right from the start. Alessandra noticed the additional benefit of community building: “They're joining and able to get started at the same time as others and learn alongside them.”

Alessandra also discovered that Mailshake’s top-of-funnel webinars provide value to their current customer base. The team sent their acquisition webinars to their customers and found customers were not only registering, but also engaging with their post-event content. They were eager to learn more about Mailshake and hear how others implement the product.

Hear more about how Mailshake’s event marketing strategy and how acquisition webinars had the added benefit of customer reactivation and engagement.

Give Customers More Than They Asked for

“Events can be used to retain existing customers by providing value in excess of what they expect. If they're expecting five deliverables over the course of a month, if you provide an additional webinar or interview for your clients only, that gives you the opportunity to share additional insights that might help you help them.” - Whit Norrad, Director of Client Marketing Strategy, FlexDealer 

Delighting customers means going above and beyond what they might normally expect. Marketers have a lot of great tools at their fingertips, and customer appreciation events are an effective way to provide even more unexpected value. The FlexDealer team understands an additional event curated for their customers can provide valuable information their customers don’t even know they need.

Learn how Whit and the team at FlexDealer use monthly virtual office hours to empower their customers with expert advice.

Five Must-Haves for a Successful Customer Event

A great customer event that delights and retains users does not follow a “one size fits all” formula. Marketers can explore a variety of event formats, presentation styles, and fun event activities. 

But, according to our marketing experts, there are a few can’t-miss elements of every customer event checklist. 

1. Establish a Post-Event Plan Way Before Your Event

Whether you're producing a conferences for customers or smaller, more personal gatherings, an event can impact your customer journey long after it’s over. A solid event follow-up plan and next steps will help you capitalize on the energy from your event and continue to generate event ROI.

“Whether it's the distribution of content post-event or the follow-up from a seller or even just a survey to understand things they liked and things they'd like to see better next time. Make sure that you have all of that ironed out beforehand, and don't let the momentum of your event fall down.” - Nina Butler, Sr. Director of Revenue Marketing, Alyce

“All of our events when it comes to customer retention are part of an overall retention or life cycle strategy. They're not just this one-and-done event at one point in time. They’re like a chapter within this entire customer retention and loyalty book. Follow-up so customers continue their journey after the event is an absolute must-have for us.” - Andrea Attard, Senior Team Manager, Marketing, Hubspot

2. Define Your Ideal Event Target Audience 

Understanding your target audience and where they are in your customer journey impacts the type of event you host and the desired outcomes. If your brand is like Intuit, increased customer engagement might come from creating 400+ audiences with personalized messaging across their audience segments. 

You might not need to create 400 audiences, but a handful of defined audience segments will enable you to align your goals, content, and follow-up plan to make sure you run an effective event.

“A clear understanding of your audience will affect decisions, ranging from what day and time you host your event to what sort of swag and collateral you send out.”- Kiana Ghassemi, Senior Manager, Experience Marketing, Postal.io

3. Make Sure Attendees Are Not Just “Passive Listeners”

Your customers are pulled in many directions, so if they attend your event, keep them engaged from the moment they log on through your final event follow-up. Event engagement isn’t just Q&A (although that’s important too). It can be live chat, the ability to bring your audience on stage, giving out swag live, and creating two-way conversation channels between your audience and presenters.

“Chat isn't enough. What I mean by ‘live chat’ is the presenter must be able to see the live chat and be able to call our customers’ names, answer live, and be able to engage with the chat. That's really important for us, and it's really important for customers to be seen and to be heard, and events are the absolute mechanism to do that.” - Andrea Attard, Senior Team Manager, Marketing, Hubspot

“We focus on activating people as soon as they get into the event. If they are joining a webinar we may be hosting, we ask them questions and we try to get them active in chat. That engagement component to get them really feeling like they are part of it, not just a passive listener, is super important.” - Alessandra Colaci, VP of Marketing, Mailshake

4. Event Accessibility Is Essential 

Your audience likely consumes content in a variety of ways depending on their learning styles and what works best for them. Running accessible and inclusive events showcases to your customers that you value them. It also continues to establish accessible events as the industry standard.

“We absolutely have to have things like closed captioning and in every language if possible. We have a lot of global customers and English isn't their first language, so accessibility and making sure that all types of customers with their learning styles can access the event is really, really important to us.” - Andrea Attard, Senior Team Manager, Marketing, Hubspot

5. Bring the Excitement! 

As someone who’s attended both live and virtual events, you know attendees feed off the energy of the hosts and presenters. No one wants to sit through another boring webinar or event, so it’s up to you to bring the excitement and provide an enjoyable experience your customers will remember.

“Everybody has to be excited, or you can't get your customers and prospects to be excited about what we're talking about. If we want to retain them, we want them to be excited to work with us. We don't want them to say, ‘Oh, here's another webinar. Maybe I will attend.’ We want them to say, ‘Oh, yeah. I learned a lot on the last call that we had.’ Or, ‘I was able to pull out these different pieces of wisdom and implement that in my daily activities.’” - Whit Norrad, Director of Client Marketing Strategy, FlexDealer

“Your customers are real people. At this point, you've established some sort of relationship with them. Be authentic with your event and be clear with your goals and purposes, and don't forget to have fun.” - Kiana Ghassemi, Senior Manager, Experience Marketing, Postal.io

Remember, events for customers are more than a top-of-funnel activity. Marketers (like the amazing experts above) can use them effectively throughout the customer journey. When done well, and with your customer top of mind, events have the power to retain, delight, and expand your customer base.

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