Current and potential customers bring in money for a company in many ways. They buy products, they buy additional services, upgrades, maintenance and if hey like your service they’ll spread the word and have more money pouring your way.

But what you might overlook is that those people, if they come in high numbers, are also something to be sold. As an audience, they’ll generate a new found stream of revenue. You’ll position yourself as a high authority conference organizer and not spend much in the end. Why? Simply because others will pay to sell something to your audience.

Case Study – The Parallels Summit

Let’s take a real life example: the Parallels yearly summit for existing or soon to be partners and customers. This spring they chose a luxurious hotel, the Omni Shoreham in Washington DC and invited people from all over the world to attend. They had a small exhibiting hall (way tight if you asked me) where spots came at a price, two industry media sponsors of which I could only see one throughout the conference, the WHIR. And they had so high priced sponsorship packages that companies like Microsoft or Intel paid for.

They were bringing in a couple hundreds of people at least, so they got to negotiate a decent price with the hotel. In the end, what the guests got was impressive: great room, a hotel with a lovely view, a cruise on the Potomac river, a sunset cruise to be precise, a baseball game in VIP suites, Washington Nationals vs. Philadelphia Phillies, and many little things such as pens.

Intel sponsored the game, Microsoft the cruise and I am pretty sure exhibiting prices and other sponsorships covered the lunches and breakfasts. I don’t imagine they paid nothing, but imagine how much they got thrown in for free. If you want a taste of how it all felt, take a look at the photos I posted. If you’re not American and wonder why baseball would ever interest you, read this entry to see how addictive it is.

This is a high class example and I’d say it mostly works in business to business lines of activity. Although end user oriented products get a lot more customers, those customers are not really going to pay for a three day trip to attend conferences and decide on buying loads of expensive products as well.

How Can You Better Market Your Customers

You have to realize that an audience of over 50 people is something big. If you already have the good habit of meeting your customers on rare, mostly yearly occasions, why not reduce or even wipe out your costs? If they are decision makers or interested in related offerings, use that ace down your sleeve to get partners and other indirectly related companies to chip in for the organization costs.

If you think you’re good enough, you can do what Parallels did, have Microsoft (the same company thinking of providing its own virtualization solution) as your platinum sponsor! You might say that was a mistake, but if people use your product alongside something provided by a future competitor, close the deal, get more customers now, and worry about competition later. If your solution does a good job, no one would even dream of going through the switching hassle!

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