Five Strategies to Evolve Loyal Clients Into Influential Fans

March 10, 2020

Elyse Stoner

Elyse Stoner founded Fresh Perspective Consulting to help people increase their events’ ROM (Return on the Moment) through strategic event marketing initiatives. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram at @WeCoachFresh.

What’s your game? Whether it’s business or sports, everyone is trying to attract and engage fans – those die-hard, paint-your-face, play-the-fight-song-at-your-wedding kind of fans. Your business probably doesn’t have a fight song, but don’t you want die-hard stakeholders who would sing it at the top of their lungs if you did? Just like in sports, successful businesses are continuously cultivating their fan base: clients, employees, strategic partners and other high value stakeholders often through events.

I’ve spent decades shepherding people through the fan sales cycle from creating interest, cultivating them to a single game ticket sale to becoming a season ticket holder. Does that resemble your organization’s sales funnel? Our clients all start in the same place and it’s our job as strategic event planners to ensure that we understand the vital role our projects play in turning newbies into customer and customers into die-hard fans.

Deloitte, a global business consulting firm, shared five tips to increase fan engagement based on a survey of more than 4,000 adult U.S. professional sports fans whose interests span the five major US leagues (MLB, NFL, NBA, NHL and MLS). They identified five tenets that sports organizations should consider as they examine their approach to fan engagement. Here’s how I see them relating to your role in strategic client engagement:

1. Know your target audience

A pretty basic tenet that should drive everything we do. When designing events be sure to know your target audience. Be clear and specific regarding who your target is and why you want a relationship with them. We all know that, stereotypically-speaking, Millennial clients want more experiential events than Boomers. Recognizing your target audience’s personality allows you to produce an event that truly increases attendee loyalty.

2. Make it personal

When you create an event that tries to speak to everyone, it very often speaks to no one. Make sure your messaging has the loyal fan front and center, answering their questions (even the ones they don’t know they have), addressing their concerns and using their communication methods to “speak” with them throughout the entire event process. Which leads to tenet three…

3. Think holistically about experience

We as event professionals pride ourselves in this area. I challenge you to think holistically about the event, the “moment” you are creating. Work with your teammates to ensure that all parts of the event experience speak to your audience by using segment-appropriate technology for event registration, invitation language that resonates with the target, and follow-up communications that move the attendee to a desired outcome. These are just some of the items that contribute to a holistically positive experience.

4. Engage year ‘round

Every sport has a competition season, so think about your business’ competition season. Be a good teammate and collaborate with your internal stakeholders to create and execute a powerful event at the most beneficial time of the season. Rely on your teammates who know your clients’ budget cycle, decision-making process and influence window to determine this timing so your event can have the highest ROM (Return on the Moment).

Also consider ways to extend the event power into the “off-season.” In sports, we talk about how gains are made in the off-season through mental and physical training as well as nutrition. Use this opportunity to collaborate with your internal partners on ways to reiterate the powerful messages planted at your event. Just like you would with an athlete, provide your clients with “healthy food” — in this case, food that will strengthen their case for working with your team, information they can share with others to position them as experts. Limit their “junk food,” i.e., creating events that don’t help them grow or reiterating extraneous event content simply to flex your cool muscles – unless that’s part of your target market strategy, of course.

According to a statistic in the Deloitte report, season ticket holders (engaged fans) spend five times more annually than non-season ticket holders and spend two times more annually if they participate in off-season events vs. season ticket holders who do not. Are you providing the nutrition to get your equivalent of season ticket holders — loyal repeat attendees — motivated to reach these goals?

5. Recognize loyalty

Many of our businesses already use events as an important part of their loyalty program through valued customer dinners, ambassador education sessions or unique influencer experiences. I challenge you to work with your teammates to dive deeper into this space. Are you recognizing subsets of high-value clients at the recognition events? Can you create a special Instagram filter available only to your highest engaging influencers? Are you using your social media to recognize their efforts to your follower base? Deloitte’s fan survey found that while fewer than 10 percent of fans of each of the five major leagues participate in any type of sports loyalty program, two-thirds would be open to participating if the incentives were right. Keep this in mind as you design your events.

What role do you play in your organization’s strategy to accelerate clients’ allegiance, getting them committed faster and deeper to result in high value relationships? How can you use these five tips to become an All-Star?


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