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by Anne Fleshman, Director of Marketing, Demand Generation, Autopilot
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How to Run a Successful Customer Workshop

Our team recently hosted a workshop with Instapage – a marketing app for building high converting landing pages – that spiked product usage and won new customers. Partnering with a like-minded company helped us improve our reach, expand our content to other areas of expertise, and bring together users of both products. It was a win-win for everyone, and it paid for itself.

While planning customer journey workshops can feel like putting together a 1,000-piece puzzle, you can do it with a limited budget and a focused game plan. In this post, I’ll share the steps we took to plan our 50-person workshop, including a bonus journey guide that makes event follow up a piece of cake.

Step 1. Rally around a theme

Choosing a theme guides every important piece of your customer workshop – content, speakers, promotion, and attendee takeaways. For example, we ran with “The Growth Marketer’s Guide to Hacking the Customer Journey,” narrowing our audience to growth marketers and our content to hacks.

To nail down a unifying theme for your workshop, schedule a kickoff meeting with key stakeholders and answer the following questions:

  • Which subjects are our audiences dying to learn about?
  • Who is the right speaker for the job?
  • How are we going to get butts in seats?

You can also cover logistics in the meeting:

  • What kind of budget are we working with?
  • What dates work best for our audience and us?
  • Where are we going to host this thing? What do we need to rent?
  • How long will the workshop be?

Once you’ve answered these questions, assign an owner to each task with due dates leading up to the workshop.

Step 2. Promote with a partner across many channels

Here’s the critical part of workshop planning: making sure your target audience knows about it and actually shows up. Your runway of promotion time depends on the size of your workshop, but I’d say you need two weeks at the absolute minimum.

Every workshop promotion has three big steps:

1. Create a workshop landing page
2. Invite people to register
3. Nurture registrants to show up

Creating a customer workshop landing page

Your first promotion step is to create a customer workshop landing page. This landing page is where your promotion efforts point to; it summarizes the who, what, where, why, and it’s where attendees register for the workshop.

Eventbrite and nvite are two excellent options for putting together free, professional event landing pages. Here’s the landing page we created.

Pro Tip: Automatically add new workshop registrants to a list in your marketing automation software with a Zap. This frees you from the tedious task of downloading and uploading lists to and from different systems and allows you to easily automate event-related content leading up the big day or suppress those who have already RSVP’d from invitations in real-time.

Zap registrants to Autopilot

Inviting people to register

Collaborate with your partner company to invite the audience you’re targeting (ex. growth marketers) on the channels they engage on the most.

For our workshop, we used:

  • Email: Experiment with sending a combination of HTML and text-based invitations to macro and micro geographies. Our A/B tests resulted in a whopping 174% higher clickthrough rate in the email on the left (text-based)!

Text-based email wins

  • Social media: Schedule a series of social media posts leading up to your workshop with different messaging and call-to-actions. It’s a good idea to create a hashtag specific to the event to encourage social sharing. #protip
  • Sponsored advertising: We spent about $150 in Facebook ads to promote our workshop to a new audience, targeting a customer lookalike audience based on location and interests. Sure, there are plenty of other paid channels we could have tried including Twitter advertising, Google display ads, or LinkedIn sponsored updates, but we’ve found these channels are more costly and do not work as well for our audience. My advice? Experiment and do what works best for you.
  • Niche groups and communities: If a topic exists, chances are there’s a group of passionate people talking about it somewhere online. Take advantage of the opportunity to share your workshop with relevant communities and thousands of active people in your industry that could potentially be interested in your workshop. Some ideas are LinkedIn groups, Facebook groups, Reddit, and open Slack communities.
  • Website: Make it easy for website visitors to know about your workshop. If you have a resources or upcoming events section on your website, put it there. If you blog regularly, sprinkle a call-to-action within your posts or on your sidebar. If you have space on your homepage for temporary call-outs, draw attention to your workshop there. If you want to personalize your invite to specific web visitors or users in your app, nudge them with a friendly Headsup about the workshop.
  • Eventbrite: One reason to go to Eventbrite for your registration page over other landing page services is for their free promotional tools. When you set your event as a Public page, it will be indexed by major search engines, made available via their distribution partners, and listed in their search directory, ultimately making it easier for event seekers to learn about your workshop!

In the end, ⅓ of our total registrations came from Eventbrite promotional tools, ⅓ from Autopilot’s other promotional efforts, and ⅓ from our co-host and partner, Instapage.

Nurturing registrants to show up

This part can be a challenge for one simple reason: people don’t value free events as much as they do paid events. As a general rule of thumb, you can expect about a 40% attendance rate for your free workshop. While the event we hosted was free, consider charging a small fee to boost expected attendance rates to 69%.

Once someone has registered for your workshop, remind them about it and build anticipation. Automate a confirmation email upon registration and another 48 hours in advance with a checklist of key information: date, time, location, agenda, things to bring. Create anticipation leading up to the workshop by sending relevant content, including teasers or incentivizing the fun stuff: Are there any contests you’ll be conducting? Prizes that you’ll be giving away? Swag? Surprise speakers? Free food?

Step 3. Prepare content that keeps people engaged

The way you go about this step will vary from workshop to workshop and depends on the level of involvement from your speakers. Here are my tips:

  • Repurpose: If possible, pull from your existing content and give it a fresh spin for the workshop. This will be much easier than starting from scratch and will give your speakers more time for practicing instead of creating.   
  • Focus: Pick a handful of key takeaways for your audience. If you try to pack in too many ideas, your attendees will leave feeling like the content was rushed and confused about what they learned.
  • Make it interactive: Nothing is worse than going to a workshop and feeling like it’s a one-way conversation. Plan an open and interactive session that encourages audience participation.
  • Give yourself buffer time: Things will happen at your event that you did not plan for, so build flexibility into your agenda with plenty of free time for socializing and breaks.

Step 4. Run your workshop

Have a “week before event checklist” and dress rehearsal to run through, making sure you’ve addressed last minute details like:

  • Will there be demo stations? Who’s staffing them?
  • How will we distribute swag?
  • Who’s keeping time for the speakers?
  • Have we done an A/V test?
  • Is there anything that still needs to be ordered?
  • What’s the dress code for staff?

Once you’ve made it to the big day, make your attendees feel welcome and create a comfortable atmosphere. Have a few people on staff to check people in and guide them in the right direction. You’ll inevitably be asked questions like, “Where’s the bathroom?” or “What’s the wifi password?”

Document the workshop by taking plenty of pictures and live tweeting throughout using your event hashtag. If possible, live stream and record the customer journey presentations. You’ll thank yourself later.

Step 5. Keep the momentum going

Now’s not the time to disappear! The follow up is arguably the most important step of planning any event. The kicker to boosting your ROI is giving your attendees something special after your workshop. This could be a discount or something free like a consultation, swag, shipping, content, one month of your product…

The idea of offering this sort of incentive, as Patrick Moran CMO of New Relic describes is “to get people over the hump of ‘hey, neat idea – maybe I’ll try it someday’, and move ‘em to ‘Rockin’, now’s the time!’”

In our case, we required attendees to click through to a landing page in order to redeem the special offer so that we could send the promo code to them privately. This is what it looked like:

Promo code landing page

And here’s the automated journey we used to follow up:

Automated event follow up journey

In the end…this journey worked! We scored a handful of new customers quickly after sending our follow up emails. With the total amount spent to host our 50-person workshop less than $2,500 (the majority of it went to our open bar…), these deals alone made it a positive return on investment.  

The best part? You can snag this journey for yourself in our Guidebook by logging into Autopilot.

There you have it! I hope this post is helpful in setting you up for success for hosting your own workshop. If you’re interested, check out Autopilot’s upcoming marketing events.

Have you hosted a customer workshop before? I’d love to hear your tips, what you did differently and how it went for you in the comments.

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Author Anne Fleshman, Director of Marketing, Demand Generation, Autopilot

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