Group Hug EventsBy CWNP On 02/17/2009 - 18 Comments
Customers and partners wanna FEEL the love. It's no longer enough to give your customers and partners a discount, some cool gear, a handshake, and then send them packin'. They want to know, especially in these uncertain times, that the company with whom they are doing business values them as a customer/partner - and even a friend. Customers and vendors (and this analogy also applies to VARs and vendors) have become something akin to dance partners. For example, a vendor might promise to provide high-quality, leading-edge equipment, good pricing, good support (design, install, configuration, etc.), and even some good old face-to-face training. A customer might, in return, promise to provide long-term commitment to the vendor, product feedback, and even case studies and a reference as needed. It's a two-way street, a relationship, a marriage of sorts. What does this get the vendor? Loyalty.
Is loyalty important? You betcha. In a day when vendor-hopping is rampant and standards-based network devices from various vendors are prevalent and mingled on many network infrastructures (a situation that's expanding), methinks it's crucial for vendors to befriend their customers in innovative ways. The first time I personally saw this (though it's obviously not the first time that it's happened) was at the Ruckus Big Dogs conference. If you missed the blog post, check it out here:
Now, Meru is jumping on the bandwagon - and in a big way. They have invited me to speak at their upcoming February 17-21 Summit. I'll be speaking to their customers and partners on where the industry is headed and 'Wi-Fi as a Utility.' This high-touch approach to relationship building ends up going a long way toward marketing.
After being educated on product roadmaps and the newest technology and interacting with corporate leadership on a daily basis for a few days, customers and partners literally become walking evangelists for a vendor. Meru is a good example of when regular marketing tactics may be less than effective because they are marketing directly against the message of every other vendor in the market. Educating their partners and customers on HOW their technology works often makes believers and supporters out of them straight away. I think this Summit will have that effect.
I think customer and partner loyalty makes a really good goal to strive for, and I'd love to see more vendors doing high-touch marketing like this. Obviously the cost is often prohibitive for those companies with small marketing budgets, especially in today's market. Anyone else have any experience (positive or negative) with marketing events like this? Comments are welcomed.