Herndon, Va.-based software company Deltek late last year implemented a customer evaluation strategy to increase the return on investment of its annual user conference.
Deltek reassessed its annual Insight event for users of its enterprise management software after implementing third-party meetings management firm Maritz Travel's Meetings Effectiveness approach, which surveys meeting stakeholders and attendees to ascertain goals and determine the type of event that would provide the best return on investment (Meetings Today, Aug. 13, 2007).
"We were looking to figure out how we could continually make our events more effective and more appealing to our audience," said Deltek chief marketing officer Bill Clark.
Deltek started working with Maritz in August and within one month developed a 20-minute survey to send to its customers, "working very closely with the Maritz team to figure out the right questions to ask," said Caroline Proctor, vice president of corporate marketing. Survey questions covered customer preferences for the conference, including speakers, breakout session topics and time devoted to networking.
"It was very helpful to us to understand precisely what the customers like and what they don't," Clark said. "It's always helpful when you have real data as opposed to comments."
The survey results led to changes in this year's program, to be held in May, including more advanced topics for breakout sessions.
"We found out that those who tend to come to our conference have between three and 10 years of experience with our products, and tend to rate themselves as intermediate or advanced users," Proctor said. "We looked at that and said, 'We need to offer a lot more intermediate and advanced sessions versus entry-level.' "
She added that while many conference planners thought that attendees overwhelmingly would be new customers, "we find it's the customers who have been with us a few years who come in greater numbers, so we've changed the mix of sessions."
Deltek also discovered that customers wanted to receive information via e-mail. Previously, the company had sent direct mail. "We've changed our promotional strategy for the event to be much more focused on e-mail, the Web site and online techniques, and we're taking the dollars we would have spent on direct mail and investing them in other parts of the event," Proctor said.
Clark said the redirection of promotional efforts was a key change. "There was a general feeling that we had to produce a hard-copy brochure for the event and mail it to all 60,000 contacts. The production costs and the mailing were significant. We found as a result of the survey was that the customers didn't value that terribly highly," he said. Customers also indicated that they wanted to meet with Deltek product specialists at the conference, so Deltek invested in a "meet the experts" area where customers can do so.
The changes in the program will not reduce the budget of the conference; rather, the money will be reallocated to deliver a higher return on investment. "We're getting a higher value out of the dollars we invest because the return to the customer is higher," Clark said.
The survey, sent in October to the more than 60,000 customers in Deltek's database, had a response rate of approximately 2.2 percent. The responses were divided between customers who had attended the conference previously and those who had never been.
"It really helps us to figure out how to attract the people who weren't alumni, and how to keep the alumni happy so they keep coming back. We want to find out how to get more of them to come to the event," according to Proctor. "We're going to be able to promote the features of this event in a much more targeted and productive way to our audience."
Maritz also worked with the executive team to develop questions to determine how customers felt about Deltek, and whether they were familiar with all products offerings or only the ones they use. Proctor plans a post-conference survey "to see how we're moving things we're measuring in our dashboard."