Building Better Relations With Your Customers Starts at the End

Today, I want to tell you a personal story of doing new things, taking risks, being innovative and being willing to fail in the quest to create something of value for my business, the people that I know, the small business community and my customers.

View the story “RARE Forum, The Drill Hall, London 3rd Nov 2011” on Storify

We live in changing times. We live in times where the power of the consumer is rising and it is changing everything. We live in times where harnessing the power of relationships with our customers and our employees is becoming more and more key to our future growth and innovation.

Therefore, the onus on business leaders to learn, share ideas and network is rising as we think about how we grow our businesses.

There are many events in existence for businesses but these can be:

  • Either for large or very small businesses;
  • Organised by professional or trade associations and vendors of some sorts;
  • Filled with talks/speakers that talk for around an hour that are ultimately trying to show you how smart they are or are trying to sell you something; and
  • Don’t offer enough time for attendees to network, talk about and debate the issues that are presented.

Therefore, we thought it’d be great to develop and deliver an event for established small businesses, especially those with growing teams, across sectors.

In order to do this and to try and create a truly different event, we first started by describing the customer experience ie. what did we want the potential attendees to feel after they attended our event.

Here’s what we came up with:

Imagine this.

An event where you get to the end of the day and your attendance has solved a number of your most pressing problems, you have heard some great people speak, you have met a number of great contacts and your head is full of ideas for the future of your business. So much so, that when we hold the next one that you’ll want to bring a number of business contacts along it was so good.

Does that sound good?

Why did we do it this way? Well, rather than being lead by the features of our products or services, we started with the end in mind as we believe that is a better way to create something that will have an enduring emotional connection and value with our customers.

With that in mind we developed RARE Forum (www.rareforum.co.uk), an event that is:

  • A place to share ideas, experiences and to discuss and debate the issues of the day;
  • Not focused on selling anything (although there was be a price to attend);
  • Filled with with a number of punchy 20min speaker slots (TED style) centred around a theme;
  • Full of facilitated networking and debate;
  • Where the whole day will be recorded (video) and made available via the website to the attendees for them to watch again at a later date or share with their team and contacts; and
  • Where the output of discussions and answers to Qs posed by speakers will be collated and made available via a digital resource.

All this thinking and development was done earlier this year and I am pleased to say that on the 3rd November at The Drill Hall in Central London we held our first RARE Forum under the theme: ‘Business is Personal’. Talks over the course of the day covered subjects like:

  • Business is personal and why it’s getting more so
  • Unearthing killer customer insights
  • The world is changing fast, how can we keep up and change with it
  • How you can use your customers to help rally your troops?
  • Creating a customer centric business
  • What does being a leader mean in this new world?
  • Generation Y and Z and the future of the talent pool
  • What will our customers want in the future?

The day was a great success and was the first of many, we hope. We are now busy making plans for what happens next.

One of the things that we promised to do was to capture the ‘story of the day’ afterwards so that we could share that with the attendees as an aide-mémoire and as a way of capturing the essence of the day. You can check out the ‘story’ by following the link below. You really should take a look it as it includes all of the slides that the presenters used, pictures from the day, some sketches from our artist in residence and a whole set of tweets from our twitter hashtag: #rareforum. It’s also been done on Storify which means it looks pretty cool even if I do say so myself.

View the story “RARE Forum, The Drill Hall, London 3rd Nov 2011” on Storify

For the team involved and myself personally it was a huge learning experience. Both exciting and scary in equal measure. What it did teach me, however, was that starting with the potential attendees, my customers, and what sort of experience and feeling I wanted to create for them helped give us a better understand of not what to do. But, more importantly, what not to do. Once we understood that we had a great platform to build from.

Another big lesson that I learnt is that if you want to make your business great, if you want to stand out from your competitors then you have to be willing to fail in public. However, done with the right intention and in the right way the actual risk of failure gets much, much smaller.

This post was previously published on SME and is republished here with a Creative Common License.

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Photo credit: istockphoto

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