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Will you marry M&E? Building a ‘forever’ relationship with your customers

October 20, 2022


By Gill Day
Snr. Director Global Sales & Marketing, CWT Meetings & Events

Gill Day, Snr. Director Global Sales & Marketing, CWT Meetings & Events on the engagement economy and how to invest in a relationship to make it last for the long-haul.  

OK, I’m being a bit forward. How about we just get engaged, forever? 

Why? I went to a real-live event the other week, and I fell in love, with everything. The lights, the creativity, the venue, the food, the buzz, the speakers, the inspiring agenda, the entertainment, the making new connections and connecting with the old. On reflection, it really was the connections that made it stand out. And after all, isn’t that what events are all about? Connecting and engaging?

The event was Cvent Connect Europe, one of the world's largest event technology conferences bringing together meetings, events and hospitality professionals to evolve and inspire their meetings and event programs, and put cutting-edge strategies into practice. It was a well put together, well planned event that enabled attendees to join in person or online (yes I’m avoiding the ‘H’ word on purpose. And no, it’s not ‘honeymoon’).  

Hot topics on the agenda and a few takeaways include  

  • Sustainability – Spoiler alert. We’re not there yet across the M&E industry.
  • Digitisation – We’re catching up to the rest of the world, slowly but thankfully, surely.
  • DE&I – we have to learn to be more honest with each other.
  • Total Event Programs – provide the best return-on-investment, especially for marketeers but there’s a need to invest.
  • Creativity – there’s a whole array of creative ideas out there. You just have to look….on YouTube.

I do have a confession to make. As for many of us who attend industry events, I didn’t go to learn about ‘Cvent’ per se. I went for the speakers, to see customers and prospects. I went to engage and connect, yes with the Cvent team but also with the industry’s best. I also went to learn, and if I happened to learn more about Cvent along the way, then that was a bonus. Especially if it was about sustainability and DE&I.  

To make it work, you get out what you put in

The engagement, the relationships and connections. The main ‘event’ of an event. If I compare that to our own mission at CWT where we aim to ‘unlock the power of human connection’, what I still see as a problem, or that ‘something missing in the relationship’ it is that we, as organisations, forget about the need to invest. Like a perfect marriage, that ‘happily ever after’ only happens when you invest. Time. Energy. Money. You get out what you put in, and more often than not, companies are not investing in their meetings & events in the right way to organise an engaging event. And attendees are not investing in the right way to get what they want out of the events they go to. So perhaps we need some marriage guidance.  

Let’s face it. We’re social creatures. We will never stop being social creatures, so we should think about how we can connect and engage differently, more meaningfully, in this ever-increasingly digitised world we share. It was clear at Cvent Connect that we are becoming more diverse in the industry, more inclusive, and as a result we’re more innovative and finally seeing the digitisation that is proving the return on investment (ROI) story we’ve been talking about for so many years now but been less able to demonstrate.  

The engagement economy is finally here for meetings & events and I’m super excited as I’ve been waiting for this day to come. I don’t know about you, but it often feels like the M&E industry is the late starter. We’re finally catching up to the rest of the world. Across the world we’re seeing digital transformation, and the need to connect and engage across multiple channels with the changing way we work, travel, meet and live our lives these days. Relationships are changing, merging, blending, and becoming very different from what they were even three years ago.  

Events are changing too. With current tech, they are infinitely more quantifiable than before, engaging attendees up to 20 times across the life of a single event. Compare that with digital marketing where you have 2-3 potential touchpoints to engage someone and surely that is evidence enough that events must be the digital marketing strategy of the future and the reason we need to invest more heavily in events technology and data? Just imagine the value of a customer journey, not just at one event, but across your events programme, year-over-year. That’s invaluable data that can help your organisation grow and adapt to improve your strategy, and you customer relationship.  

So, my biggest question is why aren’t more organisations doing more of this? Why aren’t they getting engaged; building those forever relationships with their customers by better understanding their journey through their events programs? Investment is still lacking. In fact, just this week I was asked why there was a charge for data and reporting, why it wasn’t just ‘standard’ across events like across other spend categories. And it really is the unanswered question. It should be. For some reason many haven’t made this connection yet, but I long for the day that it becomes the norm. The future of forever engagements is within touching distance.  

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