Small Business

The Real Benefits of Customer Conferences


Benefits of customer conferences, truth about venture capitalists, marketing on MySpace, getting prisoners to focus on legitimate businesses

What Will Happen If We Bring All Our Customers Together In One Place?

Will they share complaints, pricing information, tips on competitors? GetActive Software, a growing provider of online tools to charitable and public interest organizations, has been having such gatherings for several years and still worries about these problems, says Sheeraz Haji, CEO, in an online posting. "Getting all your clients together for a two-day conference can be a risk proposition," he says.

But the reality, he adds, is that "these events present unique opportunities for us to hear the candid feedback of our clients, talk to them one-on-one (and many-to-many), and gauge their reactions when they see sneak previews of new product features. Sure, we have irrational fears that people might gang up on us and ask us questions we'd rather they didn't, but that is a fact of life at a user conference. And you know what? It's not a big deal when it does happen."

Looking back, he says, "When I watch the client testimonials for the 20th time, and think back to the smiles on clients' faces when they met their account manager in person for the first time, I realize the so-called 'risks' of having a user conference are irrelevant. Business is about taking risks, and user conferences are about learning." For the complete posting, go to personaldemocracy.com.

You Love Me Just for My Money, Right?

Right, entrepreneurs tell venture capitalists. Venture capitalists play up their "value-add" to growing companies, but entrepreneurs want the money, first and foremost. In a recent survey of 51 entrepreneurs and 81 venture capitalists by two Harvard MBA students, 80% of the entrepreneurs said they accepted financing primarily to grow their ventures, while only 47% said they were heavily influenced by the value-add of the venture capitalists. Entrepreneurs "do not value the investors' intangible resources as much as the capital itself," say the student researchers, Matthew Louie and Cali Tran.

Whatever the entrepreneurs' motivations, though, good feelings reign; 82% of the entrepreneurs said they have "an open and honest relationship" with their backers (see BusinessWeek.com, 8/3/06, "Before You Accept VC Funding…") For the full study, click here.

More Marketers Push Their Space On MySpace

While the best opportunities are still for music and other entertainment products, Zachary Rodgers of ClickZ Network says books, auto products, and nonprofits are increasingly trying to scout out communities with shared interests. A publisher of a book about New Orleans music hopes "a call-to-action among MySpace's (NWS) rap and hip-hop influencers will boost sales," notes Rodgers. For the full article, click here.

How to Convince Prisoner Entrepreneurs to Give Up Illegal Businesses

The Prison Entrepreneurship Program (PEP), a Houston nonprofit, thinks it has come up with a way to get prisoners to refocus on legitimate businesses: business plan competitions. Of 110 active participants in the competitions over the last two years who have been released from prison, only two have wound up back in. For details, see prisonentrepreneurship.org, the Prison Entrepreneurship Program.

David E. Gumpert covers business/health issues and also writes the biweekly What Entrepreneurs Need to Know column.

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