There are many kinds of business events, but none are better for building your brand than a tour of your facilities
The shape of business marketing has taken new forms with the advent of digital technology. Yet neither targeted online ads nor user-generated content can replace one time-tested promotional vehicle: a business event that brings customers together for an up-close and personal experience with the brand right in its “home.” In fact, a business event creates positive views of the company among 84% of those surveyed. The kind of engagement this generates among customers pays off: “fully engaged” customers spend 300% more over the course of a year.
And to build an unshakeable foundation of engagement under its brand, any marketer should consider holding a business event right in their production facility, and kick it off with a factory tour. German chancellor Otto von Bismarck supposedly said “Laws are like sausages. It’s better not to see them being made.” Bismarck may have been right about making laws, but not about making sausages (or any commercial or industrial product). Any well-designed experience will be fun, informative, and engaging, and it will turn visitors into new fans of your brand.
What makes for a “well-designed” experience? Here are 7 things to keep in mind when planning to bring business events into your production facility.
- Make sure visitors aren’t just safe, but also comfortable. Making proper protective equipment available and enforcing its use are of course mandatory. Visitors should also be made aware of restrictions on where they can and can’t set foot and what they can and can’t touch. But consider providing safe, comfortable footwear for those who arrived without anticipating the need, or places to sit at various locations in the facility.
- Always be authentic. Truth in advertising is always a good idea, but the meaning of “authenticity” is more multi-faceted than simply telling the truth. It’s about staying true to your history. The first stop on the Anheuser-Busch brewery tour in St. Louis is a visit to the stables housing the world-famous Clydesdales, whose predecessors once celebrated the end of Prohibition by delivering a case of beer to President Franklin Roosevelt. The building, constructed in 1885, is on the National Register of Historic Places.
- Make it interactive. Letting people sample the experience of your product makes a visit that much more memorable. Visitors to the Harley-Davidson museum in Milwaukee get to put themselves in the saddle of a classic motorcycle in the Experience Gallery. Bikes of all sizes and types are available, catering to all tastes and all age ranges. Each is pointed at a large video screen simulating the look and feel of riding a Harley down one of America’s great roads.
- Make visitors feel like insiders. Supplying information about your product that isn’t readily available elsewhere reinforces a bond with the brand. And it’s even more effective for a food product that can offer a sample of “factory-only” flavors, like the “Flavor Graveyard” of retired ice creams at Ben & Jerry’s Vermont facility. At the end of the tasting session they can also vote for their preferred flavor to be resurrected and re-introduced to the marketplace.
- Allow visitors to make customized versions of your product. Feeling like an insider will be taken to a whole new level when visitors can walk away with a personalized product they can design themselves. At Hershey’s Chocolate World in Pennsylvania anyone can build their own chocolate bar by combining up to six ingredients in whatever proportion they choose. And they can take their creation home in a wrapper they’ve also designed themselves.
- Engage all five senses. It’s a truism that of all the five senses, smell is most closely linked to memory, and scientific research bears this out. What pleasant aromas are associated with your product, and how can you ensure visitors experience them? Those touring one of Crayola’s five U.S. factories are immersed in the smell of crayons, one of the most recognizable smells in the world according to a Yale study.
- Above all, communication is key. Factories and other production facilities can be noisy places where, not surprisingly, it’s hard to hear someone talk. Even an office environment can present challenges for those in the back of a large group. The solution is as simple as equipping everyone with a two-way communication system: headsets with transceivers and receivers. They’re comfortable and unobtrusive. More importantly, they enable the communication and the guidance that makes the other six tips doable.
After delivering an experience that brings all of these features together, you’ll not only get plenty of positive feedback, you’ll create lifelong engagement among your visitors. And their enthusiasm will translate into word-of-mouth that will not only help sell more of your product, it’ll bring still more visitors to you facility, eager to learn by seeing, touching, tasting, smelling – and hearing. You may never want to hold a business event in a conventional setting again.