A couple of weeks ago, I was privileged to act as facilitator for a great users conference in Vegas. eLynx, Cincinnati, Ohio, brought together about 75 of its clients for its third annual IdeaWorks.
When I was working full-time as a journalist, I would jump at the chance to go to these conferences because I could sit in the back and listen to the questions the users asked of the company. I could share meals with company customers and find out what they really thought about the vendor and its products. Not every company would invite me, of course, but those that did tended to be the better firms.
Most users conferences are opportunities for companies to gauge the success of their offerings in the market, shore up relationships with customers and sell new products and services. But eLynx, at its IdeaWorks shows, takes it further, encouraging out-of-the-box thinking that has led to new products each year the show has been held. It often takes some work to get customers comfortable enough to open up, but the eLynx team is very good at it.
Getting customers to tell you what they think of your products is good. Getting them to buy your new offerings is better. But getting your customers to tell you what they want you to offer them next is great, especially when they are eager to help you develop the new products and services they are looking for.
If you're inviting customers together for a users conference, be sure you spend some time asking them what they want to see next--and working with them until they are willing and able to tell you.