July 18, 2023   |   Aprilynne Pike

Why SaaS Companies Should Hold Customer Events

Featuring Unconventional IRL 2023

Customer events are a must-have for any growing SaaS company. Swoogo’s customer event, affectionately known as UnCon, was first launched in the spring of 2019, as a special thank you to our amazing, lovely, wonderful customers, as well as our first attempt to create a Swoogo customer community. It was actually the last day of our employee offsite as well—so literally the entire company gathered with our customers.

And it went great! Fun was had, knowledge was shared, and plans were made to continue the tradition annually!

You know what they say about making plans …

Like many (many, MANY) in-person events, Unconventional IRL 2020 was canceled while everyone in the events space, and the world, worked to contain COVID. We did hold a 2020 UnCon event virtually … but some things are just better in-person. Especially customer events.

This year Unconventional IRL returned in full force! At Swoogo, we are so very lucky to have the best customers. I know you think you have the best customers, but I’m afraid you don’t. We have the best customers. 😉

So why is this so important? Read on.

Benefits of customer events

Getting our customer event back on track was a top priority here at Swoogo. But why? I mean, it’s just a party, right? Hoo-boy, that’s a negative. Customer events are so much more than just the fun part. Especially for a B2B company. And extra-especially for a 100% remote-work company like ours.

The most important part of gathering customers is face-to-face networking. Not just employees with customers, but customers with each other. And it’s more than getting good business connections to add to your Rolodex (though don’t discount that part!) We wanted to facilitate a collaborative environment where everyone could share their knowledge of what’s working and what’s not, what they see coming for our industry in the future, and how to better use shared tools.

A customer event that only invites a handful of high-dollar-value customers for a few hours of wining and dining is missing out on the true potential of a customer event. Customer events should be inspiring, and should let every attendee come away having met someone new and learned something useful.

Keeping it weird in Portland

We were stoked to host our customer event in gorgeous Portland, OR, at the fantastic The Redd, on Salmon Street. As a theme, we cast everything in a fun, speakeasy visual, and invited all of our guests to chat, visit, and collaborate. It was the perfect atmosphere to both have a great time, and work to shake things up in our industry.

An industry that’s already undergoing massive amounts of change. (Did we mention 2020?)  Truly, Portland was the perfect backdrop.

Matching your location and/or venue with the mood you’re trying to achieve at your customer event can make the entire experience feel both immersive and inspiring. For UnCon this year, we were all about new, novel, and out-of-the-box event solutions. So you can see how that lined up perfectly with Portland. Your event is going to be different, so keep the mood you’re aspiring to in mind as you’re picking your perfect place!

Speakers to write home about

Customer events are the perfect opportunity for a business to show off some of their big-name customers. (We all know they hold weight.) On top of that, the stakeholders at these global companies are generally in their roles for a reason—they know their stuff! If you can snag some of the execs at these brag-worthy companies, you’re guaranteed to get some stellar content.

Y’all, the speakers at UnCon 2023 were just fantastic.

We hosted a top-notch lineup of presenters from Box, Twilio, Penske Media, and Atlassian, just to name a few. Yes, it’s pretty amazing to see those names all in a row and know that, not only are they our very own customers (hooray!), but they agreed to come and share their knowledge of both events and of Swoogo, with all of our attending customers.

It was amazing to hear how some of these huge, global names are using our platform to pull off the most incredible feats. (Tricia from DocuSign executing almost eight hundred events in 2022? I mean, really. Superwoman!) And doing so all over the world. Hybrid events were a big topic, as well as the best way to allow your attendees to consume your content. Mobile apps were a frequent refrain, and yes, we even dipped into AI a bit. (You know it’s coming.)

The Swoogo Showcase

One of the highlights of the event was our Swoogo Showcase!

Kinda like the Showcase Showdown

No. Way better.

We put out the call to several of our agency partners to show us original and creative ways they’re using the Swoogo platform to serve their customers. 

We were stunned by some of the ways agencies built solutions into Swoogo. Virtual fashion show floors, enhanced security measures using the update reg widget, and custom code to create nine-hundred personalized attendee agendas. But also great internal use-cases that the public doesn’t generally see, like book clubs and gratitude carousels. It was really mind-blowing and inspiring to hear how our agency partners are taking tools we designed at Swoogo, and using them in custom ways, limited only by their imaginations.

I learned something and I work here!

One of the best ways to build loyalty among your customers is to get them truly excited about working within your product. Several of our customers said they couldn’t wait to get back to work and try some of the creative use-cases they’d learned about. There’s nothing better than that! 

How can you replicate our showcase? Contact your power users and ask them what they’re doing. Go to your longest-standing clients and find out their favorite features of your product. You might be surprised just how creative they’re being. Then, invite them to share.

Prime partners

Customer events are an excellent opportunity to showcase your partners, who help bring you more business. It also means you get to show your current customers some of the additional options they have as customers, that they might not get at other companies.

We got to hear from reps from some of our longest-standing partners, like BW Events Tech and American Tradeshow Services (ATS.) We love working with partners to provide more choice for our customers and their events. A cooperative tech ecosystem is a key part of our Swoogo business plan, and that was driven home during UnCon.

We talked to our audience a lot about optionality through our partners. We had some new partners (looking at you, SpotMe!) in attendance whose offerings overlap with ours. Technically, we’re actually competitors. So why would we partner with them? Easy, because the more choices we offer our customers to execute their events, their way, the better partner we are to them

We’re not afraid to offer great features from our competitors, and Unconventional IRL was a fab venue to highlight some of them.

The party part

Of course, of course, we had fun and ate some great food, (How can you not when you’re in Portland!?) and basically lived it up for a day. Bonus? The night before the actual event, we had a bowling night for those who arrived in Portland early. It was so fun!

Don’t discount the fun part—everyone loves a good networking party. The last thing you want your customer event to be is boring. A good gala at the close of your event ensures that, even if some of your customers didn’t come away with all of the benefits you hoped to give them, they do come away having had a good time.

Because even with all of the benefits expounded on in this blog, the number one reason we hold customer events is to say thank you. Thank you for being our customer and for letting us help run your events! Events are all about bringing people together and there’s nothing more important. We love being a part of that.

Sneak peek

I know you want a peek. Far be it from me to say no.

More content coming

And with that glamorous video, UnConventional IRL makes its final bow for 2023, but don’t worry, there are several encores coming up. We’re editing and collating video as fast as we can, so we can share some of the very best bits of UnCon with you over the next several months. There is some fantastic stuff coming.

Also, we have an Unconventional IRL: Behind the Scenes webinar coming up! You won’t want to miss that! We’ll have registration up soon!

If you couldn’t make it to our fabulous customer event this year, fear not! UnCon is for sure coming back next year. In fact, we’ve already started to plan for it. If you’re interested in attending, there’s no reason you can’t tell your account manager right now that you’d love a 2024 invite. 

And if you’re not a Swoogo customer yet, there’s a super easy way to fix that. Book your own, personalized demo, to find out what Swoogo can do for you.

See you next year!