When ‘free’ is not good value…

This week I went to a free three-day event.
Business 2012 at the O2 brought together literally thousands of entrepreneurs and new business owners, and treated them to a series of keynote speakers – Sirs Richard Branson and Alan Sugar to name but two; a number of other self-made individuals willing to share their secrets; practical workshops; and a superb exhibition with stands ranging from basic legal and business admin, to marketing and promotion (the Google stand was permanently packed) and self development.
What a brilliant idea! And all of this for free? What great value…?
Sadly not.  This was a brilliant idea very badly executed by the event managers Blak Pearl (a name which seemed a little too apt for me at the end of day one).
What Blak Pearl had done extremely well was pull together their list of A and B list speakers; a whole host of exhibitors armed with special offers and freebies for those who attended; promoted their product through their website and a series of almost daily e mails to those who had either expressed an interest or signed up to the event; and pre-issued an e-ticket with the capability for smart phone registration. All good.
What they had failed to do was think about their customers and what needed to be done to ensure that they had a great experience. As a result they lost the good will of their customers and received a hail storm of bad press on twitter, facebook and other social media sites. And this after a ‘free’ event.
A simple walk through their plan from a customer’s viewpoint would have eradicated most, if not all of the problems…

  • Signage outside the arena, as people got off the tube or bus, welcoming them
  • Signage inside the arena – O2 is a vast space and the event was spread out across much of it
  • A registration desk where the equipment had been checked and double-checked to ensure that it worked; and where you could receive everything that you needed in one place, to make the most of the event. (I never did get to register!)
  • Well-briefed staff who looked to help delegates find what they were looking for, rather than ‘sell’ any particular seminar or workshop
  • A timed schedule of presentations and workshops which did not change on an almost hourly basis, thereby rendering any pre-planning worthless
  • A pre-warning that the O2 can be a very cold place!

In a nutshell, attention to detail and good old-fashioned hospitality.
Blak Pearl had failed to consider that what they were offering was not considered to be ‘free’ by customers who had to travel to get there; spend time away from their business; miss Mother’s Day! These things are precious.
Blak Pearl’s bad PR during and after the event is a lesson for any one of us who believes that our customers, if given something for free, expect anything less than good value.


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Marianne Page

Marianne is the author of three books, and is currently working on her fourth, whilst regularly writing her blog, we hope you enjoy it :-)


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