October 14, 2014
When most people think about marketing their association, events are not usually the first thing that comes to mind. We know that events can drive revenue for your organization and provide support for membership functions, but increasing brand awareness for your association, establishing thought leadership in your industry and increasing your profile in the greater association community are benefits from events that are not to be ignored. Events can do this and more. I spoke to several associations about how they use events to market their organization and here’s what they had to say. Here are 5 Ways You Can Market Your Association Using Events:
Events can be a great way to attract non-members to your association. I spoke to one association that puts on content heavy events whose primary focus is on educating people on various topics in their industry. This organization has chapters that put on events on the local level that are open to the general public. After the attendees sit for the event and get massive value from it, they are offered a membership to the organization at the reception afterward. If attendees don’t care to join at that time, they are sent a follow up message, sometimes with a special promotion or discount for having attended the event. In this way, the association is able to obtain a steady stream of members into their organization, down to the local level.
People come to your event for different reasons. Some people come to learn something new. Some people come to expand their professional network. Some just come for the free food (come on, let’s be honest). If you want to appeal to a large variety of people, you’ll have to provide a little something for everyone. Balance time for content and educational sessions at your event with time for networking. For example, one association I spoke to found it useful to schedule a built-in block of time for networking between educational sessions, instead of just hoping that people would connect between sessions by chance. This substantially increased the amount of networking that happened at the event, causing those who primarily came to establish new connections to find their event worthwhile (and to find their association worthwhile by extension). Different people find different things valuable - if you can provide a variety of experiences at your event, you’re more likely to get people talk about what specifically spoke to them afterward.Balance time for content and educational sessions at your event with time for networking. #association #marketing”
One theme I noticed amongst associations I spoke to is that smaller, tightly focused meetings were great at getting people out if it was in an area they were specifically interested in. I spoke to an association that caters to scientists who research specific areas of inquiry - when a meeting came on a specific topic they were expert in, they made it a point to attend. In fact, this trend was so apparent that this organization decided to create several smaller, themed meetings that occur in-between their larger bi-annual meeting, a tactic which has marketed their association as the place to be for thought leaders within very specific industries. If you can streamline your events to very specific crowds, you’ll be able to cater to individuals that are often a part of very deep, unique communities that would be happy to support your association.
Interactivity is important to having an event that has positive marketing value for your association. After all, if your attendees aren’t engaged at your event, your event likely won’t have the effect you hoped it would. One association I spoke to created an interactive experience at their event by implementing polling software. They asked the crowd a question, then used the polling software to solicit the crowds response in real time through their attendees’ smartphones. It was a big hit with the crowd. As an added benefit, they had one of their corporate members sponsor the poll, so when the results came up on the screen, the display said, “This poll brought to you by ‘Sponsor Name’”. This had a positive marketing effect for the sponsor and the association in addition to supporting their bottom line.
Another way to use your events to market your association is to record some of the educational sessions and use them for promoting events later. I spoke to an association that would sometimes make one session available to members at large - even those who didn’t attend. They used it as a teaser to get people excited about what they missed. Furthermore, this video could be put in a landing page to capture a visitor’s information, or could be made public on YouTube to drive traffic back to the association website. The possibilities are endless and the marketing value is incredible.
These are just 5 ways you can market your association using events it already puts on. We’re curious, how is your association using events to market your organization? Feel free to share in the comments!