July 5, 2016
One of the biggest incentives to join an association is to partake in its events. Almost every association hosts some type of annual conference and/or meeting. This is a great way for members to convene and connect - while your association spreads its message. As technology has advanced and social media has become prominent, association professionals have had to change the way they approach events. It may be time to do some spring-cleaning and come up with a different strategy to boost event attendance. You want every member to benefit from your event, right?
When was the last time you went to an event and were happy that it didn’t benefit you at all? Probably never. This may not come as a surprise, but association events aren’t for the association. Rather, they are intended to benefit the attendees. You want your members to see promotional items for your event and think: “Wow, this event is just for me.” There are simple ways to get that exact reaction - it just takes a little effort. One way for members to know that the event is being thrown for them is to discuss how it will benefit them. Can they make money from it? Can it help them network? Can they gain valuable information they wouldn't be able to get anywhere else? Members want to know these things before registering and attending an event, and it’s your job to let them know.
Members are only aware of the information you give them. It’s important to keep all lines of communication open before your event. Event details should be shared with members frequently so that they know their schedule. This will help promote attendance, as members won’t be confused about where they need to be. Chances are your association will need to create new marketing content specifically for this event. This will allow your staff to distribute this information to members via email, social media or snail-mail. Whether it’s posting on social media, emailing a newsletter or creating a blog, these initiatives must happen early. Almost every association uses some form of social media to promote its message. This is a simple way for you to advertise your latest event to the masses. By keeping members in the loop prior to your event, they will feel included and prepared. You want to make sure they have easy access to vital event information.
It’s safe to say that almost every association executive would love to have more members attend their association’s events. This not only promotes member engagement, but it increases revenue for the organization. You probably already have a marketing strategy implemented specifically for events, but is it the best it can be? In order to continue to increase the amount of attendees, associations have to continually evolve its marketing strategy. It’s not enough to just send out a mass email hoping your members will magically become interested - it’s called a strategy for a reason. There are many ways to up your marketing efforts to attract more members.
Social media will always be an association’s ally. Who doesn’t love free publicity and advertising? As your event approaches, social media should become your first line of defense when marketing your event. Whether it’s a Facebook post, tweet or Pinterest board, almost everyone uses some form of social media. Nobody likes going on a wild goose chase to find information. A great tip to eliminate this is to include links to register for your event within your posts. The easier you make it for members to engage, the better. Don’t take advantage of a simple, free and popular resource that reaches thousands of people - instantly.
The battle to engage members starts early - even with events. It doesn’t make much sense to advertise your annual event three weeks before it happens. Instead, give yourself enough time to create relevant marketing content, which you can send out weeks, or months prior to the actual event. You want to spread as much awareness as possible, in a timely manner. To get people talking, associations can highlight the speakers that will be attending, as well as featuring stand-out moments from the year before. If your association has an online community, you can create an event discussion that will allow attendees to connect. By including snippets of information regarding the event, members will become interested and want to learn more.
Your association probably has a plethora of marketing materials it sends out to prospects and current members. However, events are in a league of their own and require another set of equipment. The content that is sent prior to the event must be customized for the event, providing details and vital information for members. Associations must understand the goal of the event, and what message it wants to send. By analyzing its goals, an association can create appropriate content that integrates with them. It’s important to think of different ways to engage your members with these initiatives. You can record a short video with a conference speaker to give attendees a sneak-peek. Additionally, you can have a speaker guest-write a blog before your event. By personalizing these efforts, members will be able to understand what to expect when they attend. Sharing marketing content is one of the most effective ways to spread awareness for your event.
Everyone loves a well-written blog post. If your association is properly marketing itself, it most likely has its own blog. A great way to engage members is to create a blog specifically for your event. This will become a one-stop-shop for members to find information regarding the function. If you want to go the extra mile, have a speaker write a guest-post that highlights their presentation. Members will appreciate the additional information and gain a better understanding as to what the event entails.
You have successfully pulled off another event, you’re happy, relieved and exhausted. We know you want to take a short break before putting your event hat on again, but it’s important to follow up with attendees shortly after the event. This is a great way to receive crucial feedback that can benefit next year’s event. Additionally, if approached properly, members may be willing to give a testimonial that you can use for future marketing opportunities. It’s not enough to just send a simple “Thank you.” Members want to be debriefed on the event, so sending general talking points and themes via email may be helpful. Following up with members post-event is extremely critical. It not only provides you with feedback, but it shows members that you are still thinking about them and want to learn more about their experience - it is about them, remember?
Hosting an event is a huge undertaking; however, if done properly, it can be a huge success for your association and its members. Remember, members want to experience something that they can’t get anywhere else. That’s where you come in. In order to boost attendance rates, association professionals must adjust their marketing strategies to adhere to today’s sense of instant gratification. It’s not enough to blindly send mass emails, hoping members will be intrigued. Instead, it takes planning and a solid strategy to gain more attendees.
To learn more about engaging members, take a look at our blog, Don't Lose Your Best Members (A Lesson in Retention).