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Human beings make most of our decisions from the emotional center of our brain. And then our pre-frontal cortex (the logic center of the brain) helps us reaffirm that our decision was the right one. 

We know this because scientists put people in scanners and watch the different parts of their brain light up.

But what does brain science have to do with your association’s event?

Everything.

In this series of posts, we’ve been working through the 3 phases of event marketing. Each phase highlights a key attribute your event marketing plan needs: Emotion, facts, and urgency.

So far, we’ve covered the first phase, Inspire People. That’s the phase that targets emotion.

Today, we’re going to talk about the second phase: Reassure the Intent.

This is the phase that targets facts. This is where you need to communicate to people: You know how you felt a spark when you connected with our message? Well, here are the goods!

Reassuring the intent simply means filling out the rest of the picture for potential attendees. You’re giving people what they need to confirm that registering for your event is something they must do.

This is the phase of marketing where you craft messages that answer questions like:

  • What will I learn?
  • Who will be there?
  • Who are the speakers?
  • What are the highlights?
  • What are the big reasons I don’t want to miss out?

We find that these are the questions associations usually want to start their marketing with. They want to lead with facts. Throw all the bullet points and all the checklists at people right away. It can be difficult, in Phase 1, to stay higher level, to find the deeper reason, the emotional hook.

But now, in Phase 2, you’re released! Let the facts shine! If you’ve done your job in the first phase and found the inspiration to hook attendees, this phase can feel a bit easier.

But don’t let that fool you. 

We came across a study that another marketing agency did that found that only 13% of associations surveyed said they had a compelling value proposition.

13%!

Coming up with a sterling value proposition and knowing how to communicate it has always been a challenge for associations. It’s like answering an existential question: It’s hard to do and you’re so close to it that you often can’t see if you’ve truly answered it.

Reassuring the intent is an uphill climb if you don’t know the value proposition for your event. So before you start listing bullet points, do some work around crafting it. (If you’re struggling, we can help.)

We’re helping a long-time client market an exclusive executive management program, called Shaping Innovation Leaders (SIL). 

In our last post, we talked about how we found the inspirational thread, using the idea of “elevating” as our emotional hook.

For phase 2, it’s time to focus on the facts.

Reassuring the intent is about hitting people in the logic center of their brain. It’s when concepts like “reputation” and “expertise” matter. That’s why we’re creating messaging around the fact that one of the nation’s most trusted business schools is a major partner for the event.

We’re designing various print and digital pieces that highlight specific course content and offer case studies. We’re also talking in-depth about the high-caliber individuals who will be there as participants, creating a sense of FOMO so that potential attendees can see themselves among this crowd.

Remember, people read 30% or less on the web, and slightly more in print. Design and messaging matter just as much now as they did in the inspiration phase. 

Your marketing can’t become a Wikipedia page, dry and factual. You’re still jockeying for people’s time, and you have to give them a reason to listen to you.

Reach out if you’d like to talk about how your association can best reassure the intent. Or if you’re still chewing on how to find the inspiration, we’re happy to talk you through as well.

Rottman Creative can help you cut through the busyness with new marketing formats and technologies. Let’s chat.

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Event Outlook for Associations

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Navigating the Event Marketing Landscape in 2024: A Strategic 3-Phase Approach for Success

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Events are alive and well, says a new survey of event producers, convention center executives, and attendees—though you can expect some changes and challenges ahead. The survey reveals key insights that can help you leverage opportunities and minimize difficulties as your prepare for your association’s next in-person event.

Overall Outlook

The big picture looks good. Overall, the event industry rebound has been better than expected, with 83% of convention center executives saying the pace of recovery has exceeded their expectations. Remarkably, 0% of execs surveyed said recovery has been worse than anticipated. On another positive note, more than 40% of event producers surveyed plan to launch completely new in-person events in the next two years.

Attendance is Up

Event attendance has been rebounding over the last few years. For example, attendance in Q2 of 2023 was 85% of 2019 numbers, and attendance in 2024 is expected to reach “full recovery.” If your event date is fast approaching, you could still see a late surge in registrations. Nearly 75% of event producers surveyed say attendees are registering closer to event dates.

Costs Are Also Up

Expect to pay more. A whopping 70% of convention center executives say they increased pricing for venue services, and nearly half hiked rates for exhibit halls and major event spaces. As consolation, you can expect improvements in venues’ safety and security, technology, signage, and services.

Hotel Woes

Be aware of hotel issues that could affect your members’ event experience. These include high room rates, staffing issues, lack of quality, and overcrowding. Coincidentally, the number of attendees who book short-term rentals and AirBnBs is on the rise.

Hybrid Work

Teleworking doesn’t necessarily indicate a lack of interest in in-person gatherings. Some data suggests companies could use your event to bring dispersed teams together. Additionally, nearly half of convention attendees say they are more likely to travel with a friend or family member. Half are also likely to extend time in the host city for vacation.

Cautious Optimism

While the overall event outlook is positive, keep in mind that every event, sector, and organization is different. Expect to struggle with issues like inflation, sustainability, political and social activism, the labor shortage, technology, and more. But forge ahead knowing your event is still a powerful place for connection, collaboration, and learning that can make a difference for your members and their constituents. 

Rottman Creative can help you find and leverage your day stoppers to engage more members and prospects. Let’s chat.

Source: “Event Producer, Convention Center management, & Attendance Outlook Studies 2023” from Access Intelligence Research & Consulting

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Your Biggest Competition Isn’t Another Organization: It’s Busyness

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With Email Bot Clicks Skewing Your Open Rates, It’s Time to Diversify Your Strategy

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Ask any one of your members or customers how they’re doing, and there’s a good chance they’ll say, “Busy,” as part of their answer.

Busy professionals are busy working hard, accomplishing goals, and advancing their companies. They’re also busy making phone calls, answering texts and emails, and sitting in meetings. Busy parents are extra busy taking their kids to things like piano lessons and soccer practice. Many people are also busy scrolling endlessly through social media and binge watching their favorite shows.

The Dark Side of Busy

The trouble is that a lot of this busyness is a distraction. It’s activity, not productivity. Just think about how many meetings could have been an email, how many emails could have been a quick phone call, or how many of those emails and phone calls weren’t really necessary at all. Consider how many hours you have lost to social media scrolling or streaming television this week alone.

The Things That Matter Most

Of course, some of this busyness is truly worth your time and attention—like work and family milestones. People will always make time for the things that matter most. As an organization, this is the sweet spot you are looking for. First, you need to cut through all the busy noise that steals your audience’s attention. Then, you need to be one of those things that matters most so they carve out time for you in their busy, busy lives.

Your Biggest Competition

Busyness might just be your biggest competition right now. But there are ways to overcome it. Here are two strategies to get you started:

1. Adapt to New Technologies

First, do your part to fight busyness by reducing the number of emails you send. Next, fish where the fish are. Package your messaging in formats that your audience can digest in places they’re already spending time. Try short videos, subscription-based TV ads, social media ads, and web retargeting. These formats can be targeted to your current email list so you reach the same audience but with better results.

2. Speak Like a Human Being

Corporate speak just doesn’t cut it anymore. Your messaging needs personality. Your tone should be caring and empathetic to pain points. You need people to trust you as a human being, not an impersonal entity. Prove you’re worth their precious time and attention by speaking like a human being who understands their challenges and is here to help. 

Adapt to the new Busy Normal

It’s time to adapt to the new busy normal because busyness isn’t going away. Even if you’re getting okay numbers with your emails right now, it’s only a matter of time before people will be too busy to read them. Besides, you’ll have to do better than just “okay” if you want your organization to grow and thrive.

Rottman Creative can help you cut through the busyness with new marketing formats and technologies. Let’s chat.

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With Email Bot Clicks Skewing Your Open Rates, It’s Time to Diversify Your Strategy

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Tell us if this sounds familiar.

You send out an email to members and prospects in the morning, and then check your open rate and click-through numbers in the afternoon. As usual, your numbers are stellar! 

You’ve got an open rate of 70% and a click-through rate of 60%. You notice that your numbers seem to keep getting better and better.

If you haven’t realized it by now, your numbers aren’t accurate. Over the past few years, it’s become increasingly common for security bots to be responsible for the great majority of B2B email engagement—as much as 80% by some estimates. 

These bots don’t mean to screw up your marketing plans. In fact, they’re in place to scan for links to malware and phishing attempts. 

They derive from security software associated with various B2B email programs. Their job is to scan the email intended for your recipient. And in fact, if they just scanned it, it would be no problem. But the bots also open the email and click the links to check the redirects and make sure they aren’t malware.

The problem is, bot engagement gets recorded just like actual engagement. According to HubSpot, these security filters are more common in certain industries, like finance or healthcare. Ultimately, you don’t really know if your emails are getting opened or not.

And while some marketing automation programs have tried to create fixes, it’s a cat-and-mouse game. Every time the bad actors increase their phishing efforts, security must get more sophisticated, too.

The bottom line is: The bots are going to win.

But that doesn’t mean you need to lose.

Let’s Stop Talking About Your Emails

During our regular client meetings, one topic consistently dominates the conversation: emails. The focus revolves around the emails we sent last week and planning the next set for the upcoming week.

We get it. We monitor our own email performance, hoping for high open rates and click-throughs. We recognize the value of email as a form of communication.

However, we also know that email shouldn’t be the sole communication platform. Relying excessively on it carries the risk of failing to reach the intended audience.

Therefore, our primary message to you is this: It’s crucial to significantly reduce the number of emails you send.

It’s scary to think about slashing the number of emails in the queue. But it’s even scarier to rely on a false narrative of engagement, created by security bots.

Instead of your entire marketing strategy being tied to sending email after email, you need to create a more holistic strategy. There are lots of names for this. Integrated. Omni-channel. Multi-channel. Cross-channel. Unified.

We’re agnostic as to the terminology, but for our purposes in working with associations, the key idea is Not just email.

Not just email can look like utilizing the social media platforms where your members and prospects hang out. It can look like texting, calling, and messaging. And it can look like thoughtful content strategy that hasn’t just been rinsed and repeated from the previous year.

We know it’s uncomfortable to let go of the main tactic you’ve always cleaved to. To untether from what seems like a sure thing. And it’s overwhelming to think about learning platforms you’re not yet familiar with or perhaps haven’t even been invented yet. 

Marketers in industries across the spectrum are feeling the pain, but we know the particular stress that membership- and subscription-based organizations are feeling. We also know that it will only get worse—and not “worse before it gets better,” but “worse before it gets even worse.”

Rottman Creative can help free you from email dependence. Have questions? Let’s chat.

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Non-Members Don’t Trust You. Here’s How to Fix That.

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Test time! Which of these statements is true?

Marketing campaigns should be data-driven.
Marketing campaigns should be story-driven

We’ve debated, gone all-in on one and then the other, and here we are again. In this particular moment in time, data on one side, stories on the other, seemingly a chasm between them.

It’s time to close the chasm. To blend the science of conversion with the art of storytelling.

But how did the divide between narrative and numbers come to be? Where did we get the false assertion that we needed to cleave to one or the other?

In addition to being an agency committed to using a data-driven process for our clients, we’re also in the business of storytelling. That’s why we’ve thought a lot about the danger of de-prioritizing one for the other. 

There’s been an evolution of how associations use stories and data in their go-to-market strategies. It’s never been more important to understand how to blend them. But to fully grasp the potential of this moment, we need to trace where we’ve been.

When Storytelling Saved the Day

With the Global Financial Crisis that swept across multiple industries in 2008, marketers saw the writing on the wall. Non-essential things were getting cut. Belts were tightening.

To release the purse strings, to move out of a mindset of scarcity, people needed something more. They needed to be inspired

Having released the first iPhone the year before, that’s exactly what Apple was doing. They were spinning a story about a product that nobody had any idea they needed, even as the economy all around was teetering.

A few years later, marketing guru Simon Sinek wrote a book called Start With Why, based, in large part, on noticing the way Apple was able to captivate and reinvent itself through the decades. People don’t buy WHAT you do, they buy WHY you do it, he wrote.

This wasn’t a new idea, but it was the right idea at the right time, and it re-ignited the power of brand storytelling. Just about every marketing firm jumped on the story bandwagon. Inspiration was the name of the game. 

We lived it, too, and we helped our clients create campaigns meant to inspire. As Millennials began to come of age, with their focus on mission-driven organizations, the storytelling frenzy only grew stronger. It was about authenticity and creating deep connection. 

And Then the World Started to Shift

As social media increasingly muddied the waters of authenticity, storytelling started to feel too fanciful for a world grappling with what was true and what was fake. There was a pandemic and another economic crisis, but this time, it was data that seemed to be the savior. 

What can you measure? What can you track? What can you see? It was the metrics that mattered, that would cut through the white noise and distraction.

Now, we’re slowly emerging from that epicenter of fear, but the landscape is different again. We’re forced to be constantly connected—and yet, we’re wholly disconnected from each other. We’re also distrustful.

Do we need stories? Do we need data?

Yes and yes.

But what we really need is discernment about how the two are connected.

The New, Data-Driven Storytelling

What we know now about storytelling is that it’s more trial and error than it is magic. Simon Sinek wasn’t wrong when he said that people connect with WHY an organization exists, more than the particulars of WHAT they do.

But it takes a lot of work to know what stories to tell around that WHY. It takes careful measurement to know which stories, told which ways, will convert people. And more than anything, in today’s environment, it takes building trust.

Finding the right story to tell can build that trust and inspire members and prospects to take action. But you can only find it if you know how to measure and track.

When we talk about brand storytelling now, what we’re really talking about is conversion.

We’d love to hear how you’ve used storytelling in the past, and how you plan to use it going forward.

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Trust provokes, entices, and motivates.

It’s also the only thing of value remaining once the noise recedes.

So why not start there?

This is what we do. We start with what is true. And we stick to it.

Converting people to members and customers is not a magic show. Forget the smoke and mirrors. It should be a transparent process. One that’s relevant, data-driven, and measurable.

If your organization is still clinging to remnants of how you did things before, let them go. You must be in the present with your members. Their behavior drives everything.

And you? You need to be real. Authentic. Straightforward. You must answer members’ questions, allay their fears, speak their language, and know their goals and challenges. You must deliver value and be rock solid for people, in good times and bad.

To do this, you need purposeful marketing, not wishful thinking. That means having bold, powerful messages that flow from the trust. A marketing plan based on the science of conversion with the art of storytelling. And an agency partner like us that will never mislead you.

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