After the Assessment: Next steps to improve your marketing
You found out how your organization ranks when it comes to creating an engaged membership that actively works toward your mission. You looked at attendance, your event experience, email, social media, and your website. Now what?
Now the exciting part begins! Now we can use where you are to help you get where you’re going. Whether you scored high or low on the Engagement Scale, chances are there’s something you can do to improve your event experience and the way you market it. The ultimate goal is a sustainable organization of engaged, passionate members working together to achieve big things.
Examining attendance numbers can help you break the cycle of acquisition and retention. How many people attend your event? Are they members or non-members? How many are first timers? Analyzing who registers can identify opportunities and timing for targeted, emotionally engaging marketing. It can help you plan your spark (a.k.a. your brand experience) to facilitate high-quality connections (1) between members.
When people register can hint at the perceived value of your event. If most of your registration happens during the early bird discount period, it’s an indication that members undervalue your brand experience. If many people register onsite, you may need to create more compelling offers to encourage advanced registration.
A look at repeat attendance can indicate member engagement and willingness to work toward your organization’s goals. If most of your attendees are first-timers, that’s a sign you’re not retaining attendees year after year. You may need more compelling speakers, special events, unscripted networking opportunities, and certifications to create more pilgrims and fewer tourists. You may also need to better explain the “why” behind your event, in addition to the “what.”
Is your conference viewed as the must-attend event in your industry? Are people excited and engaged while they’re there? If not, don’t worry. There are lots of ways to up your event experience and its perceived value.
What do attendees see and hear upon entering your conference? Do the food and drinks contribute to your brand’s personality? Is there comfortable seating for casual networking between sessions? Deliberately plan every detail to engage your audience in the emotional center of the brain, where 90% of decisions are made.
That might mean adding an ice cream social or a night at the ballpark instead of a forced networking event. It might include a video booth for capturing testimonials. Perhaps some of your sessions can be restructured as roundtables or panel discussions for increased engagement. Also think about relevant promotional items that can extend the shelf life of your marketing.
When it comes to substance, you want top-notch leaders with big ideas to keynote your events. Your sessions should address real issues your members face. The best way to know what members want most is to connect regularly through surveys, online forums, focus groups, interviews, and social media. What keeps them up at night? Which certifications do they need? Having excellent, irresistible offerings will compel and inspire attendance, rather than trying to motivate and push people to register.
Email “blasts” are a thing of the past. A more effective approach is to create specific, compelling triggers (juicy offers) and targets (desired action) based on defined audience segments. You can use your current open and click rates as a baseline from which to measure your improved results—and to gauge your campaign performance compared to other organizations who hold events. (More on increasing the success of your email marketing in a future post.)
It’s great to keep an eye on your social media followers, likes, and shares. But if you truly want an inspired, engaged audience, you need to encourage conversations and high-quality connections. Regular social updates with images, video, and relevant content can raise awareness, reassure interested parties, encourage engagement, and build long-term loyalty as part of your larger marketing strategy. A conference-specific hashtag can build excitement around your event. Keep the conversation going by responding to comments. Social media is an especially effective tactic for connecting with tech-savvy millennials. It’s well worth your time and resources to create a dynamic social presence for your organization.
Your website represents a huge opportunity to engage members and encourage them to take action. But you’ll have to go beyond a one-sided presentation of information. Inspire members and prospects by emphasizing the “why” vs. the “what” of your organization, focusing on a clear mission, adopting a minimalist approach to text, and engaging emotions with storytelling. A responsive, adaptive design is most effective for reaching people across devices. You can use your current metrics of visitors, page views, time on site, and bounce rates to measure your progress.
Take the First Step
It’s easy to feel discouraged if you think you have a long way to go on the road to engagement. But, really, you should be excited and encouraged. Improvements in any one of these areas can have a major impact on your member acquisition and retention, event attendance, and overall engagement of your members. Each step you take contributes to building a vibrant membership that’s willing to work toward your mission and explore new possibilities for your organization.
(1) Dutton, J. E., & Heaphy, E. D. (2003). The power of high-quality connections. Positive organizational scholarship: Foundations of a new discipline, 3, 263-278.
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