Insights to Help you Bridge the Gap Between What you Want and What you Have

How Organizations Drive Membership and Attendance

How Organizations Drive Membership and Attendance

You’re probably investing significant time and resources to increase event attendance. Great! But are you also leveraging your event to increase overall membership? Do you know which areas of your conference and your marketing to enhance in order to drive attendance and member acquisition?

Rottman Creative recently partnered with Access Intelligence to find out how associations drive membership, event attendance, and engagement. The findings reveal a disconnect between what associations know about their attendees and how they use these insights to drive membership and attendance. Here’s a look at a few key findings we discovered:


Less than Half of Associations have a Clear Membership Acquisition Strategy

Survey Question: Do you feel your association has a clear membership acquisition and growth strategy?

Only 44% of association executives surveyed say their organization has a clear membership acquisition and growth strategy. And a similar percentage – 43% – say they do not have a strategy. The rest of the respondents are unsure if they have a clear strategy or not. The survey found similar segments of associations saying the same about their event attendance marketing approach: 46% say they have a clear event attendance marketing and growth strategy, 42% say they don’t have one at all, and 12% are unsure. These findings show many associations need to revisit their strategic plans. Many simply have their membership acquisition process on autopilot, following the same script year-after-year.


Most Associations are Missing Opportunities Tied to their Events to Increase Membership

Survey Question: Do you feel that your organization misses opportunities to increase membership related to your event attendance marketing and engagement? If Yes, please explain what’s missing:

Fifty-eight percent of association executives say their organization is missing opportunities to increase membership related to their event attendance marketing and engagement process. This is particularly an issue because one of the main goals of hosting events is to increase membership. Essentially over half of associations are saying a key aspect of their events is not effective, or at least would benefit from new strategies and approaches.

What’s missing? Here are select responses from association executives:
  • “Connection to membership value.”
  • “Focus is on attendance, not membership value.”
  • “Missed opportunity to promote association via social media, targeting a younger audience.”
  • “More targeted messaging to different demographics and groups.”
  • “No strategic plan. Staff resources limited.”
  • “We don’t have a complete marketing strategy.”
  • “We don’t use the most effective tool ‘word of mouth’ effectively.”
  • “We need to expand to a broader audience.”

Nearly 80% of Associations with Events Have a Good Understanding of Why Their Attendees Attend And What they Value

Survey Question: Does your organization have a good understanding of why attendees attend your events and what they most value?

Seventy-nine percent of associations with events say they understand their attendees’ motivations to participate in their events. This compares to 21% that do not have a good understanding of these motivations or say they are unsure.


Besides Growing Total Attendance, Associations use Events to Increase Membership

Survey Question: Which of the following best describe your overall attendance marketing goals for your largest, most important event?

It’s no surprise that most association events have a goal to increase attendance, but the other top goal is to use events to increase total association membership. Following these top two attendance marketing goals is to drive total exhibit-floor traffic and attendance numbers for exhibitors.


Enhance Educational Sessions is the Main Tactic to Achieve Attendance Marketing Goals

Survey Question: What has your organization been doing more recently specifically to reach event attendance goals?

To reach their attendance marketing goals, associations are mainly enhancing their educational sessions and providing more networking opportunities. The top three attendance marketing tactics found in the survey are: (1.) adding educational sessions, 57%; (2.) reviewing attendance marketing tactics and processes, 53%; (3.) adding networking opportunities, 51%.


What’s Next?

You likely have a good understanding of your audience and what they need and want. But if you find your organization among those without a clear strategy—or perhaps with a tired one on autopilot—it’s time to take action. It is tempting to add more educational sessions, different speakers, or more exhibitors. But first, let’s take a step back.

Members and prospects don’t want more stuff. They want measurable value. A savvy engagement marketing plan begins with an irresistible value proposition that proves the ROI of joining your organization and attending your event. Once you have a clear value proposition, you can build on it to drive membership and attendance with compelling engagement marketing.

Looking to increase event attendance and member acquisition? Contact us to help you develop a value proposition and a complete engagement marketing strategy.

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