If you struggle with event attendance and membership acquisition, chances are the problem isn’t your organization, your member benefits, or your event itself. The issue is that not enough people know your VALUE. They need to fully comprehend what’s in it for them, or they won’t be moved to act. While there are lots of ways to communicate value to your target audience, there is only one that’s proven effective through brain research: STORYTELLING.
Humans make decisions in the limbic system. That’s the emotional part of the brain, not the logical one. That means if you want people to register for your event or join you as a member, you need to appeal to their emotions. Facts and logic won’t cut it. Storytelling that includes rich, sensory details actively engages the limbic system and inspires people to take action because they feel compelled to do so.
The proven effectiveness of storytelling should make it a no-brainer when it comes to event marketing. But, most organizations aren’t taking advantage of this format. According to the Association Audience and Member Engagement Study, only 33 percent of associations use storytelling to promote events.
Not coincidentally, the study participants cited numerous challenges related to demonstrating event value and retaining members. “We struggle with conveying a clear value of networking,” said one. “We need to create a distinct reason for our attendees to join once they agree to attend,” said another. Answers ranged from communicating value to capturing attention and encouraging engagement—all things storytelling can help with.
How to start telling stories
Your members are a gold mine of stories. You just need to do a little digging. First, identify a handful of people who might be willing to give you an hour or two of their time. Choose a mix of new members, veteran attendees, cheerleaders, and maybe even a curmudgeon who wasn’t so quick to see your value. Next, come prepared with questions, but don’t be afraid to venture off the map. Sometimes your best stories come from unscripted conversations. It’s a good idea to record the interview so you don’t miss any juicy details.
10 questions for better member stories
Here are 10 questions to get you started telling curated member stories. Be sure to tailor questions slightly depending on whom you’re interviewing. For example, a veteran attendee may need slightly different prompts than a first-timer.
- What’s your situation? Tell me about yourself and your business.
- What are your biggest challenges and concerns?
- How long have you been a member, and how did you first hear about the association?
- Why do you go to the event? Variations: Why are you going for the first time? Why do you go to this event on a regular basis?
- What do you do to prepare for the event?
- How do you justify time away from your business? Variation: How do you describe the benefits vs. the cost of attending?
- Who do you meet there and how do you meet them?
- Do you have any advice for other attendees? For first-time attendees? For veteran attendees?
- How do you benefit from the event? Variations: What do you take away from the event—literally and figuratively? What’s your biggest takeaway?
- Is there anything else you would like to share?
How to structure your story
Once you have a repository of information, write out the entire story. (You can always shorten it to fit your marketing needs later.) A good story follows a traditional structure. It has characters, a setting, rising action and conflict, a climax, falling action, and an ending. Within this framework, your stories should show members you understand their pain points and that you have solutions and resources to resolve their challenges.
Authentic stories from real people resonate in a world of information overload. Stories inspire and connect your base. But storytelling itself isn’t a marketing tactic. It must be aligned with digital media to help you reach membership and attendance goals. Just a few ideas for incorporating storytelling into your marketing mix: blogs, automated emails, micro sites, videos, Facebook Canvas, and Facebook Ads.
Don’t let another year go by with ho hum marketing results. Contact Rottman Creative to curate your member stories and turn them into dynamic digital marketing that drives membership, attendance, and engagement.
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