How to Cut Through the Babble Instead of Becoming Part of It
Walk down the cereal aisle in any grocery store and you’ll be bombarded by countless boxes in a rainbow of colors. While there are dozens of brands and flavors, they all contain basically the same stuff—sugary junk food that doesn’t nourish and leaves you feeling hungry in just a few hours. Adding another brand or flavor to the cereal aisle won’t help matters. It will just add to the clutter.
Event marketing often falls into a similar situation. Organizations promote dozens of products—networking, education, and certification among them—but they don’t articulate any VALUE to their membership. Members get so lost in the clutter that none of the messaging sticks and they’re left…well…hungry for real meaning and value.
Want to connect with more members? You don’t need another cereal box. You need LESS STUFF. Your members need CLARITY, not clutter. A minimalist approach to event marketing, believe it or not, will result in more inspired members, higher event attendance, and better fulfillment of your organization’s mission.
Identify One Thing of Value
We know inspiration can’t exist without clarity, a way of seeing things in a new light that compels people to take action. For your organization, that means clearly conveying your mission to your membership. The best way to achieve this clarity is to strip your messaging down to the bare bones. What is the one thing with the most value you want them to know? Once you determine what that one thing is, remove any “noise” from your marketing that might distract your audience. If your messaging doesn’t tie back to your mission, it’s clutter.
Know Your Archetypes
I can hear some of you saying “But our members are so diverse! How can we deliver one message that is valuable to everyone?” Start by defining your audience’s archetypes. You might be surprised that most of your members fit into one or two defined categories that will help you speak to them in meaningful ways. You can always craft variable messaging based on membership status or event attendance, but these details are secondary to archetypes.
Another strategy for determining the one thing of value is to look at your single biggest pain point (or Super Problem, as the pros say). If your greatest concern is reaching Millennials, for example, create a clear message the illustrates the value of your mission to this particular audience. Staying clear and focused on one issue can help you avoid the clutter trap.
How to Achieve Clarity in Your Marketing
Clearly communicating your mission is essential to the first two phases of the buying cycle—raising awareness and inspiring the interested. Present a confused or cluttered message early on and people simply can’t connect with you. They’ll get lost along the way! The key to a clear message that hooks and inspires your base is to know your audience well and to concisely articulate how your event will benefit them.
Take for example, the 99U conference by Behance. Tired of hearing babble about idea generation at conference after conference, the folks at Behance wanted to see some action and results. Their solution was to develop an event around the mechanics of idea execution. The simple value proposition of the event is basically, “Let’s actually get something done,” as opposed to, “Come get certified, see speakers, network with professionals, and attend happy hours.” The former promises value. The latter, stuff.
TED Talks are another great example of clarity and simplicity in action. Experts who could speak for hours are given just 18 minutes to present an idea, engage the audience, and demonstrate the value of their work. TED Talks are wildly popular with hits in the millions because they’re relatively short, accessible, and engaging even to a layperson. Sure, the experts have more to say. But if the speaker raises awareness and inspires the interested, mission accomplished. We can always dig deeper once we’re inspired if we want to learn more and take action.
Taglines are also a nice model for clarity and simplicity. Consider Nike’s three-word mantra “Just do it” as opposed to something like “Best-in-class apparel and equipment for today’s top athletes.” When it comes to inspiring your base with your mission and your event, you want the TED Talk version, the tagline version, the version that focuses on actual value in a clear, simple way.
Not the Kitchen Sink
You might think that paring back or eliminating elements from promotions is a terrible idea. After all, your organization is doing some pretty exciting things, and you want to tell the world! Resist the urge to include everything and the kitchen sink. Keep in mind that a clear, minimalist approach doesn’t take away meaning. It simply helps you get to the main point with laser focus—to cut through the babble and inspire your membership by delivering value.
Enough with the Stuff!
Modern consumer culture buys into the lie that accumulating things will make us happier, better people. We have a passion to possess as much as possible, rather than focusing on what makes us feel fulfilled. This “more stuff” idea spills over into our roles as event marketers. We often assume more is better when in fact LESS might be just what you need to go from Ho Hum to Hell Yeah. Clarity is key to inspiring your members, fostering high-quality connections (1), and advancing your mission.
(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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