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The New Way to Market Events is the Old Way. Just Better.
How are you going to get people to your association’s event this year? If you’re not asking yourself this question right now, you should be.

Why? Because just about everyone is having trouble marketing events right now. The fear of recession, combined with the reality of inflation, means companies are searching for areas to cut.

Inevitably, they see education and travel, i.e., your event, as the low-hanging fruit.

In fact, a Forrester report from late 2023 predicted that companies would be rethinking investments in “employee experience” for 2024. Top on the list? You guessed it: Meetings and events related to personal development, education, and training.

According to our own data, we’re predicting that in 2024, event attendance will be down 12 – 15% and accruals will be down 18 – 25%. The percentage of members renewing will stay roughly the same. But because so many of your member companies now have decreased revenues, they’ll renew at a lower fee.

You need a plan to cleverly circumnavigate these brutal realities. To get your event off the chopping block and into the pipeline of possibility.

The reality is that attendees behave differently today than they did even just two years ago. This means you’ve got to take a fresh look at the year and the way you’re going about things. You’ve got to be willing to think differently, and to go back to the drawing board on some key elements of your strategy.

We’ll explain what we mean in this series of blog posts. But for now, we’ve got 3 words for you: Think in phases.

With uncertainty always swirling around and the world moving faster than ever, you’ve got to take a phased approach to marketing your event. Each phase is as important as the next, but you also can’t get ahead of yourself.

In this series of posts, we’ll talk about what each phase looks like, and offer some real-life examples from association clients.

We can’t wait to share all the details. But here’s the TL;DR:

Phase One: Inspire People

For years, we’ve been championing the idea that for your event to stay relevant, you must inspire the base. What we’ve learned in working with more than 100 different associations is that inspiration is part-science, part-art.

Finding what will inspire people to commit to your event is a process of discovery. Once you understand what moves your people, you must create actionable messages around it. Then you have to know when and how to deploy them, to wrest people’s attention away—even momentarily—from every other distraction competing for their time.

Inspiration fosters unity, aligning elements through a dynamic force in our collective pursuits.

Phase Two: Reassure the Intent

The second phase of marketing is all about curating the facts, to paint a vivid picture of your event. This is when FOMO is your friend. You’ve got a millimeter of people’s attention. What will you do with it?

It’s not that the inspiration phase is over. Rather, you’re pulling the inspiration through into more concrete details, talking about who will be there, what attendees will learn, and what benefits await them.

Phase Three: Plan for the 40-Day Dash

In our contemporary landscape, attendees are waiting longer than ever to register for events. Many people won’t commit until 40 days out or less. We call this the 40-day dash.

We created an entire marketing program around the 40-day dash, with specific tactics to help you reach your audience goals in those last 6 weeks. We’ll show you how to target and re-target, how to get others to spread the word for you, and how to make email work for you (versus getting ignored).

We’re going to face challenges in 2024, there’s no doubt about it. But when you take the right steps, and invest in the right phases of marketing, you can have a successful, inspiring, well-attended event.

The good news is this: When you take the right steps, and invest in the right phases of marketing, you can have a successful, inspiring, well-attended event.

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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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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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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