Triggers, Targets, and Inspired Journeys in Event Marketing

Triggers, Targets, and Inspired Journeys in Event Marketing

So far, we’ve debunked the myth that inspiration is unknowable. We’ve shed light on the powerful Inspiration-Connection Duality™. And we’ve helped you get a clearer picture of clarity, energy, and spark—the three key elements your event marketing needs to inspire members.

Our goal is to help you understand how to use inspiration as a best practice for your association. To that end, it’s time to talk about how inspiration translates into something tangible. In other words, how do you rally inspiration and turn it into action? Because if you want to build a more sustainable organization, you need people taking action at the right times.


Research has found that people in an inspired state feel a sense of possibility. Psychologists call this goal enablement. It means that an individual feels enabled to make something happen for him or herself. That’s exciting stuff! But it needs direction.

To start, it needs a trigger. In the most basic sense, your brand is the trigger, or the thing your members connect this feeling of goal enablement to. But within the broad category of your event brand, there are many types of triggers. Think of inspiration triggers as the fence posts of your marketing campaign: they are the teasers along the way that support your overall message. You’re always trying to pull some sort of trigger when you communicate with members.

Let’s look at three types: product-driven triggers, networking triggers, and unique triggers.

Product-driven triggers are the traditional nuts and bolts of your event, and include:
  • Education (workshops, sessions, tracks)
  • Certifications
  • Pre-conferences

Before we move on to other types of triggers, let’s do a quick review of the elements of inspiration: clarity, energy, and spark. It’s not nearly enough to send a bland, business-as-usual email about the different tracks your event has, and call it a trigger. If you’re following along, then you know you have to build your marketing campaign around your mission (channeling clarity). Each email or direct mail piece you send that uses one of these triggers has to tie back to that notion of clarity. Likewise, you want to ensure that you’re following the strategic plan you set in place, and building the energy. And finally, the mention of a trigger alone is NOT a spark. You have to create the spark with captivating visuals, imaginative and concise prose, and a well-executed design.

In other words: keep everything you’ve already learned about what inspires members in the forefront of your mind as we move on to the other triggers!

Networking triggers including facilitated networking opportunities and organic networking opportunities. We say “facilitated,” because that’s the lingo associations use; but in fact, it’s really forced networking. It’s planned. As much as we advocate careful planning, you can’t actually “plan” connections, and you certainly can’t force them. In our work with associations, we’ve discovered that the higher up members are in an organization, the less likely they are to derive any benefit from the forced networking. Organic networking is a stronger trigger overall—the more opportunities you can create for it (and the more compelling stories you can tell around it), the better.

Your organization also has unique triggers. Unique triggers are triggers that are tied to your specific event. There are generally two categories of unique triggers: pricing promotions and special events.

Pricing promotion triggers could include:
  • Group discounts
  • Membership specials
  • Early bird rates
  • Giveaways and add-ons
  • First-time attendee promotions
  • Save the dates
  • Lapsed attendee discounts (someone who has attended in the past, but not for a few years)

Special event triggers are those pieces that are distinctive, and even exclusive, to your event. This includes the popular outings or related sporting or other events that always get a large draw. Special event triggers are terrific opportunities, because they tend to be the things your attendees naturally look forward to, and tell other potential attendees about.

Examples of special event triggers:
  • Keynotes
  • Opening sessions
  • Special interest groups (sigs)
  • Luncheons
  • Closing sessions
  • Concerts
  • Golf outings
  • 5k run/walk events
  • “Night at the . . .” events (ballpark, racetrack, museum, etc.)
  • Fun and lively networking events (game night, art night, movie night, etc.)


If your triggers are the fence posts, then your target is the gate. It’s where you want to lead members, and what you want them to DO in the inspired moment. You’ve given them a trigger (a hint about the possibility that awaits at the event) and now, they need to act in a specific way.

There are five common targets for event marketing campaigns:
  1. Register
  2. Sign-up
  3. Tell someone else (word of mouth)
  4. Visit the website
  5. Make an inbound inquiry

In every piece of communication, make sure that your target is clear! The copy and visuals both need to support the target, and lead people organically to the conclusion that this is the action they need to take.

Organize your marketing segments.

The last piece of the trigger/target puzzle is around the idea of marketing segmentation. Just because your members and potential attendees tend to be like-minded doesn’t mean the same exact message will resonate with all of them. You may have the same trigger and the same target, but you need to spin it slightly differently among your groups of constituents.

You may need to segment according to:
  • Archetype (see our work on archetypes here)
  • Profession/career type/degree type/membership type
  • Purchasing behavior (the “givens”—the 20 to 30 percent who always register, the potential customer, and the repeat customer)

At Rottman Creative, we talk endlessly about inspiration. Our motto is that it’s yours for the taking, and you have to pursue it fiercely, as if your organization’s future depends upon it (because it does). You may look at everything we’ve outlined above and say, “But this is all process stuff!”

Exactly. Because it IS a process—but it’s a process with purpose, backed up by the Inspiration-Connection Duality™. This process is what brings your marketing meaning, order, and peace—which is vastly different than the anxiety, chaos, and despair that aimless, uninspired, unconnected event marketing creates for associations.


What you’re really doing with this process is creating an inspired journey for your people. You have to lead them through the process with purpose, because purpose attracts purpose, and aimlessness attracts aimlessness. It’s not just about the numbers you get at your event this year, it’s about next year and the year after that and the year after that, and so on.

For sustainability, you need more than casual tourists, who drop by from time to time. You need pilgrims—people who are deeply connected, and come year after year, as if making a pilgrimage. Every association lists “how do we find these people?” as the million-dollar question they’re struggling to answer! The answer is far simpler than most associations realize: you harness a process. However, just because the answer is “simple” doesn’t mean it’s “easy.” It takes WORK!

Are you ready to do the work of creating inspired journeys for your members and attendees?

If this piece has inspired YOU, we encourage you to pass it on to someone else you think can benefit. Forward this newsletter, or share on social media. Let’s start an inspiration revolution!

Share this post in LinkedIn: