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Why Conference Marketing Isn’t All About You

Is your conference marketing program designed as a hard-hitting call to action, with messaging that pushes and prods participants to that inevitable moment when they register?

Or do you take a more gradual approach, designed to pull the audience in by positioning the event as an irresistible opportunity for networking and professional development?

Your past registration campaigns may have emphasized one of these strategies or both. But the ultimate questions are:

·         Is the conference all about you or all about them?
·         And if it isn’t all about them, why do you expect them to attend?

The End of the Hard Sell

The big difference between the approaches is as simple and powerful as helping people find the information they think they need, rather than deluging them with the content you want them to like. According to Association Laboratory Inc., a U.S. association management consultancy, this is one of the characteristics that distinguish marketing from sales.

“Marketing is a member-driven approach to creating a package of products and services that solve member problems,” the company states. “Selling is an organization-driven approach designed to convince your audience to purchase what you have to sell.”

For the most part, “when most people say marketing, they usually mean promotion.”

A Gradual, Long-Term Goal

Earlier this year, I attended a workshop on creative marketing and sponsorships hosted by the Ottawa-Gatineau Chapter of the Canadian Association of Society Executives. One of my main takeaways was that marketing campaigns should build member engagement—inevitably a gradual, long-term goal, in contrast to short-term event registration targets.

Association Laboratory lists a series of possible catalysts for your next marketing campaign. Have you spotted a decline in membership or conference attendance? Are you losing volunteers or having trouble recruiting new ones? If your impulse is to launch your next mass mailing or e-blast, that may be the right step. But only if your messaging is about the unique value your members and participants can count on you to deliver, not the product or service you want them to buy in the next 48 hours.

No Silver Bullets

There are no silver bullets for engaging members, but I recently published a list of my favourite marketing tips for associations. If you’ve just clicked the link, or if you’re just about to, you know exactly how your members should feel (and exactly what they should want to do) after reading your next conference marketing piece.