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In-person events are not a thing of the past. They just need better attendee marketing!

Scott Oser provided this guest post.  He is the President of Scott Oser Associates Inc, a US-based consultancy working with associations and non-profits to solve marketing, sales & membership and circulation challenges. 

I am sure you have heard many times how attendance at face-to-face meetings are down and that webinars, virtual conferences and social media are allowing a percentage of your potential attendees to no longer attend your face-to-face meetings, conferences and seminars.  While this may be true in some cases it is definitely not true at every organization.  I firmly believe that with the right programming and smart marketing face-to-face events can be as effective as ever.  This article is going to give you some tips to greatly increase your chances of having an incredibly successful meeting in the near future.

Plan! Plan! Plan!
No successful marketing effort starts without a plan.  Even if you have marketed the meeting or conference before you still need to devise a marketing plan.  The first step in developing your plan is to review what you have done in the past and determining what worked and what didn’t work.  It is amazing how much information you can gather just by reviewing what you have done in the past as it can inform you as to what you want to do more of, less of and the same amount of for the next meeting.  It will also help you identify any gaps that might exist that you want to fill with new activities.

Your Website Is Your Home Base
Almost everything marketing activity that you undertake should direct your audience back to your website.  Your website needs to be the hub that contains all of the different details that an attendee, an exhibitor, a speaker or any other audience that you reach for your meeting needs to know.  It is therefore critical that your website is well designed and very user friendly.  It is also important that your website is regularly updated and always up-to-date.

Don’t Be A One Trick Pony
Not every single individual you reach out to is going to respond to the same marketing medium.  We no longer live in a world where you will succeed by contacting your members only through direct mail or only through email or only through any one marketing tactic.  In today’s world where marketing is everywhere and people do have preferences it is important that you implement a multi-media approach to your marketing.   Of course you will want to use your data to determine what works best and use that most often but that medium still needs to be part of a marketing mix.

Use What You Already Have!
All associations are already communicating with their members in multiple ways.  We have e-newsletters, magazines, journals, speakers, exhibitors and sponsors, webinars, conferences, chapters, social media, etc.  Before you start paying for external opportunities to market your conference look at what you already have and determine how you can use those opportunities to drive attendance.  Your primary audience for your meeting as most likely your members who are already taking advantage of the items I mentioned below so this is a great, inexpensive way to get your message out.

Target! Target! Target!
Your attendee marketing is going to be much more effective if you define your target markets and message them accordingly.  There are going to be different pieces of your meeting that will appeal to different pieces of your audience so it is important to “speak” to these people about the areas they will find most interesting.  One idea I have seen work recently is literally promoting certain sessions and activities to a certain audience based on their role in their organization.  This is incredibly effective as it shows the prospective attendee that you understand who they while showing them something that will be of value to them.

Track! Track! Track!
I realize that this sounds really simple but there are still many associations that are not tracking the results of their attendee marketing efforts.  Tracking is essential because if we don’t track there is no way for us to know what is working so we don’t know what to do more of, less of or even to stop doing altogether.  Some ways you can pretty easily track the effectiveness of your marketing efforts is by putting source/promo codes on direct mail pieces, unique urls on ads and email blasts or even matching responses back to marketing efforts just due to the timing of the effort.  One of the goals of any marketer is to always improve the response rates and tracking will allow you to generate the data to do that.

There is the possibility that your face-to-face meeting will never have as many attendees as it did in the past.  That said, if you follow some, or all, of the tips suggested above you will definitely end up with a marketing plan that is more effective from a human, financial and response perspective.  You will also have a much better chance of ending up with attendance numbers that are exactly where you want to be.

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici /