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A Year-Round Conversation Through #Event #Marketing

There may have been a time, once upon a time, when an event marketing strategy was as simple as “plan it and they will come.”

But those days are done. With a larger number of competing events, new and sometimes fractured marketing channels, and shrinking budgets, it isn’t enough to put together a dynamite program and count on the audience to show up.

The smartest, most effective event marketers are making those three or four days onsite the cornerstone of a year-round conversation, in which:

  • The business and collegial relationships start developing online.
  • The dialogue is advanced onsite.
  • The closing plenary session isn’t the end. It’s the end of the beginning for the new ideas, opportunities, and issues that participants will carry back to their online channels to continue the conversation.

A New Way to Interact

This new way of interacting is a huge opportunity for any event. But it’s particularly promising for the kind of innovative, groundbreaking program that association executives said they wanted when we did the background research for the Engaging Associations Summit, July 24-25 at the Canadian Museum of Nature in Ottawa.

You told us you wanted to learn and share experiences with your peers, rather than just hearing from consultants and industry vendors.

You said you craved fresh, alternative formats that would deliver a more powerful learning experience.

And we knew it would take more than a few days for those deeper, more useful conversations to grow and flourish.

That’s why we asked Rachel Stephan, Principal of sensov/ event marketing™, to join us as a strategic partner for the Summit.

Back to First Principles

sensov’s approach to event marketing—and the approach we’re taking for the Summit—is a good reflection of the questioning spirit we’ve brought to this entire adventure.

We’re going back to first principles, leaving no standard practice unexamined if we can help it.

You asked us for an event that replaced talking heads at the podium with real dialogue among peers. You encouraged us to second-guess whether a successful event had to take place in a standard meeting room, with standard d├ęcor and amenities.  sensov/ event marketing™ is helping us rethink conventional marketing strategies by putting different audience segments at the centre of every decision.

  • We checked all our assumptions about the benefits and takeaways that would make the conference a great investment for association executives, then built our marketing around the language we heard back from prospective participants.
  • We aren’t placing ourselves at the centre of our own marketing universe. sensov/ event marketing™ encouraged us to treat speakers and participants, sponsors and exhibitors, our venue and other vendors, and our partner organizations as the best messengers to introduce the Summit to their own contacts and communities.
  • Although we’ve ended up with a robust social media campaign, we didn’t have any preconceived notions about which messages we’d be sharing on which platforms until we’d mapped each segment of our campaign to our specific audiences and objectives.

And in a great example of preaching what we practice, Summit participants will get to interact with Rachel Stephan first-hand, hearing her ideas and sharing their own experiences with event marketing campaigns that put participants and audiences first.

Click here for more on the Engaging Associations Summit, July 24-25, 2014 in Ottawa.

sensov/ event marketing™ is a creative marketing agency with a clear focus: marketing association meetings and international congresses. Challenging status quo, pushing the limits of existing marketing campaigns, sparking new marketing ideas, being at the forefront of event technology. Since 2001, our strategies and creative campaigns consistently deliver results that meet and surpass clients’ meetings objectives. 

Young #Association Professionals – We Want to Engage YOU!

On July 24-25, the inaugural Engaging Association Summit will take place at the Canadian Museum of Nature in Ottawa, ON.  We are currently seeking young professionals who are looking to:
  • Advance in their careers;
  • Create change within their role and their organization;
  • Participate in thought-provoking conversations on strategy;
  • Get insights on what Association Leaders look for in younger members of their team;
  • Offer their views on the association landscape of today and tomorrow.

Does this sound like you?  If so, Travel Alberta has partnered with us to host up to five young professionals at the summit free of charge*!  Here’s how it works:

  • For the purposes of the program, a young professional is 30 and under, and must be working with an association at the time of entry.
  • Submit a short video and tell us your “why”: why are you working in the non-profit sector?  What issues are you passionate about?  What are your education or advancement goals?
  • With your email entry, tell us your full contact name, the association you work with, and the best way to reach you during the day (phone, email and social media accounts).
  • Finalists’ videos will be posted online.  A panel of Summit partners and participants will be asked to vote and select winning entries.
  • Throughout the Summit, young professionals will be asked to share thoughts and feedback on their perspectives about engagement issues in membership-based organizations.  

Are you ready to get involved?

Check out our program for more information on the topics and facilitators.  The deadline for entries is Friday, June 6th, 2014.  Those who have been selected as the 5 winners will be notified by Wednesday, June 18th.  Should your entry not be selected we will be happy to extend special pricing to contest participants for the entire duration of the summit.

Act now!  We look forward to receiving your entry!

*Summit registration fees only.  Transportation and overnight accommodation may be sponsored at the discretion of the organizers if the participant is traveling from more than 50km away.

New Marketing Strategy Builds Deeper Member Engagement

You would almost call it Unmarketing.

Content marketing can actually be a more effective way of building lasting, lucrative, mutually beneficial association relationships. But for account managers accustomed to a traditional, hard-driving sales cycle, the approach can seem awfully gradual and gentle.

For associations, a more audience-centred approach to inbound rather than outbound marketing means listening more and blasting less, building engagement around shared values and interests before focusing on the perks, privileges, and sale items that go along with membership.

When content marketing works - and there’s growing evidence that it does workyour sales team gets to combine its traditional outbound calling schedule with a growing stream of inbound queries.

A Collaborative Way to Sell

And by the time those prospects get in touch, they’ve read your blog, visited your website, and made up their own minds about why they want to talk to you. Which means they’re much closer to paying for a membership, signing up for a training program, or buying a publication than they would have been if you’d called them cold.

It’s a different, more collaborative and respectful way of running an association’s marketing program. And that makes content marketing an important topic to dig into at the Engaging Associations Summit in July.

“Associations are constantly curating, creating, presenting, and disseminating content,” wrote Jenise Fryatt, Content Marketing Specialist at Smarter Shift, in a recent post on the Cvent Event Planning blog. “So content marketing is a natural fit. Whether your objectives are advocacy, member recruitment/retention, event marketing, or creating a content resource, you can use the content you already have to market your association online.”

Demonstrating What We Preach

Beyond practicing what we preach, you can expect to see the Summit demonstrate a marketing approach that is opening up bold new opportunities for the associations that embrace it.

We’re planning a steady stream of timely, compelling online content - before, during, and after the Summit - to help association executives decide whether and why they should be interested in a bold new approach to non-profit management.

Take this blog as an example.

If you’ve read this far, it’s because we’ve captured your interest with useful information about a new set of marketing strategies.

You know we’re running an event, and you can click the link if you want to. (Somewhere, it must be written in stone that we were obliged to repeat the link when we referred to the Summit.)

But if we’d led off by telling you about our fabulous speakers or unique venue, you probably would have tuned out.

If all you get from this post is a useful heads-up on a new way of organizing your marketing and outreach program, we’ll be genuinely satisfied. Before long, you’ll come to think of us as a valuable source of smart content and sharp insights. After a few more weeks, you might realize that it’s time to register for the Summit, before all the available spaces have filled.

And that would be a win for both of us.

Sealing the Deal

There are still times and places when you have to seal the deal. When it’s time to launch an outbound sales campaign, the market insights you gain through content marketing make it easier to target your approach to the different, distinct audience personas among your members and prospects.

And to the extent that the people you approach already see you as a valued resource, you’re likely to get a better response from a series of calls that aren’t quite cold calls after all.

Content marketing responds to many of the cultural and demographic shifts that we’ll be addressing at the Engaging Associations Summit - it’s more nimble, more respectful, and opens the door more effectively to two-way communication. In that sense, it’s a hands-on expression of the cries for change that led us to host the Summit in the first place. Check out the Summit program today to find out what else we have in store.

Sponsors Matter! Associations need to better engage...

Let's face it.  Without sponsors, may things associations try to achieve could not happen. Whether it is an event, industry research, or perhaps a new program that you are looking to implement, sponsorship dollars really help your bottom line.

I know, nothing new.  But at a time where engagement is driving attendance, purchases and relationships, why are we still treating sponsors like a commodity?  Instead, I suggest changing our views.

Sponsors are those that help pay for breaks, or who only want their logo placed on banners and marketing material.  People who invest should be considered partners – they have chosen you for a reason.  You provide them with access to people they want to do business with.  In turn, they want to be positioned as thought-leaders, resources, and experts in your industry.

In this piece, I will provide you with two personal examples - what to do, and what to avoid.

Let's start with what to avoid:

  • Sponsorship Prospectus:  The prospectus has been used for years to show how sponsors can “pay to play”, and get branding access at a higher level to your delegates.  But they are basic, showcasing where their logos will be used, and what specific meals and sessions they could be paying for.  Going forward, if you need to have a prospectus, be clear that this is a starting point, as you want to customize their experience.  
  • Assumptions:  Just because they sponsored last year, it does NOT mean that it is a "done deal" for future sponsorship opportunities.  Relationships need to be nurtured.  This can be done through email nurturing programs, which update sponsors on the latest developments with your organization or event, as well as timely “touch base” calls.  If you are simply reaching out when it is time to ask for money, you are not doing enough.  There are a ton of other opportunities available to the sponsor, and eventually they will drop you in favour of someone who is paying attention to them.
Instead, you should try:
  • Customization:  For Greenfield’s Engaging Associations Summit, we are truly creating change.  This does not just mean change for the participant, but change for the sponsor as well.  The Summit will have fewer sponsors than the typical conference/event, and sponsors are going to have exclusivity in their industry.  What does this mean for them?  No competition.  This, along with our "basic" sponsorship coverage, extensive social media exposure, and the opportunity for small group presentations, our sponsors are finding that they are really getting value for their dollar.  AND we are checking in and getting their buy-in every step of the way!
  • Alignment with your values:  When we started reaching out to potential partners, we cast a wide net to see if the industry would support what we wanted to achieve.  And it did.  But some things are more important than the all-mighty dollar.  We wanted people who get it, and want to create change and engage. There were MANY of them.  Because we insisted on offering exclusivity, and spoke in-depth with each potential partner, we were fortunate enough to be in a “first come, first serve” position.  And we look forward to welcoming our partners to our inaugural event!
When was the last time you reviewed your sponsorship approach?  Do you have anything unique that you try to achieve with your sponsors?

The Secret to Member Engagement is…Developing Brand Ambassadors

When the phrase “member engagement” is typed into Google, about 219,000,000 results are returned. Let’s take a moment to let that sink in. Over 200 MILLION results. Among those results reside all types of LinkedIn, Google+, Facebook, and Twitter group discussions, as well as blog posts, webinars and case studies on the subject. Needless to say, we can all agree that member engagement is a hot topic and is crucial to an association’s sustainability and growth.

As an employee/team member of a company who works directly with over 2,000 trade associations every single day, I have seen many ways our successful association partners have worked to actively engage their members. But when it came time for me to write this post on “The Secret of Member Engagement,” I initially drew a blank. After all, what IS the secret to member engagement I really want to convey to my readers? Is there really one secret to success? No, of course there isn’t! But for the sake of my sanity (as well as the sanity of my readers), I’m giving you the one secret to member engagement I think is incredibly important: Developing Brand Ambassadors.

Brand Ambassadors are members who are loyal, true champions of an association’s overall brand and mission. Their main purpose is to embody the values, character and overall image of an organizations brand. They are the members who will attend every conference and networking event possible; and they will go above and beyond to help ensure member retention and growth.

So how do you go about developing brand ambassadors? Here are a couple of steps in doing so:

  1. Choose your ambassadors wisely.  When looking to cultivate your association’s brand ambassadors, it’s important to choose the members who will be most effective. A good brand ambassador is one who can actively engage members year-round and really make them feel as though they are an integral part of the organization. They ask key questions, listen and act as mediators between members and the association’s executive board. 
  2. Know your audience. This goes hand-in-hand with the first step mentioned above. Most likely, you have multiple audiences- each one with different communication preferences. If this is the case, you don’t want to develop cookie cutter brand ambassadors. Instead, be sure you are including both men and women from each age group. After all, you want your ambassadors to be people your other members can relate to and feel comfortable approaching. 
  3. Value your ambassador’s thoughts. You chose your brand ambassadors to build trust with your members. Therefore, you need to trust your brand ambassadors. If they come to you with suggestions or concerns, make their ideas a priority. Their input can be invaluable in understanding what your members really want.
  4. Create a brand ambassador program. Whether you develop online modules and/or host meetings, creating a brand ambassador program will really encourage the members who want to go above and beyond to better your association by showing them you are willing to invest time into them. This will boost their confidence in your brand even more, which will empower them to go out and engage the rest of your members.

If you have any other suggestions on increasing member engagement, I would love to see them in the comments below. Happy Engaging!

About the author: Callie Cady works for Dallas-based Multiview, the #1 digital media publisher for trade associations. You can read more of her thoughts at and on Twitter @CallieCady.