Time To Reboot Your Conference And Event Marketing


Is your event and conference marketing like this…

We’d love for you to attend our open house.

There will be 99 dishes, 15 colors of napkins, seating for 75, and two buffet tables. Five speakers will present 15 minutes each while you watch in amazement. I bet you can’t wait!

If yes, it’s time to reboot your conference and event marketing.

Marketing By The Numbers

If your marketing materials stress the numerical features of your conference:

  • how long it has been around
  • how many CEUs one can receive
  • the number of speakers and sessions there will be
  • the number of booths on the floor
  • the satisfaction rate of past attendees

Stop now and start over immediately.

Marketing For Attendees

Your marketing should be all about your attendees not about you.

You must focus on them. Who are they? Who signs their paycheck? What’s their job function? What urgent problems do they have that your conference will help solve? Who do they want to hang out with?

Use what you know about them to write meaningful invitations by key segment. Speak and interact with them like you would a friend. A personalized message is much better than a general email to all potential attendees.

You would never send a friend a “To Whom It May Concern” email — or an invitation that doesn’t give them the ability to reply to you, the sender. So why send out general promotional email blasts to your entire database?

Like a trusted friend, you want to convey to each potential attendee that they matter and that you understand their urgent needs. Personalized, targeted messages help accomplish this.

Five Fixes To Move From Conference Features To Attendee Benefits

Consider these quick fixes to help move your marketing message from conference features to attendee benefits.

1. It’s about them, not you.

Carefully check your copy. If you use the words “our” or “we” in your email or web communications, you’re not focusing on the customer. It’s not that you assembled 85 education sessions, but rather the tangible benefits that participants will gain — getting answers to problems they have. If you want to talk about your organization, use testimonials.

2. Permission to attend.

If your potential attendees need to gain approval from their boss in order to register, don’t focus your event marketing on the destination or awesome hotel you booked. Keep the focus on the business benefits or you’ll lose the sale! The one exception to this would be if your participants tend to be the sole decision makers and/or bring along the family — and then, by all means highlight the destination, amenities, and attractions. Many executives play by different rules.

3. Share photos of real attendees.

Use real photos of actual conference attendees in all your communication pieces. This allows you to convey the diversity of your attendees in terms of age, gender, and race. Let the potential attendee see someone like them in your photos. Never, ever use stock photography.

4. Link to the critical stuff.

Attendees want to scan, bookmark, or print several things: a schedule at a glance, a list of who else is coming, and pricing. Don’t make any of these difficult to locate.

5. Respect their time.

No one wants to read a 500-word email. Keep your messages succinct, your headlines tight and strong, with only one goal or call to action per communication piece. Trying to communicate many ideas in one message is a surefire way to disenchant or confuse a potential buyer.

What types of conference marketing segmentation do you use? What is your experience with using conference buyer personas?

Adapted from Dave’s Forward Thinking column in PCMA’s Convene. Reprinted with permission of Convene, the magazine of the Professional Convention Management Association. ©2013.

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