Enabling Influence Trumps Spraying and Praying

teamwork by Paolo Margari, on FlickrList buys and promotional email blasts rarely convince and convert the attendees you want for your conference or trade show. Today, you need to earn the privilege to be seen in a professional’s email inbox.

Attendance acquisition has shifted forever from push to pull marketing.

While you want to be in it for the long-run…earning inbox access and protecting that privilege, you can accelerate that through partnering with communities who represent a demographic segment that you want to grow.

What Partners Am I Talking About?

  1. Bloggers, online communities or list-serves, specialty associations or SIG’s
  2. Influential consultants, distributors or contractors
  3. Regional chapters or affiliates

The best candidates will be smaller, niche players who are progressive and nimble. Choose partners that have a following in an attendee segment you want to grow and don’t skimp on your partner offers.

Rather than constantly being seen as promoting and pushing information, this type of partner marketing is perceived by the potential attendee as an endorsement of your conference – pull marketing.

Consider These Partner Incentives:

  1. Encourage your community partners (bloggers, online communities SIG’s etc.) to help by offering their subscribers special access to your conference, a booth in your expo and/or tickets to your evening events.
  2. Entice influential consultants and distributors by offering access to thought leadership opportunities: such as presenting at your conference, writing a column in your magazine, guest blogging, or tickets to one of your VIP events.
  3. Your regional groups can be your strongest brand ambassadors. Don’t forget they also have access to prospects that you may only be able to reach during this rotation. During your conference, allow them to host chapter receptions or meet-ups and encourage chapter interaction on your opening day. Make them feel special by offering 1-2 full registrations for each chapter to give away during their local chapter meetings.  Make certain to provide your chapters with ongoing education to support the local membership and articles for their publications.

Embrace Affiliate Marketing

Affiliate marketing is a strategy that many conference organizers don’t understand or leverage. At its core, affiliate marketing is performance-based marketing that rewards another party for delivering new customers.

For a premium conference, acquisition costs for each new attendee will often exceed $100. In affiliate marketing, it’s not uncommon to compensate the affiliate 20 – 30% of the purchase price. You can, but don’t necessarily need to write a check. Instead, consider a combination of discounts that are only available through that channel and benefits designed to support that community or influencer.

The most effective strategy is to put the partner community first. This is best accomplished by making their brand primary and your brand and offer secondary. The offer should come across as being something that is only available because they belong and/or choose to be part of that community.

Now – don’t go crazy. You must carefully review each potential partner and offer to ensure you are partnering strategically and not giving away too much or too many.


How could your organization better leverage the power of affiliate marketing? What smaller, niche communities or tribes represent a demographic you desire to grow? 

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