Lindsay Hilton with the SMPS Southeast Louisiana Chapter recently sent me this e-mail about event promotion:
“I am a board member of a small SMPS chapter (Southeast La., established last year) that is struggling to engage members to attend our events… Do you have any advice on how to entice our membership to come out to our events? For example, we try to host bimonthly social mixers at popular locations but the last mixer only turned out about six people. We also hold monthly luncheons with informative guest speakers from all over the country. This month’s guest is Randle Pollack. Even our luncheons produce meager results (about 20 guests attend). Any advice would be greatly appreciated! Thanks!”
I can’t say that I am an expert on events, but I shared with Lindsay my experience. I hope that you find it beneficial as well:
Thanks for the e-mail! I have likewise struggled previously to build strong attendance at programs and finally identified a couple of keys that have helped build the SMPS DC chapter lunch programs and the Design and Construction Network. They might not fit what you are doing perfectly, but they should give you some ideas. Here they are:
Provide a massive amount of value
- Ensure that you have great speakers (I know you are already doing this in that you have Randy Pollock speaking, he is one of the best marketers in the industry).
- Build programs that provide immediate value. For example, SMPS DC has an annual University program that brings in the Facilities Directors from all the local universities. The moment we invited our clients to speak, the principals from our firms started showing up to meet with the clients. Also, we asked them to talk about what jobs they have lined up this year so that everyone knows what is coming down the pipeline.
- Make certain that the entire event is designed around great networking. Probably the greatest value that people get from attending programs isn’t the speaker, it is the networking. Thus make certain it is painless to network at your events. Also, consider trying to get people to attend that others would want to network with.
Leverage WOM and viral marketing
- Word-of-mouth (WOM) marketing has been the single most effective tool for increasing attendance that I have seen. Instead of just sending out blast e-mails about an event (which you should still do) build a group of people that are responsible to invite people during the course of regular conversations. So, if you send an e-mail to a friend that might benefit from attending ask if they are going to be at the program and let them know that you are going to be there.
- Viral marketing is the art of building hype about an event. Although much more difficult to achieve (I have not yet been able to make it happen for our SMPS lunch programs) it was what made the first Design and Construction Network happy hour a success. Viral marketing excites people and builds a buzz about the event.
I hope that helps! Please note that I am not the expert on this, but it is fun to leverage our marketing backgrounds to solve problems!