Event Promotion (Increasing Event Attendance)

peoplesilhouetteLindsay 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!

Build Business 2008: Wrap-up

This years SMPS Build Business conference was nothing short of great: great friends, great information, and great fun. Some of my personal highlights included speaking at CPSM day on Wednesday on Building a Company of Rainmakers, celebrating with friends at this year’s awards gala, and finally meeting Randy Pollock, Mark Buckshon, and Mel Lester in person. I would like to say a special thanks to Kevin Doyle who worked with me at length to make certain everything went smoothly on CPSM day.  Also, extra thanks to Ron Worth, Lisa Bowman, Michele Santiago, Mark DellaPietra, Bill Scott, Christine Chirichella and the rest of the SMPS National staff that made Build Business such a great success. I have enjoyed getting to know so many of the SMPS staff and I am nothing less than impressed at the incredible job they have done as SMPS continues to grow.

Later this week I will post a follow-up to Building a Company of Rainmakers for those of you that are now apart of this blog’s network after attending Wednesday’s seminar. Also check out the PSMJ Resources Blog that was also active during Build Business this year for additional follow-up from the conference.  Thanks for the great coverage Ed!

Thank you again SMPS, I look forward to seeing all of you next year in Las Vegas for Build Business 2009!

Build Business 2008: Navigating Uncertain Times

Navigating Uncertain Times: An Executive Briefing on What to Do Now

Randy Pollock, FSMPS – Walter P Moore
Praful Kulkarni, AIA – GKK Corporation
Monica Bell – HDR/CUH2A
Bill Viehman – Perkins + Will
Greg Nook – JE Dunn Construction
(note: speaker names were not provided in the program so I pulled them from Google searches. As a result this information may not be perfect)

Favorite Quote from the Session
“Even optimists have to come to grips with uncertain market conditions.”

Key Takeaways

  1. The speakers were generally optimistic on the market. Overall the feeling was a strong institutional/public sector market, and a weak residential market.  Only limited comments were made on the retail and commercial markets.
  2. In every market condition it is imperative that firms ‘follow the money.’  Research the market to identify future growth sectors and then work to lead in those sectors.
  3. Relationships must be the focus to succeed in this (and every) market.
  4. Prepare for the upturn that is coming through market positioning. Be prepared to take advantage of opportunities, be nimble and ready to react, anticipate the market.
  5. Look to the future and identify the trends that will dictate success: energy crisis, economic changes, and cultural changes are all important to explore.
  6. We are becoming an expertise driven industry; clients are beginning to expect the “A” team on every project.
  7. Trust and Shared Values are two of the top reasons that clients are hiring firms. Clients are looking for more than great design, they are looking for values in the companies that serve them.
  8. Politics: There was a debatable belief that the upcoming elections will not have a major impact on the industry post-election.
  9. Public Private Partnerships (P3) are a wave of the future for the A/E industry.  They represent a new change in how clients want projects to be managed.
  10. Marketing needs to intersect with human resources to develop programs that focus on hiring a new generation of leaders.
  11. Never stop marketing. Firms that do quickly find their backlogs depleted.
  12. Embrace change – with volatility comes opportunity.

Survival Strategies – Marketer Article

In my recent posting Survival Strategies for 2008 (and Beyond) I provided a quick excerpt on Randy Pollock’s article in the April edition of Marketer on “Making the Most of an Economic Downturn.” Over the past week I have heard from many of you that wanted to read the article in its entirety.

I was able to connect with Randy this last week and received his permission to post a .pdf of the article on this website.  Thank you again Randy for a great article, and to the many marketing experts that also contributed to the article. 

Let me again share with you several more of my favorite quotes from the article from top some marketers on responding to changing market conditions:

“One word comes to mind when I think about how to address the impact of a potential slower economy on our industry: FOCUS on all of the marketing activities of the firm, on business development pursuits, and where marketing dollars would be best spent.”
J. Rossi, Burt Hill, Philadelphia, PA

“Keep your focus: It’s positioning for the change and being there for the client and his business.”
Harlan Hallquist, FSMPS 

Survival Strategies for 2008 (and Beyond)

Randy Pollock of Walter P Moore wrote a great article in the April edition of SMPS Marketer on “Making the Most of an Economic Downturn.”  Specifically, Randy identifies five strategies that you can take now to respond to the changing market conditions.  Here is a summary of those strategy recommendations:

  1. Client Care – A strategy that positions your clients – and the depth and quality of your relationship with them.
  2. Focus/Targeting – A strategy that positions your firm – with its singular focus on targeted clients, markets, and projects.
  3. Fundamentals – A strategy that positions your marketing operations, procedures, and processes and revisits your fundamentals.
  4. Internal Marketing – A strategy for growing a firm from the inside out, internal marketing focuses on the people inside a firm.
  5. Diversification – A strategy that intentionally broadens your services, markets, and/or geographical locations.

Randy also provides quotes on survival approaches from top marketers on how they are responding to the changing market conditions.  Here are some of my favorites:

“In my experience the only cure is to get out of the office and meet someone, every day if possible.  It starts with our existing customers.” – Harlan Hallquist – J.E. Dunn Construction

 “Now is a good time to meet with your best clients, one on one.  Discuss their problems and how they intend to weather the storm.  Discuss working together to solve problems.  Provide seminars with subjects and speakers that address the client’s problems as well as serve our business for insight into future opportunities.” – Dianne Schachner – LEO A. DALY

“Internal marketing is a strategy for growing a firm from the inside out, focusing on the people inside a firm.  A continuous, participative process, it fosters communication, training, and motivation of employees – principally those with client contact, but support employees as well.  It requires leadership, direction, planning, and constant focus.  Its sole focus is inside a firm, targeted to the people who perform the work – mobilizing their energies and motivation their pursuit of shared goals – and shared rewards.” – Randy Pollock, Walter P Moore

 “Become even closer to them (your clients) in lean times.  See if you can create a project that provides intensive value-added return to the client organization.”  Dennis Schrag – The Longview Group