Year after year, most event marketers face a big challenge: Increase registration numbers. As attendees find more free online education opportunities, that can be a tall order that forces marketers to move straight into selling mode. They identify a target audience, craft some seemingly compelling discount offers, send emails, and expect to see results. However, Kristen Ferrer, director of digital marketing at mdg, believes that the rush to ask for registration dollars is a no-no.
“Before you ever ask for anything, give, give, give,” Ferrer said Jan. 7 at the Convening Leaders session, “Crafting An Event Marketing Plan That Today’s Attendees Will Respond To.” “Introduce them to new concepts. Give them trend reports. Offer things that will help them look good in their jobs.”
Aimee Kaufman, senior director of marketing at the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA), echoed Ferrer’s belief in the need to demonstrate a softer approach to marketing. NBAA produces a relatively new show, the Asian Business Aviation Conference & Exhibition (ABACE), in Shanghai, and the organization faces a brand-recognition battle.
“A lot of the audience doesn’t know that NBAA is even part of the event,” said Kaufman, whose organization works with mdg on event marketing and audience-acquisition efforts. “What we needed to do was build out a nurture campaign.”
“We said, ‘We’re not going to ask them for anything,’” Kaufman added. “We are just simply going to provide content for them for free. Over the course of the campaign, we’ll make a nod to ABACE. Eventually, we may include an invitation to learn more or register, but that doesn’t come until much later in the cycle.”
Nurturing Needs to Continue On Site
Showing a heightened level of care for the audience shouldn’t stop once they become members or register for an event. Kaufman and Ferrer discussed the high costs of audience acquisition and the need to dedicate extra energy to make sure those first-time attendees return. “Once our attendees attend two times or more, it’s exponentially easier to bring them back,” Kaufman said. “But the first-time attendees can be very hard [to retain].”
Part of that struggle may be linked to feeling lost in the crowd. NBAA’s flagship event attracts approximately 25,000 attendees. “It is very overwhelming for someone who is coming for the first time,” Kaufman said. “We really wanted to help personalize that experience and make it more manageable for them.”
To deliver that feeling of personalization in 2018, NBAA hosted a pre-show program to help new attendees get comfortable with navigating the environment and making the most of the program. The audience was small — between 80 and 85 first-time attendees participated — but Ferrer highlighted that each of them represents a potential connection to new networks of prospective attendees.
“Influencers don’t have to be the Seth Godins of the world,” Ferrer said in a nod to the well-respected marketing visionary who had appeared on the main stage in Pittsburgh prior to the session. “They just have to be their colleagues. People trust people.”