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In uncertain times, it is important to return to the basics of audience acquisition for your next conference or meeting. It has been said before, but worth saying again that when it comes to driving attendance at conferences, “Content is King.” All of the fancy marketing strategies in the world won’t save your event if nobody sees it as worthwhile and relevant. Plain and simple, people want to return from conferences equipped with new information, insights, and strategies that will help them do their jobs better. If you are in any doubt that attendance at your event is being marred by content that does not speak to the everyday concerns f your target audience, then it is worth spending time addressing and overhauling the program. Aligning content with the needs of your audience and ensuring ongoing quality can be achieved in any number of ways. For example, and preferably in combination, put together a program advisory board comprised of experts in the field; establish an attendee feedback loop either through a survey or the voting system that captures their desires and impressions; invest in your speakers by developing a coaching program that hones and sharpens their communication and presentation skills.

Keep it Simple

Once convinced that the content you are offering speaks directly to your target audience, craft your message in clear and simple terms. What does your event offer and why is it worth the time, money and effort to attend? Develop simple statements that tie the benefits of attending your event back to the target’s ability to do a better job, and roll these out throughout your campaign. For example, does your event teach advanced techniques that will contribute to superior performance, mitigate the risks of job specific pitfalls or provide mandatory industry credentialing?

Be Concrete

The key to crafting the right message is to be concrete. You’ll find it easy to be concrete if you truly know your target. Combining professional needs with the psychographic analysis is a proven way to better understand your target audience and deliver relevant content and messaging. Analysis of this kind will also allow you to understand if your conference has multiple target audiences. If so, it’s very likely each group will have their own distinct ‘journey’ or ‘path’ at the event and this should be highlighted and personalized in your marketing pieces. How does each group talk? What are their concerns? What do they respond to? What makes their eyes light up? What do they read? Be prepared to walk a mile in their shoes. By doing so you’ll be able to communicate most effectively. Don’t leave it up to your copywriter to figure it all out.

Keep it Conversational

Forget the grand, overblown statements about what your event is or is not. Your marketing message should avoid looking like and sounding like a motivational poster. The vast majority of conference attendees are the foot-soldiers of their industry—these are the folks who do the work and who expect to return to the office with practical knowledge that they can then apply to their day-to-day responsibilities. Therefore, a good starting point when crafting your marketing message is to think about what you can convey about your event that will allow your target to understand and believe that your conference will provide the tools to do a better job. Nobody in your target audience is looking to conquer the world (well, maybe some are), but rather to be effective at what they do. And they are relying on you to help them! So, talk to them in terms that they can relate to. Talk to them about improvements that they’ll see in their day-to-day work life as a result of attending your event.

Avoid Fear Mongering

In an economy such as this, people have enough to worry about. Planting your message in a fear (and/or greed) framework does not help you gain traction over the long-term. It might elicit a motivating, short-term, quickening-of-the-pulse reaction, but event marketers should be in the business of developing long-term relationships. People respond better to the perceived benefits of attending an event over the ‘what ifs’ of not attending. Stay positive. Stay benefits-driven. That said, there are times when your target audience needs to be jolted into taking the invitation to attend your event seriously. For example, there are dire consequences to not staying informed about issues related to regulation and compliance or keeping customer information secure against the threat of a security breach. If your event is offering critical need to know information, then, by all means, make your target audience pay attention. However, keep your message grounded in rational, business-based facts and avoid emotional scare tactics.

Champion What Often Goes Unnoticed

We cannot deny the realities of a faltering global economy and the accompanying layoffs, downsizing and the pervasive sense of hunkering down. However, no company stops and waits for it all to blow over. As event marketers, we have the opportunity to champion the continuing march towards greater innovation, increased efficiencies and an expansion of market share and profit, even in periods of economic contraction. In fact, the smart companies are the ones that see the opportunities among the challenges. Let your message be honest about the realities, but showcase the solutions that your event offers to those in pursuit of innovation, efficiency and market share.

A Cautionary Note on Brand Management

Some attrition is to be expected in a faltering economy—it’s human nature. In the recession, companies tend to err on the side of caution and scale back on event participation. While you might be tempted to offer deeply discounted registration fees in order to stimulate registration, don’t compromise your event’s brand. Deep discounts can only diminish the perceived value of your event. If you truly believe that what you are offering will benefit attendees, be willing to stand behind your price point. There are other ways to financially incent attendees—airline and hotel partnerships, for example—while maintaining the integrity of your brand. And yet, if there are portions of your target audience that cannot attend, don’t lose them. Put the content on your event website after the event closes for a fee. However, price it wisely. You don’t want to diminish the experience and the value of those who were onsite and were learning first hand.

Fivenson Studios is based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, our graphic design team specializes in logo and web page design, as well as marketing campaigns for social and print media. From flyers and brochures to targeted landing pages, we aim to bring your company into the spotlight and reach a greater range of potential customers.

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