Boost Attendance at Your Signature Event – 6 Proven Tips

Increase-AttendanceIt can be a challenge to get attendees out to your signature event. They’re busy and they have many competing demands for their time and money. Here are 6 proven tips to boost attendance and excitement for your event. In our work with our clients we have used all of these and we can vouch for their effectiveness.

Offer an Early Bird Rate: This is a tried and true method to incentivize registrants to sign up early for your conference. A discount for early sign up is particularly effective when registrants will be paying for the event themselves. For those whose employers will pick up the tab, it gives the employer an incentive to grant budget approval well in advance of the event.

Open Registration Early: Open your online registration 3-6 months before the event. If it is a conference, start closer to six months out to make the early bird rate meaningful and to sell it out early.

Boost Your Conversion Rate: When you’re hosting a trade show, the most important consideration is to get qualified buyers to the show, to support your exhibitors. A typical tactic is to ensure that there is a meaningful walk-in price that can be covered with a discount code. The discount code incentivizes registrants to sign-up, but the challenge is getting registrants who have no financial skin in the game to actually attend the show.

In order to manage this, ensure that you have marketing plan that focuses specifically on pre-registrants to get them to the show.  Remind them that they have registered, and focus on new products that will be featured by your exhibitors, on-floor activities and social events.

Use Discount Codes Effectively: At a trade show, your exhibitors want attendees and their contact lists may be more comprehensive than yours; particularly given the CASL restrictions. Give each exhibitor a unique code that they can offer to their contacts. This allows you to leverage their marketing resources to support your registration. Consider offering a prize for the exhibitor that brings in the most attendees.

For a conference, also consider using a time-stamped discount code offered at renewal time. The code is available to members who renew before a given date and purchase conference registration at the same time. This tactic has the additional advantage of encouraging members to renew in a timely manner.

Vary Your Subject Lines: You already know that a compelling subject line is key to getting the attention of your prospective attendees. You will send multiple emails to promote your event. Don’t make the mistake of using the same subject line on each outreach. Use each message to focus on an interesting and exciting aspect of the event. This could be high profile speakers, leading edge topics, event activities and social/networking opportunities.

Cap Supplier Attendance: Your supplier members attend your event to interact with the core members who buy their products and services. Your core members want to interact with other core members. Be careful not to have suppliers dominate attendance. This diminishes the value of your event for both the suppliers and core members. Set a goal for supplier attendance and let them know there is a cap. This lets registrants know you’re looking out for their interests, and encourages suppliers to sign up early.

Using these tactics effectively requires careful advance planning and ongoing monitoring and tweaking to measure the effectiveness of each tactic. Get your marketing plan and collateral in place a year in advance of your event and use your experience from the previous year to boost your results.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Association Management, Association Management Issues, Event Planning, Sponsor Value Proposition, Sponsorship, Successful Conferences, Tradeshows

What’s the Recipe for Your Member Value Proposition (MVP)? 3 Tips for your Success.

meal-salad-steakYou know that you’re offering great value to your members but are your directors and staff clear on what it is? Are they all on the same page, singing the same tune? Or do they get flustered when they are asked to explain your association’s value to a non-member?

Your MVP is the bedrock of your association and it deserves special attention.

  1. Is your MVP clearly articulated and compelling? Your MVP is not a list of member services. It is a statement of highly relevant value expressed from the perspective of the member. It answers the WIIFM question.
  2. Can your directors and staff all state the MVP in their own words and give real-life examples?

Your MVP is a meal. It’s a combination of comfort (carbohydrates), critical resources (protein) and freshness (vegetables). Here’s the recipe.

Carbohydrates (Comfort): This element of member value is about belonging. Your members feel part of the bigger picture. They share common issues and needs and they connect with other members who “get it.” They recognize we’re all in this together. That sense of belonging = COMFORT.

Protein (Critical resources): This element of member value is about the resources that members receive. It may be stakeholder relations, up-to-the-minute information, or connections that increase business. This is the “meat” of your MVP. Engaged members use your resources for the benefit of their career and/or their business.

Vegetables (Freshness): This element of member value is about mixing it up and keeping your events and programs new, changing and exciting. Be brave and change at least one thing each year. If you keep serving the same meal your members will get bored. Take a chance on something new!

There are three key elements to defining, using and delivering on your MVP.

  1. Take the time and effort to develop a compelling MVP.
  2. Train, train and retrain your directors and staff so they can confidently state the MVP in their own words and give real-life examples of how the association has helped individual members. Encourage your directors to add a personal note that describes how the association helps them specifically.
  3. Keep your MVP delivery fresh and interesting. Don’t get stuck in a rut

Want some help with your MVP? Find out more.

Leave a comment

Filed under Association Management, Event Planning, Governance, High Performance Organization, Member Education, Member Engagement, Member Value Proposition

Sponsors – It’s a Partnership. How Much is it Worth?

handshake sponsorThe answer is, “somewhere between zero and a lot”. If your industry or profession is an important market for a prospective partner and the potential upside of future sales is substantial, then a partnership with your association could be very valuable.

There are only two reasons why a sponsor wants to partner with your association.

  1. Because aligning their brand with yours increases their visibility or perceived value
  2. Because your members make or influence the buying decisions for their products or services

I was talking to a large software company last week about a partnership with one of our client associations. They were brutally upfront about our value in the second category. They have a 70% penetration rate in our industry so the likelihood of selling meaningful new volume to our members is very low. However, their marketing director noted, “We see value in an association with your association”.

How Do You Assess Value?

So let’s talk about the first reason why a sponsor would partner with you. Do you have a winning value proposition for your prospective partners to align their brand with yours?

  • It depends on 2 elements: does your association’s brand offer something that they need, and is your brand well-known in the sector they want to influence?

If your brand offers credibility, professionalism and community engagement, that could be very appealing to a prospective sponsor. However, your brand must be widely recognized in your sector for this to be of value. If you have a strong brand and high visibility you have the potential for a very strong SVP.

And what about the second reason? Do you have a winning value proposition for your prospective partners to sell their products or services to your members?

  • It depends on 3 elements: number of members, current penetration rate, and the value of a single sale.

If your prospective partner has a keen interest in increasing penetration in your industry or profession, a low penetration rate and a high price point per unit, you have the potential for a very strong sponsor value proposition (SVP). That is assuming that their product or service is a good fit for your members. Even if your membership is not huge, a partnership with your association could be very productive.

How Do You Pitch Your Association’s Value to a Sponsor?

Even if you have an awesome SVP, you still must make a successful pitch to your prospective partner. You have a lot of competition. There’s a line-up of associations in front of you; asking for the same thing.

First, make sure you’re talking to the right people. Second, make sure your sponsor value proposition (SVP) aligns with their objectives.

So who do you need to talk to?

For sponsor dollars, the marketing director usually controls the budget. He/she must be convinced that your offering is better value than the alternatives. The marketing director’s decision will be influenced by the opinion of the business development/sales director that has accountability for sales in your sector.

The sales director is your gateway to the marketing budget. If they’re not convinced that your offering will drive sales, you’re going nowhere fast. Your success with them depends on you helping them to hit their objectives.

What are their objectives and how can you help?

First, you need to ask. To pitch your offering successfully, you need to understand what they’re trying to achieve and position your sponsor offering to help them accomplish their goals. But don’t try to force a square peg into a round hole. If there isn’t a fit, then be honest and move on. If you see a fit, then show them a customized package and explain how it fits with their objectives.

How do you know if you got it right?

Ask. After each activation, get their views on how well it worked and find out how you can help them fine tune it.

In summary, remember 2 things.

  1. Ask, and Listen. Talk to them to find out what their marketing objectives are and figure out how you can work with them to accomplish their objectives.
  2. Then, Deliver. Customize a partner package that will meet their needs, then deliver on what you promised. When the SVP delivery is complete, ask for their feedback.

Leave a comment

Filed under Association, Association Management, Association Management Issues, Event Planning, Sponsor Value Proposition, Sponsorship, Successful Conferences, Tradeshows

The Secrets to Tradeshow Success

Choosing the key to success from hanging keys concept for aspiraA tradeshow is a series of beginnings. Every moment—from the second the doors open until the very end —is a moment where your exhibitors could be making a positive impact on potential customers. If all goes well, these crucial contacts will launch mutually profitable relationships that will last for years. On the other hand, if the impression your exhibitors create is not so positive, they’ve missed the opportunity and may not come back. Here are some ideas to help your exhibitors to ensure that they have a profitable experience.

Increase leads and sales – Business cards are still a great source of information about people. Many companies also incorporate a lead retrieval scanner.  To tap into that source, exhibitors do their best to get contact information from the people that visit their booths. But how about a more engaged approach? I once saw an exhibitor with a high-end bottle of Scotch at their booth as a prize for the business card draw. I couldn’t believe the number of inquisitive folks that came to their booth inquiring about the draw. The physical prize was much more compelling than words. This not only allowed the exhibitor to explain the process but also enabled them to share information about their products. That’s one of the best ways to make connections on the show floor. This approach helps attendees to get excited and engaged. They’re more than willing to drop their business cards or submit to a scan of their badge.

Booth staff – Numerous times we have seen people manning booths on their cell phones or chatting amongst themselves. What does that say to the tradeshow attendees; “I am not interested in your business!” That’s the perception. It’s imperative to explain to exhibitors that they must train their booth staff. They need to engage the attendees to get optimum results. Also, an over-staffed booth might be a deterrent. No one wants to go to a booth if they see five people standing inside a 10’ x 10’ booth, ready to pounce. It’s intimidating and uncomfortable.

Booth décor – Help exhibitors to understand that their booth space is their home for the duration of the tradeshow and they should try to be the best host in the neighborhood. Encourage them to create a clean, warm and friendly environment for the attendees to step into. A cool, branded attire will also make their team stand out, both in the booth and as they walk the floor.

These are only a few of many ways to garner success for your tradeshow. If you want to learn more, check out our VIMEO channel for webinars on this topic. The bottom line is, work with your exhibitors to help them succeed. It requires creativity, clear communication, and tech savviness.

If you’d like to talk to one of Zzeem’s tradeshow professionals and/or find out how we can help, click here.

Leave a comment

Filed under Association Management, Association Management Issues, Event Planning, Successful Conferences, Tradeshows

How To Attract More Exhibitors To Your Trade Show

Trade show concept.In today’s trade show world, exhibitors are questioning the ROI (Return on Investment) of participating in trade shows. What’s the problem?  Here’s what going on.

  • Many trade shows are faltering and this taints the value of the successful trade shows
  • It’s difficult for exhibitors to quantify the value of lead generation at a trade show
  • It’s expensive. The cost of exhibiting is much higher than just the cost of a booth
  • Booth staff have to work at odd times (weekends, evenings, etc.)
  • It’s the same show every single year; same old thing

Many trade show hosts are focused more on generating revenue from their exhibitors, through booth sales and sponsorships, then they are delivering value and returns back to their exhibitors.  This in turn makes exhibitors and sponsors feel neglected.

Others feel that simply making more calls or increasing the frequency of their email blasts/social media posts will be the magic elixir.  It’s much more than a numbers game.  It’s about delivering a compelling and demonstrable ROI to exhibitors and sponsors.

Here are our tips for success:

Tip 1 – Work WITH exhibitors to achieve goals

  1. Ask Questions, LISTEN, and deliver – What are their goals? How can you help them achieve them?  By asking, listening, and helping, you have a much better chance of making the sale.
  2. Partner with them – Make them feel they have ownership in the show.
  3. Collect and share attendee data. Use your registration system to collect useful data about attendees.  What buying decisions do they make or influences?
  4. Testimonials – Collect quotes and/or videos from exhibitors. What value did they get from exhibiting at the show?

Tip 2 – Focus on attracting qualified buyers to your show

  1. Give your exhibitors discount codes to send to their contacts/sales leads.
  2. Partner with other shows to cross-promote each others’ events.
  3. Source a list of qualified buyers and invite them personally to the show.
  4. Look at offering special shuttles to pick-up VIP buyers and offer other incentives to entice them to come to the show.
  5. Make a list of the top 20 to 30 qualified buyer companies, and make a personal visit to them to find out what their goals are for your show. Share this with your exhibitors – existing and potential.
  6. Testimonials – Collect quotes and/or video from attendees. What value did they get from attending the show?

Tip 3 – Convert pre-registrants into actual onsite attendees

  1. Starting 4 weeks before the show, inform them why they must NOT miss the show.
  2. Profile exhibitors and floor demos.
    1. Who is showing a NEW product?
    2. Who are NEW exhibitors?
    3. What are the on-floor demos?
  3. Offer incentives to attend. If they show up, they will receive further discounts from selected exhibitors, on future association events, or any other incentives.
  4. Make scheduled appointments at the show between exhibitors and buyers. That will help ensure that they commit to the show.

Tip 4 – Have exhibitor demos on the show floor

  1. Give a select few some extra space to perform “in-booth” / hands-on experiences in their booth at scheduled times (multiple times over multiple days if needed).
  2. Create a demonstration area where multiple exhibitors can come together to produce a group demo where all the pieces come together.

Tip 5 – Offer an Exhibitor Concierge

  1. A single point of contact to help exhibitors achieve their ROI.
  2. Help them plan their booth.
  3. Help them train their booth staff.
  4. Offer helpful tips on exhibiting.

Tip 6 – Create a pre-recorded webinar

  1. Provide tips for success at the show.

Tip 7 – Keep It Fresh

  1. Change it up every show.
  2. Reward large space and long-term exhibitors with prime space or first choice of location.
  3. See what new technology can be used in booths and on your show floor.
  4. Go back to old ideas that can be re-used. Just because it’s old doesn’t mean it won’t work again.

All these tips, or even just some of them, will help start the process of gaining new exhibitors, new attendees and putting life back into your show.   If you can do only one thing – PLEASE LISTEN!

Are you looking to take your show to the next level?   Contact Erik Naar to learn how we can help!

Leave a comment

Filed under Association Management, Association Management Issues, Event Planning, High Performance Organization, Sponsor Value Proposition, Sponsorship, Successful Conferences, Tradeshows

Failing Fast, Hard and Often – How to use strategic risk strategies to succeed

FailChange is critical. It’s also risky. There are 4 inescapable facts to keep in mind.

  1. We cannot succeed without regular, meaningful change
  2. Some changes will fail
  3. Some changes will fail at first but become successful over time
  4. There will always be a vocal contingent of opposition

There are some changes that are simply essential. You have to do them on an ongoing basis.

Events

Don’t keep serving the same meal. No matter how good it is, people will tire of it. Even if your event is awesome in every way, it will die if you don’t keep it fresh. Also, don’t forget to keep your event price current. Make sure you know your costs and that your price at least ensures break-even.

Member Programs

Keep ahead of the curve. The content, format and delivery of your member programs must continuously position your association as the leader in your sector. Take a chance on radical new ideas for content. Borrow ideas that are working in other industries and professions.

Member Discount Partners

These are the companies you partner with to deliver their services to your members at a special member price. Are your partners working with you to deliver great value to your members? Or not? It’s better to have one great partner that values their relationship with you than many who deliver sporadic, inattentive service to your members. If a member is disappointed with their first call to a partner, they’re not likely to continue down the list. They’ll just assume the whole program is of no value.

Membership

As your industry or profession evolves, it’s important to ensure your membership categories are keeping up with the changes in your sector. Are they still relevant or do they need revisions? It’s also critical to increase member prices on a regular basis. Remember, your costs go up every year. If membership prices do not go up by at least the cost of living each year, you’ll be forced to make a large price increase down the road.

Tips for Pricing

  1. Communicate increases well in advance
  2. Use association leaders as advocates
  3. Keep increases regular, to keep them small

Tips for Member Categories

  1. Keep it simple: No more than 3 categories
  2. Do market research in advance: Where is there potential confusion? Who will be impacted?
  3. Get feedback
  4. Communicate, communicate, remind

 Managing the Opposition

There will always be opposition to change and often the most vocal opponents are long-term, highly influential members. Sometimes they fear losing the comfort of a known quantity. Sometimes they resent the dismantling of a program or event that they helped initiate years ago. How do you deal with the opponents?

  1. Bring them inside the tent. Invite them to be on a task force or committee that’s driving change. If they feel they have input to the future, they are more likely to want to be part of it.
  1. Keep communication open. Don’t hide from the opposition. Keep the lines of communication positive and open and build relationships on common ground.
  2. Nothing works better than success. Keep putting one foot in front of the other. Every successful change weakens the opposition to change.

Leave a comment

Filed under Association, Association Management, Association Management Issues, Event Planning, High Performance Organization, Issues Management, Member Engagement, Member Value Proposition, Successful Conferences

Performance Metrics for Associations – Are You Driving Blind?

CautionWe’re way behind but we’re getting better.

Our sector is way behind the for-profit world, but we’re getting better. We know from our annual survey of Canadian membership associations, that the vast majority of Canadian associations do not track and manage the basic metrics of their business. Until recently, even the concept of managing a membership organization as a business was a foreign concept. However, this is starting to change.

Most Canadian associations are now on board with the fact that they are running a business, and that they must operate as a business to be sustainable. Some Canadian associations are starting to track the most basic performance metrics such as the new member attraction rate and the member retention rate. But we have some distance to go. One of the biggest impediments is weak membership database software (or worse, Excel spreadsheets!) that do not record the data that is needed to calculate the performance metrics.

Why does it matter?

Metrics tell us where we are now. Tracking them over time tells us where we are headed. Are we moving forward? Are we on a sustainable path? Without this information we are driving blind.

The basics – what must we track?

We need to track metrics in four areas:

  1. Sustainability
  2. Strategic objectives
  3. Member value
  4. Financial status

Sustainability; the key metrics

  1. New member attraction rate. This tells you how well you’re doing in terms of bringing new members on board. This should be at least 10%. If it’s not, you need to have a retention rate of more than 90% just to keep membership at the current level.
  2. Current member retention rate. This tells you how well you’re doing in terms of holding on to your existing members. This should be at least 90%. If it’s not, you need to have a new member attraction rate of more than 10% just to keep membership at the current level.
  3. Member satisfaction rate. Anecdotal evidence suggests that this needs to be at least 85% to keep the membership organization sustainable. You need a regular member survey to assess this. To keep it simple, consider asking this one question as part of the renewal process.

Strategic objectives; the key metrics

Our annual survey of Canadian membership associations tells us that almost all associations have a documented strategic plan. This has improved dramatically over the past 5 years and that’s great. Now we need to ensure we track our progress. This is the metric we need to track.

  1. Milestones status

Your strategic plan should show multi-year (3-5 year) objectives with milestones, and dates, that your association must hit in order to be on track to achieve your strategic objectives. At every board meeting, or at least quarterly, report on where you are in meeting these milestones.

Member value; the key metrics

  1. Member Engagement in association programs. You’re investing precious resources to deliver member value. This includes events, professional development initiatives, knowledge products, member-only discount offerings and other member services. How many members are engaged in taking advantage of these services? This is what you need to track.
    • Set targets for member engagement in each program and track them year-over-year.
  2. Government/stakeholder relations. For many associations, this service is the heart of the member value proposition. Track your impact. What have you accomplished against the base case of what would have happened if you were not doing anything? Your impact is not only whether or not you’ve achieved you GR/SR objectives, but what has/has not happened as a result of your efforts. You may not have accomplished your objectives (yet), but you have at least ensured that the dial has not moved backward. What value has been achieved? Even if decision-makers have not chosen to heed your counsel, your members are aware of what they need to do to prepare themselves for coming events. This is what you need to track.
    • % of members on GR/SR committees. How engaged are your members in the volunteer work your staff needs to support your GR/SR program?
    • Open rate on GR/SR information bulletins. Do your members care? Are they listening?
    • Meeting requests/call-ins. How often do decision-makers contact your association for input?
    • Influence/progress against base case. What would have happened if your association was not engaged with decision-makers?

Financial reporting; the key metrics

  1. Balance Sheet. How many months of operating expenses are covered by your net surplus? Report on this separately by both liquid and illiquid assets. Your net surplus should cover at least 12 months of operating expenses.
  2. Income statement. For each monthly statement, show where you are against budget and against last year at the same time.

Next Steps

  1. Figure out how to collect the data you need to report and track these metrics.
  2. Establish a regular reporting format and schedule to keep your management team and board informed.

Want more information and the details of how to calculate your performance metrics? Check out our webinar on this topic.

Leave a comment

Filed under Association, Association Management, Association Management Issues, Benchmark Survey, Member Value Proposition, Sponsor Value Proposition