Profile your Delegates and Save on Member Frustration

Every year, associations that have a tradeshow (either as a stand-alone event or as a component of their conference),  seek out sponsors and exhibitors.  Some are great at matching these suppliers to their delegate needs and requirements, some are not.  I am going to address those who do not here.

I was recently at an industry conference and tradeshow, and as a delegate had the opportunity to hear some feedback from the professionals in the room.  They were extremely frustrated with the way they were inundated with emails in the two weeks leading up to the conference.

Here is an example:  A provincial, west-coast association was receiving invitations to stop by the booth of a hotel properties located in eastern Ontario.  As much as this delegate understood the importance of supporting the tradeshow, as the contribution of the exhibitors and sponsors directly impacts conference fees, he did not understand why a property located in eastern Ontario would ever consider sending him an email.  He will NEVER have potential for them, unless he changes organizations.  And, if he did, he would do his research at that time, not now.

As a result of this conversation, and a few others, I got to thinking about the supplier side of the business.  I believe sponsors and exhibitors really should only be marketing to those who have immediate and/or future opportunities and interests.  But that will take some profiling of your members, which is not something we are provided with now.  When your next tradeshow is done, reach out via a survey campaign and uncover the following information:

  • Products and/or Services they are in need of NOW
  • Products and/or Services they are interested in for the future
  • Whether they are an influencer or decision-maker in the buying process
  • Confirm the format they would like to be contacted by these suppliers/sponsors for the following year (i.e. by phone, by email, through social media channels such as LinkedIn, etc).

Maintain this information in your system.  Then, when it comes to sending out the conference/tradeshow attendee lists pre & post show, filter on those who selected the product/service type that matches the exhibitor/sponsor, and send them ONLY that list.  Does it not make more sense to send them a list of pre-qualified contacts to place in their sales funnel, instead of sifting through hundreds or thousands of people to find the diamonds in the rough?

And how can you ensure your sponsors and exhibitors follow the new protocol?  In the final stages of your sales process, when getting them to sign the contract, add in your terms and conditions a clause that reflects that they are only able to contact those delegates who visited them at their booth, or that have been spoken to at a session, etc.  Receiving a complaint from a delegate that they were marketed to by someone outside of their profile, can result in non-admittance of the exhibitor in the future.

It sounds extreme, but it can help satisfy your members, and exhibitors will see value in a smaller, qualified, more manageable list.

Your Non-Member List May Need More Help Than You Think

I got an email the other day from an organization inviting me to their upcoming event.

I had looked at this organization many, many years ago (2010 to be exact!) for a previous role with the company.  For background, I have been promoted twice and have bought the company since then.

There were two things about this recent email that made me laugh:  First, when I contacted this organization all those years ago  I got a very abrupt response regarding my membership inquiry (something along the lines of “all of the information you need is on our website”…), and so I never joined because no one was interested in talking with me.  The second thing that made me laugh is that this communication continues to hit my inbox!

It’s quite clear that they have not done their research in quite a while to determine who (if anyone) on their non-member list is still worth marketing to.  Let’s not even get into the whole CASL situation here.

It may be relatively inexpensive to send a text-only email out to a list of contacts, but at what cost to the association’s image and reputation?  The same goes for the course catalogues I receive offering me courses in various areas that would have applied to a previous role. The company sending these to me is wasting a lot of money!   I do not even take them out of the plastic packaging anymore; I just toss them in the recycling bin.

There are several lessons here for associations, but here are my top three:

  • Know the Statistics: In working with data cleansing, we’ve estimated that data becomes obsolete at a rate of 30% per year (or more in some cases).  This ratio is very industry dependent, but knowing what your industry or profession’s average turnover is very important.  Your prospective member or conference attendee may still be in the same job function, but what if they transfer departments, or move to different cities/companies?
  • Do your research: Whether it is internet research to find if the person is still at the company, or if it is a call that needs to take place to update information, it needs to be done.  No matter what amount of money you are spending on marketing to your non-members, a lot of what is being allocated is being wasted if you cannot keep your list up to date.  We recommend that this is done annually, and that it is consistently planned for in your budgeting process.
  • Take the Leap: A prospective member is more likely to provide you with their updated contact information if you demonstrate that you offer them some value.  As an example, if the association I reached out to for my initial inquiry had provided me with the assistance I was looking for, or even bothered to follow up on a regular basis, I would be more likely to have told them by now that I have completely changed roles and as a result am no longer interested.

If you are looking to improve your numbers – whether it is for courses, conferences or membership – you need to know who you are marketing to – and that starts with a clean list (additional tips can be found here).  From there, you can assess the real costs of creating a strategic marketing plan.

What have been your experiences with your non-member list?

Is your Professional Association as member-driven as you think?

Members of your association are really starting to look at the ROI of their annual dues.  Some memberships are mandatory, based on industry requirements – but if it is not a requirement (and, even if it is), do you really know why they became a member?  Is it networking opportunities, access to education relevant to their industry, or is it because is helps them show influence in their day-to-day role?

Ensure that each member feels as valued as the next by capturing what is relevant to them.  Whatever CRM you are using to house your member information, it contains their contact information at a minimum.  From there, you can pull your reports based on demographics, but have you thought of other pieces of information that you should be storing?

In many cases, one of the main reasons to be a member of a professional association is the opportunity to network with like-minded professionals in their given industry.  However, check to be sure.  In your next membership renewal campaign, take the time to find out why – and create a simply drop-down list in your database to capture this information.  It may help you in the future when promoting a new service, educational program, or event.

As an example, we worked on an association membership renewal campaign with one of our clients, and one of the members who renewed had absolutely nothing to do with the industry.  To settle our own curiosity, we asked him why he enjoyed being a member of this particular association – he literally said that he pays the membership fees each year because he enjoys getting the magazine!  While this I must admit is an extreme case, it would make sense to know this so that future dollars are not spent when sending a mailing out to your members to promote an upcoming conference.

For one association, we help promote conferences and courses to prospective members with a call campaign following a mailing.  During these calls, we come across many contacts who are interested in what the association offers at a very general level, but they do not want to continue to receive all their mailings until they are ready to commit as a member. This particular association spends a lot of money per mailing.  If preferences about mailings was logged in their CRM, it would not only respect contacts’ wishes, but it would save the association money on their mailings.

Also, find out what you could be doing to enhance their experience as a member.  Do you have an area online that is “members only” where they have the chance to ask and answer questions with their peers?  Would this be of interest to them?

Newer members are most certainly from a different generation from your long-time members.  They search for information differently.  Are you blogging regularly?  Are you on Instagram?  What other platform could you be using to reach and engage your membership? However, do not keep the others out of the loop – keep your other methods of communication too, in order to cover all of your bases.

Is there anything else that you think may enhance your member’s experience?

Engaging Associations Forum: Special Offer Closes with Amazing Sales!

“Association executives deserve to have a place where they can air their concerns in a safe, collaborative space, among peers.”

Registration for the 2017 instalment of the Engaging Associations Forum opened just before the holiday season was upon us, with a VERY special offer: Until Wednesday, February 15, 2017 we offered new and past participants to join us in July 2017 for the extremely low registration fee of $185.  Our goal was to sell at 50 passes for the event this year, or, roughly 28% of the passes available.

Well, if Doreen has told me once, she has told me a hundred times, set the goal, create the intention!  I am very pleased to report that the Special Offer rate closed with 59 passes sold; or 33% of what is available this year!  Here is what attendance looks like:

  • 88% of the people currently registered are from the C-Suite, Director or Manager job functions
  • 85% of the people currently registered are with Canadian Associations
  • 24% of the people currently registered are from outside the Ottawa-area.

Missed the Special Offer, but still want to join us?  Don’t worry, we have still have a deal!  From now until April 28, the Keener Rate is open, ensuring you can register for $269.

Interested in partnering with the Engaging Associations Forum?  We still have some partnership opportunities available, click here to check them out…

9 Marketing Remedies for Event Registration Success

Over the years, our Greenfield team has “rescued” numerous programs because event registrations were not coming in as expected. Here is our prescription for a successful event marketing campaign:

  1. Get permission first: It is important to obtain and track permissions for your stakeholders -your prospects. Members are OK; they have opted in to your communications through their renewals. However, your prospective list is a different story: with CASL in play, it is important to build a list that won’t get you in trouble later.
  2. Maintain your database: With CASL, if there is a complaint, the burden will be on you to provide that permission was obtained. Don’t risk the fine! Keep your database clean.
  3. Make it about ME: Who cares if your event has a record-breaking number of exhibitors, sponsors or break-out sessions? If your communication isn’t articulating WIIFM (what’s-in-it-for me) for the potential attendee, they likely won’t register.
  4. Twitterize your message: Don’t send long emails telling me ALL there is to know about your event. Since your message is most likely to be viewed on a mobile device, keep your message short and to the point. If there’s more to the story, give links where the recipient can go for more.
  5. Make it shareable: An increasing number of business event attendees are active on social media. Make it easy for attendees to share your event with peers by using ShareThis or other social media sharing platforms. That way they can tweet, post to Facebook or LinkedIn, or whatever social medium they prefer.
  6. Tell them who else will be there: Not just speakers or sponsors/exhibitors; people want to know about their peers. So upon a registration, gain permission to publicize the fact that an attendee will be there. Those who agree will have their name posted on your event website. It’s a simple way to create FOMO (fear-of-missing-out).
  7. Show them: If a picture is worth a thousand words, then video is worth a million. Use this powerful tool to show clips of speakers, testimonials from attendees, exhibitors, and sponsors. Score double points by showcasing a video of someone with similar attributes to your prospect.
  8. Vary your channels: Unless recipients have white-listed your email address, anytime you are using email deployment software, there is a 30-40% chance that your message will be caught in spam filters. Your audience may be interested but may never see your message! Pay special attention to where your prospects hang out on LinkedIn. Get the influential people in your industry to tweet about your event. Or even send something by mail – something that will pique curiosity, and will drive traffic to your website.
  9. Don’t be so business like: Learn from what gets shared online; people enjoy funny or touching stories. Your promotion will rise above the clutter if you show emotion humour, or an edge. Don’t be so serious!

For meeting, conference and event planners, covering each tactic can be a daunting task.  But a well-rounded event marketing plan will drive attendance & engagement.

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at

The Special Offer – Over 50% SOLD!

The Engaging Associations Forum registration is open – and as mentioned a few weeks ago, we are running a special offer for those keen to innovate and create change: registration is available to association executives at $185 (LOWER THAN LAST YEAR).  We had set aside 50 passes at this unbelievable rate, and this category is 58% sold out within 2.5 weeks!

We have garnered a reputation of being THE event for innovative association and not-for-profit executives. With a heavy emphasis on peer-to-peer exchange, thought-leadership and dynamic education, this conference aims to build a stronger, more vibrant association sector in Canada. If you want to experience a uniquely engaging conference, this is the place to be.

If you have thought about attending in the past, and have yet to join us, or if you have attended and want to join us again – don’t wait too long.  We will offer passes at this rate for the first 50 executives ONLY, so register today!  Will you join us July 19-21, 2017?

Are you being receptive to new voices?

In our last post we focused on the seven purposes of a meeting.  While none of these purposes specifically stated it, it was understood that participant appeal is a key ingredient of a successful meeting.  The meeting participant needs to “see him/herself in the picture” for the meeting to hit the mark.

Whether a person could relate to the reason for the celebration, wanted to learn the material being presented, or simply wanted to connect with the type of person anticipated to be at the event, the participant must relate

The problem is, these days, the basis of how people relate to events is changing.  Rapidly.  We could argue about the reasons – smartphones, social media, Millennials… But none of that matters, really.  The bottom line is: how people relate is a fast-moving target.  And if people can’t relate they just won’t show up.

Now some of you may argue that isn’t the case for all meetings.  At corporate meetings, for instance, people are told to attend the meeting… they don’t have a choice.  I think differently – and perhaps that’ll be the topic for another column.  Let’s agree on this: maybe participants will show up but they won’t be that engaged unless they can relate.

So how do you make sure people see themselves in your event’s picture?  One strategy I have come to adopt is listening to the “new voices.”

The new voices aren’t necessarily young or novice in the field.  They often are considered “the outliers.” They are not that loud, just perhaps asking for something that isn’t being offered.  Maybe they are unhappy or perhaps they are just looking for something better suited to their needs.

We’ve been seeing a chorus of voices pipe up in association and corporate meetings, in diverse fields from healthcare to IT.  According to one author, one group that is often not heard at industry events is women.  And it is the reason why women’s conferences is a fast-growing meeting segment. (And with the latest marches going on around the world of late, this trend just may be gaining momentum!)

If potential participants don’t see themselves in the event picture you are creating they just won’t come to your meeting.

So where are they going?  In some cases, they are banding together and organizing their own meeting (hint hint independent planners… a new source of business?).  Or they are finding new events, sometimes organized by similar associations, or even the private sector, but targeting a niche of your audience.

This is completely congruent with a trend we have been seeing for a while; there are more small, specialized events, often winning at the expense of the ho-hum annual conference that tries to be all things to all people…

So who are the new voices in your organization?  Is it time you start listening?

2017 Engaging Associations Forum Registration Now Open!

We are thrilled to announce that registration for the Engaging Associations Forum is NOW open!

And, as you may have expected, Doreen and I kick off with a special offer: Until February 15th, we are offering attendance at the Engaging Associations Forum for a rate of $185*!  Yes, you read that right – EVEN LOWER than last year!  Click here to register now.

2016 sold out; and we fully anticipate 2017 to be no different, so you may think we are crazy, but if you have been loyal to attending the Engaging Associations Forum in the past, or perhaps you want to check it out for the first time, we want to celebrate four years of creating change!

Register while you can! *This special rate is non-refundable.

The 7 Purposes of a Meeting

As an association leader, what are your thoughts about the transformational role that meetings can have in advancing your organizational objectives?

I say can have because meetings are often seen as anything but transformational.  For too many people “meetings” is synonymous with boring, time-consuming, soul-sucking gatherings.  For the media, meetings and conferences too often are how politicians and bureaucrats waste our tax dollars.  And for too many association executives, Board Meetings are something to be endured rather than embraced.

Organizations like Meeting Professionals International have been fighting this perception for years with campaigns like Meetings Mean Business and When We Meet We Change the World.

But in this crazy-busy, hyper-connected and fragmented world, it’s easy to lose sight of meetings’ true purpose.   It is up to each and every one of us to ensure that the meetings we organize are purposeful.

Because, at the end of the day, does the theme of the conference, the taste of the food or the quality the AV presentation even matter if the people at the meeting didn’t connect – to the material, to the presenter, to the organization, to each other?

And speaking of purpose, when was the last time you thought about your next meeting’s purpose?  A few years ago, Marriott Hotels conducted research that identified seven distinct purposes to a meeting.  Some meetings of course may have multiple purposes:

  • TO CELEBRATE: This is when the event is to commemorate a milestone or accomplishment.
  • TO DECIDE: With this objective, the event should focus on meaningful dialogue so an outcome or direction can be initiated.
  • TO EDUCATE: When the meeting objective is to impart knowledge, where participants learn new things or acquire new skills.
  • TO IDEATE: I prefer to call this objective to innovate or generate new ideas, develop new ways of thinking or doing things.
  • TO NETWORK: This is when the objective is to meet and get to know people, often with a mind towards a transaction or exchange.
  • TO PRODUCE: When the objective calls for people to collaborate to towards a specific goal or develop a specific output.
  • TO PROMOTE: Related to or following the networking objective, this objective is to introduce a new offering (product, service) or promote a new idea or message.

I have been working with and dissecting the above purposes ever since I read about the research, and been unable to come up with any other true, positive purpose that focuses on the human interaction (hint: making money isn’t a purpose).  Can you?

In our upcoming series on #PurposefulMeetings, it is my intent to explore different ways we can all plan and produce business events that fulfill their purpose in an engaging and meaningful way.  If you have any questions, suggestions or challenges, drop me a line!  I love to discuss, exchange and debate… So reach out at

Six Tips for Combining Your Conference and #Association #Marketing

Every time your organization holds an event of any kind, it’s a pivotal moment to deliver a message, increase brand awareness, and build lasting relationships with members, prospects, and the key decision-makers in your sector.

So it’s surprising when organizations fail to integrate their event marketing with their broader communications and outreach strategies. Surprising—but by no means unheard of. If you work for an association that has a great communications program that does little or nothing to promote upcoming events, here are some steps you can take:

  1. Start early: If you’re planning a six-month campaign for an annual event, start nine or 10 months out if it’s the first time you’ve tried to coordinate with your in-house communications group.
  2. Line up your arguments: If the communications team has never thought of the conference as a prime source of information and messaging, it’s up to you to make the case. You can do that by highlighting the strong content you’re bringing onsite and the connections between the conference and the broader communications effort.
  3. Find your spots on the calendar: If your organization has a strong communications presence, it probably has an editorial calendar to track key milestones and deadlines. To integrate your event marketing with the rest of the communications effort, you’ll have to carve out your spots on the calendar. Try to maximize exposure in the weeks leading up to key registration deadlines, and watch for moments when conference content can reinforce your organization’s wider messaging.
  4. Treat content as a fulcrum: Some content marketers recommend using a blog as the fulcrum of a wider social media strategy. Every time you publish a new post, you create news that you can legitimately redistribute via Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and other social channels—and when readers are particularly interested in a topic, they “raise their hands” by clicking the links in the blog. By linking those readers back to your conference website, you encourage them to find out more about the program and, ultimately, to sign up for the event.
  5. Adhere to the schedule…: Once you’ve committed to the editorial calendar, it’s important to meet your deadlines. You picked your spots for a reason, and your event needs the timely, effective marketing you’ve mapped out. Your in-house communications team is counting on you, too, and you’ll earn their undying gratitude by delivering clean, readable text when you said you would.
  6. …but be prepared to improvise: Any editorial calendar can be overtaken by events. In fact, author David Meerman Scott has elevated newsjacking to a fine art. If breaking news helps you make a compelling case for people to attend or sponsor your conference, that means postponing the post you thought you had lined up and publishing it next week instead.

You’ll know you’ve connected with your communications team when they start to see your conference as a smart, useful resource, not just another product they have to sell. The first step is to recognize content as the most important part of the event, and think about how to market it accordingly.

Are you looking for other ways to market your events to your community?  We can help.