For many businesses and especially associations, conferences and events comprise a significant chunk of the annual budget. So marketing these conferences and events is mission-critical. Here is where you put all your email skills to work, where the extra time and resources invested translate directly and immediately into not just the revenue your association needs, but the bustling and vibrant conferences that enhance member experience, boost engagement, and drive renewals and new memberships. I know how hard it is to find more energy for email or any other communications program, but when marketing your conferences the ROI of every incremental investment is undeniable.
One email tactic where a little extra effort yields sizable returns is in segmenting. Here are 5 ways to segment your conference marketing emails:
1. Alumni: What is most attractive about targeting people who have attended the conference previously is not necessarily that they are likely to attend again. Rather, it is that you do not need to sell them on the show philosophy or overall content position. They have direct and personal experience with the show which allows your conference marketing to go a level or two deeper and more intimate. You can also reference features from previous years in a way that will forge a connection and engagement (eg. “The cappuccino bar in the EXPO hall is back again this year – show your Alumni badge for a free biscotti with your first cup.”) Also, don’t limit alumni marketing to last year’s attendees. Go back a few years for a larger pool. If the segment of previous years’ attendees who did not come last year is large enough, consider using a separate creative treatment for them, letting them know you missed them last year but hope they come back this time.
2. Regionally: Prospective attendees who live near the conference venue may look at the event differently. On the one hand, they do not need to travel and book a hotel, which of course lowers expenses. But the nearness of the event may also open up possibilities for regional attendees who would not normally be senior enough to attend a conference across the country, or for a bigger group of employees to attend since there are no travel expenses. Market specific one-day and less expensive options to these groups, such as an EXPO only pass or one-day workshops. I have also seen some conferences open up a Day 2 (or 3 or whatever the final day is) only registration aimed at local attendees, letting them in to fill the seats left empty by the inevitable attrition as the show rolls into each new day.
3. Functional Responsibility: Some shows target a single functional responsibility (like Marketing or IT or Finance within a particular industry), but a larger conference with multiple tracks and content aimed at different people within the organization should market to each of these groups separately, at least part of the time. Marketing specific content within a show builds credibility for the content through authenticity. The more detail you can offer in your targeted emails, the less your prospective attendees will wonder if they will get anything out of the show. This moves a lot of attendees off the fence, as one of the biggest determinants of attending is not the absolute expense (in time and money), but whether or not the expense will pay off. The narrower you can go with your marketing, the clearer the ROI of attending becomes.
4. Teams: The larger the show, the more sense it makes for your attending companies to send teams (not to mention that your show is likely depending on multiple attendees from many companies in order to reach its budget). Make sure that some of your marketing is specific to teams, or rather, to individuals at companies that have registered large delegations in the past. Even if you do not offer special rates for teams, you can still market in a way that appeals to teams by messaging a “divide and conquer” approach to diversified conference content. Also, simply letting people know how many from their company attended last year (but not by name as that would likely be viewed as a privacy intrusion) opens the conversation about team registration. Once you have your prospects talking with each other about who from your company will be attending this year’s show, you’ve moved the registration process past “if” and into “how many.”
5. Sponsors / Exhibitors: I’m sure you already target sponsor and exhibit prospects with separate messages and offers, as their revenue is central to the show’s success. This is also an excellent group to segment out and target specifically with conference registration messages. Anytime you possess some meaningful common knowledge about a large enough group, you have an opportunity to tailor messaging in a way that breaks through and drives action. This group will respond better to messages about networking events and lists of registered companies, and many associations find they are also likely to register later in the cycle. The timing is fortunate, as the challenge with this group is avoiding cannibalization of your sponsorship and exhibit revenue. If possible, wait until the last few weeks before the show before targeting them specifically with registration messages. They will have had ample opportunity to evaluate sponsorship and exhibit opportunities by then. Additionally the list of registered attendees will be well established, making it easier for them to identify any sales prospects they want to be in the same room with a bunch of times over a couple of days.