Andy Johnston is president and creative director of The Idea Group and is a sought-after industry expert in developing ingenious ways to engage and motivate audiences. Andy has deep expertise in strategic planning, messaging, creative direction, marketing and events. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 404-213-4416.
Successful convention marketing needs more than a well-designed communication plan. You have to build the buzz. Here’s how to grow both word-of-mouth and “word-of-mouse” for your event, conference or convention.
Look at your pre-event to-do list. You have an event Web page, online registration, email marketing and event application, and you have your Facebook page, Twitter feed, Instagram team and YouTube channel all ready and waiting. What else can you possibly need to whip up interest and attendance?
Where’s the buzz? That’s right, even with all of those marketing tools, you are missing the biggest one of all: word-of-mouth.
Word-of-mouth is when someone talks about something valuable and interesting with someone else.
I know what you’re thinking. People talking to other people is so low-tech and 20th century. Talking seems very Stone Age when you can text and tweet.
We’ve all made the shift from paper to electrons, but did you know it’s estimated that 80 percent of word-of-mouth marketing communication actually happens offline? Only 20 percent is online. That means the conversations about your upcoming meeting may begin with technology, but they end one-on-one. Your challenge is to transform “word-of-mouse” into word-of-mouth.
What can you do to inspire, motivate and participate in the buzz about your events?
In event marketing, whether it’s word-of-mouth, electronic or social media, the rules have changed. If you walk away with only one thing from this article, please remember this: Traditional event marketing is an invitation to join you and your event. With buzz marketing, it’s reversed. Your target audiences don’t join you — you join them. You have to reach out to create a relationship, share some stories and be a part of their communities.
Effective buzz marketing is “about” someone or something. It’s not made up of your objectives, messages and data. Buzz is personal and emotional. This style of marketing isn’t random or passive. You start, fuel, direct and manage it. There are two flavors to focus on.
Media to people: People see, hear and read about your event, speakers and experiences in the media.
People to people: People talk and share about what they’ve heard and experienced.
Instead of press releases and the typical PR, offer your media contacts unusual hooks and resources they can use for news stories. Can one of your executives or speakers be an expert on a new or trending topic or offer a comment? Look outside the obvious. You want your media contacts to notice what’s new about your event and start talking. Here are a couple of ideas on how to work with them to reach your target audiences.
Word-of-mouth starts when people feel they belong. If they’re comfortable with your event and have a great experience, they’ll talk. If they’re uncomfortable with your event and have a bad experience, they’ll talk. The trick is to build option No. 1 while minimizing option No. 2.
Here’s how to get potential attendees talking positively about your event or conference. People-to-people buzz requires you to talk with instead of to attendees.
Remember that big point I asked you to remember? Your target audiences don’t join you — you join them. What forums do they join? What are their favorite discussion groups on LinkedIn? Who are their friends on Facebook, and where do they gather?
Go there and join the conversation. Invest the time to listen a lot and contribute. People are curious — so give them a little and they’ll ask for more.
Give them something to talk about. Take a hard look at your event or conference. What’s truly “buzzable?” What will attendees and potential attendees naturally discuss? What will excite them? Just as with the media, you’ll find more interest if you identify a series of smaller, intriguing topics than one big one.
Then jumpstart some powerful conversations. Here are some great ways you can get them talking.
Finally, realize that good word-of-mouth can’t be managed, regulated and enforced. You can’t make people get excited about your event. You have to let it happen. In the real world, building relationships and friendships takes time. But you’ll get a strong return on your investment.
Just like an honest reputation, the value of good word-of-mouth is immeasurable. You can’t find a marketing strategy that’s more direct. When people talk with enthusiasm about your event, the topics and personnel, they are giving you and your organization both a strong endorsement and a solid-gold recommendation. What can be more powerful?
Word-of -mouth is one of the most cost-effective ways of expanding the influence of your events, building loyal attendees and reaching new ones. Just remember to make your event or conference a part of the story but not THE story. Keep it interesting. Make it personal. And you will build the buzz! AC&F