How can you gather attendees to your conference when no one knows that it exists? How do you get the word out and show proof that this first time event is worth attending? In January 2016, 710 Studios was asked to help promote and attract attendees for the inaugural International Goalkeeper Coaches Conference that was held on June 3-5, 2016. Time was not on our side, nor was an already established network. With this being the first conference we were starting at ground zero. With a strategic game plan in place the event was a great success. We went beyond the goal of attendees and dates are already set for next year's conference.
How Do You Attract Attendees?
So, you've set a goal for the number of attendees, right? Now, how do you reach that goal? Here are three areas we focused on for the IGCC along with some tips that will help make promoting your NEW conference a success:
1. Create A User Friendly Conference Website
Obviously your event needs a website, but how you organize it can make it or break it. Follow the K.I.S.S. methodology when laying out your website. Don't overwhelm the visitor, keep it simple and display the most relevant information first. Make it easy for visitors to quickly learn the when, where, what and who of the conference. Then make it even easier for them to register directly on your website. Use this as a quick checklist when building your conference website:
- Price & Registration
- Contact Information
Here is a great example of an upcoming conference website that has grown every year, and continues to keep the site clean and straightforward:
2. Promote Through Social Media
Have you ever trained for a marathon or maybe wanted to lose 10lbs or more? If you have, you know from experience that you can't go to the gym once and get the results you want. If only it was that easy. The same goes for your social media efforts when you promote a new conference. You can't post once a week and think you will get noticed. So get your sneakers on and start your social media workout keeping these tips in mind...
- Define your buyer persona, look for them on twitter, Instagram, Google+ and follow all of them. Look for users that would have a similar following and follow those users. For example, for the IGCC we were looking for Goalkeeper Coaches to attend the event. In order to grow the network on twitter we followed the @ account and started following their followers. We did this with multiple accounts. We also ran searches on twitter and instagram to find users that had "Goalkeeper Coach" in their profile description. It's important to note that you can't just follow 20 people and think that will be enough. Each time you follow a new user they are notified and if you have a clear name, appealing profile picture and a precise description this will peak their interest to follow you back. PRO TIP: Aim to follow at least 1,000 users on twitter.
- Tweet, post and share often. From sharing information about registration to details about the keynote speakers, you must consistently post information about your event. And don't forget to retweet and share industry related info as well. It can't be Me, Me, Me. You've got to share other information besides your own. For the International Goalkeeper Coaches Conference Facebook page we often shared highlights from recent games, goalkeeper drills and other posts related to the conference industry.
- Don't forget hashtags!! Today so many more people run to different social media sites first to search for information before they use Google. Because of this new trend it's super important that you research what your buyer persona would use as search terms and use those as your hashtags. Check out this list of tools to help you research the hashtags you should be using.
- Find groups on LinkedIn or Facebook that potential attendees would be apart of and share your event. But, don't be spammy and constantly post the same information about your conference. With all the social media posts you are trying to leave breadcrumbs back to your website. Don't be pushy, be natural as if you were having a conversation with a friend about a conference you had heard about.
3. Setup Email Marketing Campaigns
This is where things can get a little tricky when starting a brand new conference. You don't have any past attendees yet, so you have to work on creating a brand new network of subscribers.
First step is to tap into your own network of friends and family. The founder and director of the International Goalkeeper Coaches Conference, Phil Wheddon, already had a network of goalkeeper coaches and head coaches from his years of coaching at the U.S. National Team and College level. We started our email marketing strategy there by reaching out to his network and asking them to share it with others that would want to attend.
Now the next step is where it gets a little tricky. You now need to reach out to those who are outside your current network. You should work on finding specific groups that match your buyer persona. For the IGCC, we had access to lists of coaches at the collegiate and club level. We used MailChimp to segment these groups and we used personalization to the email. We made the sure the first name of the person was available and the email was addressed from Phil himself and it appeared to come directly from his email account. With the use of MailChimp, we were able to track who was opening the emails, how many times they opened the emails and what links they clicked in the email itself. We would segment the lists from there based on the openings and run more campaigns up until the last day of registration. Our email marketing campaigns had the highest the return rate. We wish we had access to these lists earlier in the process as some coaches would have come if they knew about it earlier. Even though the use of these lists wasn't 100% true inbound it worked. It didn't come across spammy because the emails were to a clearly specific buyer persona and they were personalized.
A Couple More Tips
- Social proof is important. You can't simply run an email marketing campaign and have no social media presence to back it. Consumers do their research!
- Be automated! You can't expect to have the time to schedule posts manually multiple times a day. Check out software like Hootsuite, Buffer or HubSpot to help you manage your social media accounts.
- Don't forget your attendees! Once you gain a new attendee make sure you stay in contact with them periodically. Send conference updates, ask them to share the conference with others, etc.
- Search for the people in your emailing list(s) that have opened and clicked on a link in your email. Try to find them via twitter, Instagram and/or Google+ and follow them.
- Use video to promote your event. Whether it's an interview with one of your keynote speakers or you discussing what to expect at the conference, Have fun with it and show excitement about your conference. Share your video's on YouTube and Instagram. Even try a little Facebook Live!
- And lastly, don't forget to blog! Include posts about sessions at the conference and posts about the subject of your conference. Think about the topics your attendees would be interested in and write about it. This is just another inbound way to get your conference found.
Do you have a NEW conference you are promoting? Or have a tip we may have left out? Include it in the comment below.
Are you struggling with promoting your new conference?