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September 27, 2019

4 Ways to Maximize Your Conference Marketing

At the core of many associations’ identities are events and conferences. Not only do they provide a major source of revenue but, most importantly, they define the member experience and reinforce your mission. As technologies and industries evolve, attendee growth and engagement can largely influence the longevity and success of an association.

Based on our experience marketing conferences of various sizes across multiple industries, we narrowed down just a few of the many ways you can make conference marketing work for your association.

Tailor your program based on member research

Analyzing attendee demographics is a crucial part of conference marketing. But, beyond that, research has the power to shape a conference altogether.

The American Inns of Court examines attendee behavior each year to continually revamp their annual Leadership Summit programs. To do this, they send post-event surveys to attendees to get a sense of their experiences and perspectives. They want to know the value they gained this year, what they expected and what they would like more of. This consistent pulse check allows them to tailor their programs to fit attendee wants and needs.

It’s an ongoing process, but living by the values behind your mission means living by the value your audiences seek. Monitoring attendee outlook gives association executives a better grasp on collective perspectives and allows them to design the personalized experience members are looking for.

Three female and one male professionals line up in front of a conference presentation.

Segment your audiences to communicate relevant value 

What does your conference mean to different audiences? The American Oil Chemists’ Society (AOCS) asked this question to market their Annual Meeting & Expo more effectively. They want their members to know in advance of the meeting what they will gain professionally and how it applies directly to their work.

To share personalized reasons to attend, we helped AOCS strategically segment their audiences. They now make a point to articulate the real value specific audiences will gain from attending. They even let past attendees know what sets upcoming events apart from others, highlighting a refreshed experience.

AOCS’ efforts underscore the importance of marketing specific sessions or tracks to specific members. Breaking down unique member needs and interest areas enriches the conference marketing strategy.

Instead of weighing down messaging with the wide variety of content included at most conferences, focus on the sessions each type of member would seek. By connecting prospective attendees with the content that resonates with them most, you motivate them directly through their inbox, direct mail or advertisements.

Build out messaging to empower volunteer leaders

Another way to reach audiences is through volunteer leadership. The Lean Construction Institute (LCI) not only segments their audiences, but they also reach them through individuals they know and respect. Together, we create toolkits with promotional pieces that can come directly from industry leaders highlighting key reasons to attend.

The power of peer recommendation gives members a better understanding of the value of the conference. Hearing from someone with a shared passion in their interests further validates the relevance and adds the incentive of opportunities to network with experts in their field.

Crafting messaging for leaders to customize and share is an efficient and personal way to reach target audiences. By providing template guidelines for emails, social media posts, and other platforms, they can spread the word in their own voices.

Blend traditional and new media to reach all generations

Embracing new media can be intimidating, but it almost always means expanding your reach and growing your membership base.

The digital age has created a new normal for many of your members. They rely on persistent communication and direct outreach, making cookied data and retargeting campaigns a go-to for promoting conferences.

A widely recognized scientific association has adopted such media vehicles to boost engagement and awareness of their yearly international conference. The transition to digital advertising, click monitoring and other new-age practices ensures they reach a modern base while keeping an eye on KPIs. Simultaneously, they nurture their traditional standards to continue connecting with long-term audiences in ways they find most reliable.

By evolving alongside technological advancements and nurturing proven practices, you can promote your conference to a diverse and growing base.

Invest in conference marketing

Most associations are working toward similar achievements — reaching the right audiences, ensuring consistent growth and advancing their missions. Every conference is unique and has the potential to contribute to these goals. With various resources and ideas to integrate, the opportunities to strengthen your conference marketing are vast — underlining the importance of finding and investing in the practices that work for you.


Explore McKinley’s conference marketing services to see how we can help.


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