Growing Your Meeting In CyberSpace
As increasing numbers of people search for information on the
Internet, it becomes more imperative to have a compelling
Website to promote and support your meetings.
Here is my list of “The Seven Most Important Things You can do
1. Identify all your Online Markets
It’s a common mistake to focus your attention on the obvious
target audience for your meetings site—the potential attendees.
But many other types of visitor may find your site, and it’s
important to consider whether they’re important to you, how you
want to engage them, and what outcomes you’d like to achieve
Visitors to your meetings Website might include:
* past / potential attendees
* suppliers / vendors / exhibitors / sponsors / insurers
* Board members / employees / volunteers
* content seekers
* job seekers
“Content seekers” is the term I use for members of the public
who may not be regular customers or members of your organization,
but who find you through a keyword search because they’re
interested in the content of your meeting. If you admit the
public to your events, this is an important audience who might
require different communications from your regular participants.
If you’re looking for publicity, don’t forget the importance of
a press center. This should be very easy to find, and should
contain all the information that a reporter would need to cover
your event—they’re usually under tight deadlines and will
really appreciate this.
I include “competition” in this list because many people have
asked me whether it’s dangerous to put too much good information
on your Website “in case the competition sees it”. My (somewhat
obvious) answer? “If your competition can’t see it, neither can
the people you’re looking to attract!”
2. Set your Goals
This sounds self-evident, but is often overlooked. You can’t
evaluate your return on investment (see #7 later) if you don’t
know what you want to achieve. What will be your measures of
success for this site in terms of your meeting? What are the
key outcomes that you want—registrations, exhibitors, media
attention, ongoing discussion forums, etc.
Also consider the expenses of the site against any potential
savings—for instance, if you’re implementing online
registration, you want to be satisfied that your system can
replace (and hopefully improve on) your real-world processes in
a cost-effective manner.
3. Make it About Them, not You
Your site should be written from your visitors’ point of view,
not yours. Does your meeting description page clearly recognize
why the reader might be there—what’s in it for them to attend
your event, and why they should care? What are the problems or
issues that they might have, and how will participating in this
meeting address them?
Include some testimonials from previous attendees giving clear
examples of how they’ve benefited from this event in the past.
Third party endorsements are worth far more than your own
promotional text. They should be spread throughout your site,
not relegated to a separate page (because few visitors will go
4. Make it Easy to do Business With You
It’s all too easy to throw online roadblocks into the paths of
your visitors, perhaps without even realizing it. A couple of
my favorite examples of this are:
* Site search engines that return “no results found”, making the
visitor feel foolish. Clearly they’re looking for something, so
offer to have a representative call them—or provide further
help with your search process
* Asking for registration details prematurely, before you’ve
created enough trust with a new visitor. Privacy issues and
concern about spam are major barriers to volunteering personal
5. Every Page of your Site should Have a Strategy
Whatever the outcomes that you want from your site, you need to
ask for them. Too many Web pages end weakly, with no clear
calls to action. Don’t make your visitors have to work to decide
what to do next—they won’t! Every page on your site should
have a strategy—invite the visitor to interact with you, or go
to the next page, but make it easy and obvious.
So, at the appropriate place in each page (or at several points
in the page), include a link to the appropriate form—”register
for this meeting”, “ask for an exhibitor packet”—or whatever
invitation may be relevant.
6. Practice Multi-Channel Integrated Marketing
Offline marketing activities, such as postcard campaigns can be
extremely useful in driving traffic to your Website. Think of
all your marketing tactics as inter-related, and not as separate.
Don’t rely on search engines to bring traffic to you—there are
many other ways to create online buzz:
* paid advertising—e-zine sponsorship / banners / pay-per-
* public relations and coverage on other sites
* placing articles by your experts and speakers on sites and in
publications read by your target audiences
* and of course, targeted e-mail marketing to your existing
7. Measure your Success
The keys to evaluating the return on investment in your site, to
improving it, and often to further business development ideas
can be found in your Web traffic reports. These show what
visitors are looking for, how long they spend on the site, where
they go, where they leave, and what rate of response you get to
the various calls to action.
These reports can be daunting—a mass of figures, graphs and
URL’s. But I’d strongly suggest that someone in your
organization should understand them. Otherwise, you’re shooting
in the dark with your Web investment.
Philippa Gamse, CyberSpeaker, is a Web strategy consultant and professional speaker. Check out her free tipsheet for 23 ideas to promote your Website: http://www.CyberSpeaker.com/tipsheet.html. Philippa can be reached at (831) 465-0317.