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4 Proven Tips to Market Your Association’s Next Event

A group of seated association members listening to a speaker at an event.


Picture this: Your association has an exciting fundraising gala coming up that will help you raise additional funds to support your members and offerings. You’ve selected a theme, booked a venue, and even hired catering and entertainment. 

Now it’s crucial to generate impact to get attendees to register. The key comes down to event marketing. This is a critical component of the event planning process, and it deserves your full effort. Start by establishing a dedicated event marketing team that will handle all related tasks.

In this guide, we’ll cover proven strategies to spread the word about your event so you can motivate members to attend while proving the value of belonging to your organization.

1. Set event goals and objectives

The first step to a strong association event marketing strategy is setting goals. Concrete objectives will help to rally your team and create a clear roadmap for success. You’ll be able to consistently track your progress and understand whether you’re on target. Plus, this is a great way to foster accountability and keep motivation high.

We recommend using the SMART goal-setting model:

  • Specific: What exactly do you want to achieve? For example, instead of just saying that you want to increase attendance, you might state that you want at least 500 registrations.
  • Measurable: How will you assess progress and determine whether your goal has been achieved? For instance, if your event aims to increase member engagement, you might set a goal to receive registrations from 100 members who haven’t attended any events within the last year.
  • Attainable: Is your goal realistic given your resources, time, and other constraints? For example, if your association hasn’t had over 500 attendees at an event before, it might not be reasonable to set a goal to acquire 800 attendees.
  • Relevant: Does your goal align with your association’s current priorities and values? Consider how the theme, sessions, marketing efforts, and more align with your association as a whole. Communicate how your event is directly related to your key priorities with stakeholders to engage them in the event.
  • Time-bound: What is the deadline or timeframe for achieving the goal? Usually, this is easy to address with event marketing. You may have different stages in the process that require their own target date, such as your goal for the number of registrations by an early deadline. Most event marketing goals center on acquiring increased registrations, which need to happen by a certain deadline so your association can ensure that your event works well for the number of attendees.

Although most event marketing goals revolve around increasing registration and awareness, that doesn’t mean that all goals look the same. For example, your audience for a golf tournament will be very different from a laid-back networking dinner.

Your goals may also change depending on the purpose of your event. An event focused on increasing member engagement may have a goal of acquiring RSVPs from 300 existing members. On the other hand, an event focused on fundraising may lead to a marketing goal of increasing revenue by soliciting $200,000 from event sponsors.

2. Align your messaging with your brand

According to Kwala, a defined brand makes your association unique and gives you an intangible means of communicating your mission and values. Distinct branding will help your association stand out from others, enticing existing members and outsiders to learn more and engage with your organization.

To incorporate your brand into your event marketing, start by creating compelling messaging around your event that explains:

  • The event’s purpose and how it relates to your mission or values
  • The date and time of the event
  • The event’s location
  • Perks your members will receive if they attend (networking opportunities, skill-development workshops, etc.)
  • Any applicable registration fees

Ensure your messaging aligns with your visual and verbal branding:

  • Visual branding includes elements like colors, shapes, symbols, logos, and typography.
  • Verbal branding includes text content, such as slogans, mission statements, specific phrases, tone, and vocabulary preferences.

Incorporate both forms of branding in your messaging to reinforce your association’s identity and avoid confusion. For example, in your event invitation email, you might include your association’s logo at the top and incorporate your brand colors throughout the email. You’d weave your verbal branding throughout the text portion of your invitation, such as by inviting them to a “gathering” rather than an “event” to create a more welcoming atmosphere.

3. Choose your channels

To get the word out about your event to members, take a multichannel marketing approach. OneCause recommends prioritizing sharing content to the following channels:

  • Event microsite. An event microsite will share event-specific content, allowing your association’s members to learn more about the experience without cluttering your association’s main site. It also allows members to register ahead of time and donate. You’ll need to create dedicated registration and donation pages on your microsite to meet those needs.
  • Social media. Social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and TikTok are great opportunities for you to vastly increase the visibility of your event. Choose the right platforms that fit your audience. For many associations, LinkedIn is likely the best choice for event marketing.
  • Email event invitation. If your goal is to reach individuals who are already connected with your association, email newsletters are a great way to do so. Supporters on your mailing list will likely already be members or have an interest in your association, and they’ll be intrigued by the event after receiving an invitation.

Although managing multiple marketing channels can seem overwhelming, you may be able to invest in software that will automate your efforts. With the right marketing automation tools, you can seamlessly manage your channels, send out communications at the right time to maximize engagement, and increase registrations for your association’s event.

4. Tap ambassadors to help promote your event

To further maximize your event’s visibility, you can ask your association members to serve as marketing ambassadors and help spread the word about your upcoming event. Provide incentives for their participation, like discounted membership or free event tickets.

You can use your association management software to help you identify ideal ambassadors. A top solution will give you a full view of member activities, members’ depth of engagement, and potential for growth. Use your solution to find highly engaged members with many connections who would be interested in being your ambassadors.

If your event has sponsors, you can also use their connections to market your event. This is especially effective if your event is open to the general public and is not exclusive to your members. Sponsors will be happy to help you market your event, as a common goal for sponsors is to also spread the word about their products or services, making marketing on your behalf a win-win.

For trade shows and convention-style events especially, ask vendors to promote the event to their audiences to draw even more attendees. Empower them by providing marketing collateral as sponsors, such as graphics for social media posts or templates for email invitations.

Wrapping Up

As you roll out your marketing plan, continually evaluate your progress and whether you’re on track to meet your goals. This might mean regularly reviewing metrics such as site clickthroughs, email conversion rates, or registration rates. That way, you can adjust your strategy as needed to maximize your results and ensure that your association’s next event is well-attended and drives the impact you want.

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