Written by Casey Goldman, Marketing at Fonteva
Feeling frustrated with your event attendance? Focus on building attendee loyalty and retaining the people who already support you. Read these tips for more!
Building Event Attendee Loyalty: 5 Tips to Boost Engagement
If your organization plans and launches events, you know how important it is to make your attendees happy. These events are a way for your members and supporters to come together and engage with each other. And if you’re in charge of planning these events, you know that attracting attendees can be similar to the way stores attract shoppers.
However, instead of focusing solely on securing new people for your events, why not think about how you can best retain your existing attendees instead?
Focusing your efforts on engaging past attendees will increase event attendee loyalty— paying off long after your event is over. Then the next time one of your events rolls around, your supporters will be fighting to be on that early-bird registration list.
Building a community during your events as well as keeping the engagement up post-event is key to attendee retention. In fact, it’s common knowledge now that loyalty pays off even when you want to attract new members. New customers tend to be more receptive if it’s something their friend or family recommends rather than from more flashy marketing techniques. To start building attendee loyalty and keep up efforts all year-round, you’ll be learning how you can:
- Gather relevant data in your CRM.
- Engage your attendees during the event.
- Create a branded event app.
- Have year-round communication efforts.
- Provide incentives for repeat attendance.
These tips won’t just help you keep event attendance up and build longer-lasting relationships, but they’ll also help to deepen the engagement of those relationships and their support of your organization. Let’s get started!
1. Gather relevant data in your CRM
If your organization needs to handle a lot of personal information and event data, you probably have a constituent relationship management (CRM) system in place. Whether it’s association management software to handle professional members across an industry or it’s a nonprofit CRM that helps gather donor information, a CRM system can be an invaluable resource for building attendee engagement and loyalty.
With each event that your organization hosts, your CRM should be taking in attendee information so that you know how to contact them after. You’ll be getting most of this data through the registration forms you offer. This means that if you’re thinking about upgrading your event registration software, one with integration capabilities for your CRM will be the best choice.
Even better, find management tools that are native to your CRM platform. There are even some event management tools that are native to Salesforce, one of the most popular CRMs.
Your event registration software should give your team the freedom to brand your registration form to your organization but also enough guidance if you don’t know where to start. Besides CRM integration, look for event registration software that will:
- Allow you to customize your forms. This way you get to choose what information your CRM takes in. Don’t bog down your database with details that you don’t need and be sure to include fields in your form for options like social media handles.
- Provide you with reliable payment processors. Find event registration software that has connections to multiple processors and a security system to help your event registrants feel safe giving you their sensitive information.
If this has piqued your interest, check out Fonteva’s guide on association management software.
2. Engage your attendees during the event
If you want to really encourage your event attendees to keep coming event after event, make sure they’re enjoying themselves! It’s important that they have a good time and get something out of your event— this way they’ll want to come back and also generate some positive brand awareness for your event.
How can you make sure your event-goers don’t just scroll on their phones out of sheer boredom? Here are some ideas to get your engines started:
- Encourage social media posts. Include a branded hashtag for attendees to use when they post about your event online! Not only does this encourage guests to involve themselves in event activities, but they’ll also be helping to promote your event. You can then display this user-generated hashtagged content on a widescreen at your event, motivating others to post their photos for a chance to get featured.
- Create event branded merchandise for people to take home. Something as easy as event t-shirts with your organization’s name and event title can really make the day more memorable for guests. Everyone loves getting free shirts (or buying one at an event they’ve enjoyed) so start gathering your design team! If you like this idea, Bonfire’s customizable event t-shirts are a great place to start.
- Offer education courses for relevant skills. Teaching a new skill or offering certifications encourage your attendees to mentally involve themselves in your event. It also provides a memorable experience for them. Every time they use this skill, they’ll remember your event! Many events revolve solely around courses, seminars, and presentations, so look for ways to make them even more engaging. Associations might ask each chapter to develop and lead a seminar, for instance.
Providing an experience for attendees to look back on fondly should be one of your main goals. Simply put, the best way to build attendee loyalty is to make sure that they have a good time. Host unique speakers who will make your event memorable and offer something of value that people won’t get anywhere else. An unforgettable event will bring your attendees together and provide the best base to build your attendee loyalty.
3. Create a branded event app
A tech-focused way to keep your event attendees more engaged is to create an event app that is branded to your organization.
No matter where they are or what they’re doing, your attendees will have access to all the important details in the palm of their hands. If your event has any last-minute changes, send a push notification so that all your attendees have the most recent update.
What can an event app do for your organization? Your event app needs more than just the basic details. It should provide your event-goers with tools and services that make your event easier to navigate and that facilitates more interaction with other attendees. Plus, an event app can really streamline the event management process for your team! Your app should include:
- Your event’s schedule. Your event-goers should be able to access the different happenings going on during your event and have all the relevant details. Self-service agendas for guests to pick which speakers or sessions they don’t want to miss are another good idea.
- Customer service options. Providing easy access to customer service or attendee support is crucial for building your event attendee loyalty. If they have urgent (or non-urgent) questions and you have the right team to attend to any queries right away, people will trust your event.
- Surveys after the event. If your event app presents your event-goers with a survey soon after your event finishes, people will have their best impressions fresh in their mind. Gathering feedback on your event will help you improve future events.
- Community message board. Having a community message board or forum on your event app creates a place for your attendees to interact with each other before, during, and after the event. This generates more interaction and provides the additional networking value that many attendees are looking for.
You don’t have to hire a coder or learn app-building to have an app for your event. Some event management tools will be able to provide a branded mobile app for your attendees! For a list of top event management software, click here.
A mobile app isn’t necessary for every event you host, but it’s definitely a good investment for major multi-day events. Plus, an app will give your attendees an easy place to find all the information they need to have the best time and help you figure out what you need to improve for next time.
4. Have year-round communication efforts
It’s harder to engage your event attendees when they’re not actually at your event. That’s why it is imperative that you keep up your communications all year-round. How can you build up loyalty in your supporters if they forget about you until it’s time to register again next year?
Using event planning and management tools, you can encourage your past attendees to engage with each other online. With online message boards and availability on any device, your supporters can keep talking about your event and organization on their own time. For associations and other membership organizations, member portals and forums are essential.
If you’re thinking about upping your communication game, consider releasing a newsletter on a consistent basis or increasing your social media activity. Even if you don’t have events to talk about, you can provide excitement for the next one planned, ask for suggestions, announce upcoming speakers, and share insights on recent developments in your field.
5. Provide incentives for repeat attendance
Once it’s time to begin nailing down the specifics of your next event, how can you best incentive past attendees to be interested again? Remember, even if your event-goers and supporters had a good time at your last function, that doesn’t guarantee that they’ll take the time and money to go to your next one. Building loyalty and retention strategies into your plans from the very beginning is the best way to boost repeat attendance, but if you need one more final push, providing incentives can encourage those last few people to get involved.
Consider these strategies:
- Make sure your event offers something new. You don’t want to be going to the same sessions and hearing the same lectures each year. Change up your schedule and offer new speakers to cover new topics and engaging, timely discussions. This is where your attendee surveys will really come in handy to help you identify which elements guests were excited to engage with last time and also which ones could be cut this time around.
- Be strategic about registration times and levels. Knowing when to open and close event registration is a delicate balance. To encourage past event-goers to sign up again, offer early bird deals to those who have been to other events or are on your email subscription list. Release (and heavily promote!) a discounted VIP early bird package to your more loyal attendees before anyone else has access.
Your members have very busy schedules and sometimes aren’t entirely sure if they want to attend an event. Incentives will make your event stand out ahead of time, giving guests the time to think about it. Start early and make sure that it gets marked off on guest’s calendars early.
Don’t waste time and effort solely trying to attract new attendees for your event. Focus on building that attendee loyalty and your retention rate to reap more sustainable, long-term benefits.
Loyal supporters will almost always care more about your organization than a brand new attendee. Incorporating and adapting these tips to your own events and audience can help you see improvements in your retention rate in no time. Good luck!