By Heather Holst-Knudsen
Event organizers can acquire valuable, highly qualified, new attendees by implementing an attendee-to-attendee referral marketing program. However, by pairing referral marketing with high perceived value/low-cost incentives, marketers can beat average attendee-acquisition results. For paid events, offering incentives is a critical part of the success equation.
While we’ve written previously about incentivizing referral marketing programs, those ideas were focused exclusively on advocates (registrants who invite colleagues to attend the event). Rewarding both attendees who make the referral and the registrants who respond is even more effective.
One way to recognize influencers is to offer a VIP experience to both advocates and their registered invitees. A so-called frequent influencer rewards program is very attractive for a few reasons:
So how does it work? We like to call this upgrading of your registrants from an Economy Class experience (no advocacy) to a First-Class experience (high-level advocacy).
Provide Economy Plus incentives to individuals whose efforts result in a minimum level of registration conversions. Recognition at this level doesn’t have to cost much. It can focus on nice touches, such as access to a priority registration line or thank you messages featuring influencers’ photos, titles and names on digital signage. Specially printed badges, lanyards or ribbons are another way to make frequent influencers, and those who register based on their invitations, feel appreciated.
A Premium-Economy upgrade, for registrants who make more than an average effort to invite others to the event, can include access to a roped-off section on the show floor in which to charge a phone or have coffee or soft drinks with guests. In addition, organizers can also treat influencers to VIP seating at general sessions and meals. A cocktail reception with the show director could be another perk, paving the way to attendee retention and providing awardees with a chance to network with other engaged participants.
Loyalists who hit the motherlode of referral conversions should reach the First-Class level. They could be given VIP access and showcased as industry influencers throughout the event. With all of the Economy Plus and Premium-Economy freebies and privileges included, organizers can also throw in a handsome (potentially sponsored) swag bag with amenities, such as water bottles, bracelets or lapel pins that identify them as influencers and create FOMO for everyone else at the event. If your event sells tickets to a sellout entertainment event, have some set aside for your First-Class influencers.
Like any other incentive program, influencer rewards require planning. Here are some tips for creating something valuable and “sponsorable” that delivers benefits to recipients and organizers:
And remember, reward for conversions, not just advocacy.
Reward programs are a mainstay for many exhibition organizers—think about exhibitor priority points. Influencer rewards provide value not only in the current year but subsequent years as net NEW registrants take other actions (buy memberships, purchase conference upgrades and make their own referrals).
To find out more about how to build an experience-upgrade program for your attendees for your next event, contact Heather Holst-Knudsen.
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