Marketing a meeting in a down economy

While of course it all depends on what industry you serve--some are actually reporting increased attendance and interest in their meetings as the economic woes deepen--most meetings professionals on the association side are showing a little concern about getting those seats filled at their upcoming meetings. And that means marketing.

In fact, according to the results of our survey so far (it's not too late--click here to participate in this ultra-fast seven-question poll), 70 percent of respondents are anticipating decreased attendance in 2009, and 41 percent are seeing attrition loom for next year's meeting. Almost three-quarters are looking to marketing to eliminate the shortfall.

I just read this article in Chief Marketer, and wanted to share the link with you all because I think it's good advice about marketing a meeting in a down economy, though it is more explicitly about marketing products. The gist of it is: "The knee-jerk response to shrinking sales is to focus on growth through customer acquisition. But experience has taught us that concentrating on understanding and keeping the customers you've got is the strongest strategy in battling churn."

How can you enhance your appeal to your regulars? To those who were first-timers last year? Increasing your base is always good, but be sure to shore up the existing core of attendees first, is what the article suggests.

Typing that just made me flash on an article I just read about the presidential campaigns, and how one side very successfully did expand its base toward the middle, even though the candidate had a decidedly core record. The other had a record that should have appealed to those outside the base, but somehow missed in coalescing a new, broader market for his ideas. I can't remember where I read about all this...if I find it again, I'll link to it. I'm sure there are lessons we can all learn from the campaigns, even if what we are marketing is a meeting, not a president.

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