Marketing Program Opportunities

4 ways to improve program marketing

My daughter knows me well. As we walked around the facility of our last half marathon, she looked at me and said, "Quit thinking about how you'd organize this differently." She was right. I was silently rearranging their signage, their crowd navigation, their customer service; basically, everything. Events are big business and a key pathway for Illinois Extension to connect with our communities. Consider these four ways to improve your next event experience. 

Create experiences instead of programs.

Consider the last time you attended a great program. What made it a great? Did they make the topic interesting? Were the presenters engaging? Did they deliver what they promised? Did the supplemental information have value? Were the instructions clear? Were all the requirements clearly listed? Did you get the value you expected? Was the event visually interesting? Now, think of a time none of those things happened? 

Instead of thinking of your event as an event, think of it as an experience
Instead of thinking about your training as education, think of it as entertainment.
Trust me; when you start thinking about programs as experienceseverything changes

Everyone keeps asking how to get more millennials to our events. Understand one thing: they want experiences that are entertaining! (That's why they pay extra for services that let them skip commercials.) Ask yourself: Is my PowerPoint fun to watch? Do I get to the important stuff quickly without making them wait for the good part of the show? Do I intentionally plan for active audience participation? Would a participant be eager to come back? 

Get personal. Tell them how their lives will be better. 

Instead of talking about what the presenter's going to saytell people how their lives will be better after the program. Begin your event description with why the topic matters to them and to the world. Then, after you've set the stage (why the issue matters to them), tell them specifically how their lives will be better. 

"Great brands talk about how they transform their customer. The goal for our branding should be that every potential customer knows exactly where we want to take them." Donald Miller, Building a StoryBrand.

Stop talking about yourself and focus on the participant. Stop leading with "University of Illinois Extension is presenting a training on." Instead, say, "You'll feel healthier by incorporating five easy nutrition tips..." Your event description should not read like a press release. In a press release, you're speaking to the masses; in your event marketing, you're convincing one person at a time. 

Give me more. Write for Google. 

Consistently, we don't provide enough information in our website event marketing. It's digital. You're not limited by the size of the page. Write more. As a participant, the only way I can decide to spend time at your event is when I'm certain it will be worth my time. So write more.

"Learn to plant trees" may not be enough to convince me to attend, but if you say "Before spending hundreds of dollars on trees that may die within a year, learn which trees grow best in our area. After you learn about the most popular trees, you can decide if oak, maple, or dogwood is best for you. Then, we'll get you organized with the right tools and the right process to ensure you'll have a beautiful tree for years to come."

Liz Smith presented a super webinar on how to improve search engine ranking. When you read the Best Practice Guide, you'll learn to identify keywords and add long-tail keywords to get a higher ranking. Long-tail keywords are phrases our audience might use when searching. The higher the ranking, the more people know about your program.

We do a lot of webinar series in Extension. Use this formula for writing your website and Facebook event titles. Start with a descriptive name of the specific webinar (and be sure it includes your important keywords), add a | divider bar, and follow with the series name at the end. Google puts more emphasis on the beginning of the title than the end, so start the headline with the most important thing. For example: What’s That Bug? How to Identify Insects | Four Seasons Gardening Webinars.

Follow Up. Give Treats.

Don't be one and done. Follow up is important to developing a relationship that makes people want to hang out with you again. After the event, send them a free gift via email, such as a link to a related video, blog, tip sheet, or future program. Then, send them another one about a week later. Of course, treats during the event are always good, too. Stock your closet with giveaways. 

You may argue that some of this is program planning and not marketing, but it's allmarketing. You are a walking billboard for the organization and each event is an advertisement for the next Extension program.

If you need a refresher on how to create an event on the website, check out Emily Steele's quick how-to video. If you want even more, here's the full-length training, or download the best practice guide.