You’d have to have been hiding under a rock the last few years not to be aware of the growing number of online event communities springing up. But there’s a huge difference between being aware and actually putting that nagging sense of “should do” into action and sprinting ahead of all the others (without getting disqualified of course!) If you’ve so far lacked the motivation to fully commit to building your online event community, here’s your incentive.
These are our 6 major ways that your events business is losing out by not committing to building online communities:
1. You're spending more money and working harder to reach your target audience.
Online communities give you a great value, long term route to your target audience. Once built, a community will thrive with just a little care and attention. Unlike a media partnership it doesn’t need to be renegotiated every year and unlike a list rental it’s not a recurring cost.
Even if you’re sat on the world’s best database (and, likely as not, it isn't as complete as you think it is), without an online event community you have to start from scratch, re-engaging those contacts every year. Which means more mail shots, more work, more money.
2. Your competitors may be stealing your audience. Permanently.
If the whole “easy life” argument didn’t persuade you, how about this? Your competitors could be stealing your audience. And you won’t be able to get them back without a fight! Online communities and events are similar in that being first out of the gate provides a huge competitive advantage.
Don’t believe me? Check out the groups on LinkedIn. More often than not there’s one big, dominant group in any space that was the first to the table. When your competitors start a community first, all they have to do is say that it’s there and people will join because it’s something new and fulfils a previously un-catered for need. Come along second and you have to prove why they need to belong to another of the same kind of thing. Which is hard. Don’t even get me started on what happens if you’re third or fourth…
3. You're missing out on the easiest way to build and maintain brand loyalty.
At its heart, online event communities provide their members with something of real value for nothing (and we all love that right?) So they’re automatically feeling good about your brand and subsequently your event brands too. And they’re unlikely to forget your brand if they’re using the community regularly.
So rather than having to send a tonne of emails promoting your event (which is a big no no anyway), your online community audience already knows when your event is and where to go to find out about it. They might even be chatting with your speakers about their presentations already!
4. You're not being seen as a leader or the go to brand in the industry.
Why would they think of your event as being “the one” when you don’t run THE online destination for your niche? It’s possible but it’s a darned sight harder than doing it via an online community. And it makes you way more vulnerable to being taken over by the hot new kid on the block whose digital savvy enables their event to punch well above its weight.
5. You've not got access to a hugely valuable source of customer insight.
I can’t stress how important this is. Use the insights from your online event communities and you have the opportunity to develop new product offerings, new revenue streams, a diversified portfolio and a true “finger on the pulse” of the industry.
Your community gives you a chance to really tap into different segments within your customer base to develop insights that will fuel your production, marketing and sales efforts. For example you can use these insights to develop further (and better) content both online and offline.
6. You're not earning extra revenue from your exhibitor market.
Of course your sponsors love the opportunity to get face time with stakeholders at your events. But more often now (as with all B2B marketers) they realise the opportunity is maximised by a year round branding and relationship development campaign where their channels are integrated.
Their preference is always going to be for the organisation that is able to support their marketing efforts year round through great content and strong marketing partnerships. Which incidentally they’re not scared of paying big bucks for! I spoke to a CMO friend at a major international bank and she said they were spending half their budget on content partnerships.
Whilst it's hard to put a dollar value against each of these that would apply to every event and business, it's not too much of a stretch to see how the total cost benefit of an online event community could be in the tens of thousands, even for a relatively small conference.
So, what are you waiting for? Get off that fence and start building!