A member of our Chamber of Commerce Group on Facebook asked:
We have Business After Hours once a month. What is a good way to increase the attendance for these events? We announce it in the newsletter, at the monthly luncheon and do email blasts. We are only getting 10 to 20 people to actually attend. Help!
This question comes up frequently among chambers and there was a lot of good information given in the comments section on the page, (see the end of this post if you’re a member).
There are three options on increasing attendance for chamber events:
- Beat the bushes and increase your marketing efforts for the event
- Transform and rebrand your event
- Discontinue it
First, find out why people aren’t attending. A lack of time is very different than someone thinking the event isn’t useful.
I recently started my own business and when I was speaking to a local, independent marketer he told me from a prospecting perspective, he found no value in his chamber membership. “The decision makers who can afford me aren’t there. They’re just a bunch of banks showing up.”
Networking is only as Valuable as the Sale
If your membership feels the same way the marketer did, increasing your social media and marketing efforts aren’t going to get people in the door.
From a member’s perspective, attracting 10-15 people is great if you have a business that sells something those 10-15 people need/want. If not, you won’t continue to waste your time.
Yes, in today’s referral economy people should be interested in networking for networking’s sake. After all, you may not be in the market to buy from this person but tomorrow you may find someone who is and you can refer them. Sadly, many people are not thinking long term when carving time out of their calendars.
In order to figure out why people stopped coming, talk with members — either formally through a survey or informally at events or meetings. Check out your attendance rates for other events. Are they all going down or have some risen while your business after hours numbers are decreasing?
If most of the answers you receive from your members have something to do with not knowing about the events, by all means beef-up your marketing efforts. Employ social media — all platforms. Create a Facebook event and invite members that way. Compile a photo montage video from past events and post it to YouTube. Use multiple forms of media to reach the various contingencies within your chamber, including your website and newsletter.
Ultimately you want to offer what your members find value in and if they’re not getting value in Business After Hours Events, you may want to reconsider their effectiveness as part of your chamber offerings.
Guest post by Christina Green
Image via Flickr by Nina Matthews
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