Acquire New Participants Through a Lead Generation Program

Posted on March 28, 2017

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By Katie Zupancic Wymer

In the peer-to-peer event space, growing your event requires investment in new participant acquisition. Session after session at the P2P Professional Forum Conference touched on the importance of recruiting new participants to your event program. One type of campaign that specifically focuses on acquiring and cultivating highly qualified potential participants is called a lead generation program. This kind of program collects contact information from new audiences which your team will ultimately use to cultivate them to register.

A lead generation program will first identify new audiences that are most likely to be interested in your event or your cause. After being identified, the potential registrants will receive an initial marketing touch introducing them to your event. This marketing touch should include a “message trigger” – a highly personalized call-to-action that hooks your potential new participant by providing them with something of value. Your ultimate goal is to acquire contact information so that you can cultivate these new potential registrants – whether via email, phone, lunch-and-learns, or some other kind of follow-up. Upon the completion of the cultivation process, your lead should register, and now your development staff can continue to cultivate them into being a fundraiser and advocate for your event and cause.

How do you find your audience, come up with a message trigger that provides value and “hooks” your new lead, and then cultivate them? Implementing a new lead generation program can feel like a complicated process, but let’s take a step back and look at it through the lens of a handshake.

Eye Contact
All great handshakes begin with eye contact. Just as you focus in on the person before you extend your hand, take a moment to identify relevant audiences who might be interested in your brand. This could mean creating an Event Participant Profile for an audience that you’re interested in attracting to your event. Once you create that profile, look at the geographic and behavioral targets that will attract these audience groups. To run the most efficient campaign possible, you’ll likely zero in on them via the targeting available to you on the digital advertising platform from where you’ll run the ads. We’ve seen great success with Facebook Lead Generation ads, which seamlessly collect leads within the Facebook interface and can directly link into your CRM system. You can also run display or social ads to a landing page on your website, which should also link into your CRM system. Finally, don’t forget to ensure that the ad and any landing pages are all mobile-friendly.

Firm Handshake
After eye contact is initiated, it’s time to go in for an appropriately firm handshake and greeting. Once you’ve identified your audience targets, work with your creative team to find imagery and write copy that will hook your new leads and convince them to share their contact information with you.

As you’re looking at photography, be sure to select engaging, impactful creative that will convert. Make sure that you’re choosing images that will appeal to a brand-new audience. Don’t feature something so highly specific to your event that only a past participant would understand the connection.

As you work on copy, spend some time focusing on your message trigger. How can you provide value to a new participant? Depending on the cost of your event, special access to deals, announcements, and exclusive offers may strongly appeal to potential registrants. A strong call-to-action that demonstrates value is how you’ll drive someone from simply viewing your ad to filling out the form and hitting submit. Try using psychological principles to improve your ad copy, too.

If a discount won’t drive them to register, consider providing an incentive item in exchange for providing contact information. If you decide to invest in an incentive item like a water bottle, merchandise gift certificate, or something else with a hard cost, make sure that your ROI and CPA are in alignment with your overall brand goals.

But Not Too Firm
Just like a handshake should be firm – but not too firm – your message trigger needs to be strong enough to drive someone to action but not so aggressive that it scares them away. An ad doesn’t need to tell the entire story of your event, nor should it. A lead generation program is in fact a program, not a single action, where follow-up cultivation spans over a period of time. If an email marketing campaign is your preferred method, introduce that lead to the different aspects of your event and begin to build a relationship with them as you progress through your campaign.

Just as you don’t want to walk away from an aggressively firm handshake, don’t overwhelm a potential lead with too much information up front. Cultivate them with carefully crafted and tested follow up emails with smart subject lines, include them in remarketing ads, and build rapport with them before you ask them to register.

Implementing a lead generation program is a great way to introduce new audiences to your event, to provide them with value, and to cultivate them into being participants. By approaching the process like a handshake, you’ll focus in on the right audience and provide them with appropriate and timely messaging so that they convert.

Need some extra support on recruiting new participants? We’d love to meet you.

Katie Zupancic Wymer (LinkedInTwitter) is the Manager, Consumer Marketing at Event 360. She manages digital marketing and social media strategy and sponsorship for MuckFest® MS, the FUN mud run in support of a world free of multiple sclerosis. She also manages digital marketing for other fundraising events like Bike MSNewly Minnesotan, she enjoys exploring her new home with her tiny dog, Annie.

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