We find that most meeting attendees are still interested in the “benefits” they receive from a program and not just the “features” that are provided. Features describe the nature of the program: How it intends to accomplish its objectives. Benefits describe what the value will be to the participant as a result of their investment: What they will take home.
Our research and experience indicates that features evolve to respond to changing preferences. The desired personal rewards (benefits) of investing in participation in an “event” tend to remain consistent over time regardless of the learning strategies (features) employed.
We observe that successful strategies for transitioning from one kind of event to another focuses on benefits as the primary message. New features are then explained in terms of how they promote achievement of the benefits and reflect the experience preferences of the intended audience.
So, what seems to be the most frequent big problem to be solved?
When meeting planners design meetings they tend to get excited by the meeting design. When educators design learning opportunities they tend to get excited by the instructional strategies. When lobbyists design campaigns, they tend to get excited by the arguments. When advertisers design promotions they tend to get excited by language and images. Each segment may not “get” a description that appeals to another.
When attendees become excited about participation it’s usually because they believe they have received something of professional and personal value in an activity that provided both useful insight and enjoyable experience.
Earning this expectation before an event is THE key marketing and communications challenge.
(Just as matching learning opportunity to the nature of the content, preferences of the learners, and their existing level of knowledge is THE key instructional design challenge.)
We observe that successful marketing strategy takes the time to discover what content would be considered indispensable and what experience would be considered “un-missable.” Portrayal of the offer is then communicated with language and images that (a) convey the benefits in terms that are meaningful to the intended audience and (b) describe the character of the experience in terms that are emotionally appealing.
Qualitative research with the intended audience – focused on the decisions that need to be made – has proven to be a common component of the most effective association program and service marketing strategies.
It has been especially useful to associations offering new and/or successor programs to a diverse membership population.