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Draw a big crowd with event marketing

You've announced events at church and put them in the bulletin or newsletter. When the time comes, however, attendance isn't what you had hoped.

Most of the time spent planning an event goes into what it will be, how it will operate and other logistics for the day itself. We give little time to the question: How will we get people to attend?

If you carve out more time for marketing, more people will have the chance to reap the benefits of your event preparation.

The first step to success is to identify your target audience and the best tools to reach that group. Take advantage of technology, but don't forget old-fashioned marketing-word-of-mouth. Here are a few tools to consider:

  • Create an event on Facebook. If you don't have a Facebook page, create one here. Select from the "Other Business" drop-down menu and you'll find a "religious center" category. Once you create the Facebook page, click on "Events" under the "Application" block on the right. Facebook shows you every step to creating an event. Then share the event with your friends and ask them to share the event link with their friends.
  • Search LinkedIn and other online networking sites for groups in your area who might show interest in your church's activities. Join those groups; then post news of your event. Consider posting even when you do not have an event so group members know you want to interact with them.
  • Use trade sponsorships. Identify organizations, businesses and media who might help in sharing your message. The local grocery store might let you distribute fliers in their bags or the local radio station might announce your event on air. Approach them with a trade opportunity. In exchange for their promotion assistance, you will recognize them as an event sponsor. Include their logo on all printed materials such as fliers, Web sites, event programs and signage. Acknowledge their support at your event. Then follow up with a thank-you letter detailing the ways you connected their organization's name to your event.
  • Establish recruitment rewards. Your best marketers are the people who already are involved. Create incentive awards for them to bring other people to the event.
  • Go to your community friends. Community centers, apartments, churches and other places people congregate in your area offer excellent marketing resources. Because most of the groups have their own events to promote, they may be willing to share details of your event (include in newsletter, post a flier or announce at next meeting) in exchange for your sharing news of their event with your congregation.
  • Don't forget other events. Include information about all upcoming activities at every event. Ask attendees for contact information to let them know about future activities, then compile a database and use that to help promote your next event.

Finally, remember the event itself is not the end of the marketing process. At the beginning of each event, ask participants to complete a brief survey. List every marketing option you used. Remember to leave a space for them to list the name of a friend who invited them and to have a category of "other" with space for detailed information.

Remember: Identifying a few unexpected ways to reach people may boost participation. You even may find yourself adding a few chairs at the next event!

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