Marketing is no longer about selling to your customers, but engaging them. An excellent way to engage your potential customers, as well as build your network of peers and colleagues, is to start and run your own Meeting Group.
This is a great way to share your knowledge and expertise, as well as give back to others. The decision to go ahead and start a local meetup group needs to be made carefully, with a long-term view and committment to the groups success. There will need to be time investment, as well as money. However the rewards can be amazing – you or your business seen as an expert, and gaining more friends and customers through expanding your network.
If you are interested in doing this, here are some suggestions for your planning:
1. Decide the Purpose
You need a clear purpose for your regular meetings. It is not very helpful to meet for meet sake. Decide what outcomes you would like to achieve from the group.
2. Choose your Topic
What topic will the group focus on? You really should not make the topic YOUR business, but rather an area where you are experienced. For Example: If you run an accountancy firm, you could hold a group meetup or workshop once a month on the topic of Managing Business Finances. This kind of group would target business owners, and get them meeting up and talking about the tools and resources they use to manage their business finance.
3. Decide on a Location
Maybe you would like your local group to meet up in your office. Or maybe you don’t have the space and facilities in your office to manage a group meeting, so you may need to look at other suitable locations – meeting rooms, or even function rooms or coffee shops.
Do your customers all have cars? Then you need a location with parking. Do your customers all work or live in a different locale than your office? Then perhaps you need to meet somewhere nearby.
4. Create a Budget
Running a local group requires a balance of time and financial investment. You need to allocate time for setting up, managing and running the group, as well as the budget.
- Will you need to rent a space?
- Will you charge for people to attend?
- Will you provide refreshments?
- Will you provide materials, such as workbooks and such?
- How and Where will you advertise your event?
- Will you use a free online group management tool, or a paid one?
All these questions need to be answered when putting together your budget.
5. Choose a Management Platform
Considering the BOOM of online social networking, it might be a good idea to manage your meetup on the net. Here are 3 suggestions:
Currently free, Big Tent’s tag line is “where trusted groups connect online”. Big Tent hosts a great range of features including shared admin access, payment processing, calendar and event RSVP, photo and file sharing, as well as reviews and classifieds.
Currently free for up to 250 members, GroupSpaces also allows student groups to set up and run for free for unlimited members. They currently encourage groups to join for Sports Clubs, Student Societies, Charities, and other Local Groups. The main features include storing your member database online, organising events, managing a professional mailing list, and using GroupSpaces as your main group website for free.
From $19 per month, MeetUp is possibly the most famous of the group meeting websites, with currently 7.2 million members. However Meetup recently made some major changes to the group websites, and has experienced some backlash from some group managers, so it will be interesting to see any changes Meetup will make over the coming weeks/ months.
Meetup is different to other sites for a few reasons. One reason, is that as a business owner you can choose to Sponsor a group, alleviating some of the cost from the group organisers, and helping businesses promote themselves to a potentially targeted audience.
Wild Apricot boasts membership software solutions for a range of organisations including associations, non-profits and clubs. There is a free option for up to 50 members, then the pricing plans start from $25 per month. Features include managing a contact database, event registration, a customisable website and online payments.
6. Share, Share, Share
Once your meeting group is ready to go, and all the plans are made, you need to let people know about your group – on your Website, in your newsletters, and on your Social Networks. You may even write a blog about it, or issue a Press Release. Having a plan to market your meetup, should really help when it comes to getting people involved – and turning up!
Do you run a meetup? Or manage a Local Group? I’d love to hear your feedback and suggestions.