Be Free Or Die

When we first discussed hosting events at group88, we thought that we would have some freebies mixed with paid seminars that provide many layers of apply-it-now knowledge. Now I’m rethinking it all. We want to have tons of events but I don’t want attendees to have to pay. I’m finding out that finding sponsors is not difficult, nor is convincing them to pay for sponsorships in a cool atmosphere with cool people.

Convincing people that, yes, they are more than welcome to attend our events, however, is a bit of a challenge. Our space is brand spankin’ new and the comfort zone has not yet been established. One thing that I’m quickly learning is that people are just too nice.

Our first event is next week (4/24) and is a discussion on “Low-Cost Video Production for Solos and Small Businesses” from a local TV anchor celeb and her new vid production company. We first promoted this event as $25 for non-members and $15 for members. Our result was: zero. Not one sign-up.

Today, after sealing the deal with cool social finance site Geezeo as our sponsor, I was able to eblast a “guess what? drinks are on us!” announcement. Response? Four sign-ups within two hours. And I only eblasted half my list.

What’s really interesting is that I got a phone call from someone who received the invite but was unsure if it meant she could really attend. This brings me back to my earlier point: people need comfort zones. Once they visit your space and have a good experience, you’re golden. Before that happens you need to make sure your online, mail and phone experience falls 100% into their comfort zone.

It’s no different than having new friends and going to their house for the first time. There’s always that adjustment time. I know we’re all e-hogs and find it easier to chat or email but, when it comes to making people feel comfortable, there is nothing better than a phone call. It’s the closest thing to meeting in person and helps create a comfort zone for your new friends instead of making them create it on their own. Then, the decision to join your community is not a decision, it’s an important event on their calendar.


  1. Posted April 15, 2008 at 2:17 pm | Permalink

    Great post Suzie! I’ve mentioned on the list before, the value of giving people NO EXCUSE to get in the door is extremely high. Once they’re in, they are hooked.

    The other thing you can do is accept donations, rather than a door rate. We had a WordPress workshop this past weekend, which ended up being MUCH more popular than we expected. Rather than charge a flat rate at the door (which would have limited our attendance) we took donations and collected from people who were not only being generous, but donated because they gleaned value from the event. This type of interaction is sustainable AND, more importantly, provides feedback on the quality of the event. If you’re doing a good job with your events, your donations are higher. If your events suck, they’re lower. Easy metrics for all!

  2. Posted April 16, 2008 at 5:34 am | Permalink

    Good idea Alex re: donations. We are going to try that with our second event which is a local group called MERG (Micro Enterprise Resource Group) because they are coming in to pick the brains of our solos/small biz to see what their “small business battle cry” is and to also explain the benefits of joining MERG so I can’t see charging anything for that. I think we’ll definitely try that with a hands-on workshop as well.

    As long as our costs are covered, I don’t want to make money on these things – I just want group88 to be the mother ship for solos. At least in our little CT corner!

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