How to Build Your Local Community
One of the biggest questions I get around event planning is "how do I get people to come to my event?"
The simplest answer? You need a community to help you.
Just like in the online world, you need to cultivate a community; a group of people who believe in the work that you do, who want to go to bat for you, and who will recommend your products up and down and left and right.
For some reason, online entrepreneurs fall into two camps:
a) I have a HUGE online following so people will be lining up for my one-day workshop in Spokane (maybe, but probably not).
b) I have a HUGE online following and I don't think I could ever sell an event out (maybe, but don't beat yourself up just yet).
Similar to building an online community that will buy your digital or retail products, you need a local community to sell an event to.
How do you do that?
Start with 10. Make it a goal to meet 10 women who are in your community that you can reach out to. Maybe they're friends, maybe they're people you admire. Don't worry about whether or not they could be clients; just ask them to have coffee or a drink with you over the course of a month or so.
I love having coffee dates with inspiring people, so I had been meeting with people for months. The 10 women I invited were mostly women who inspired me and who I knew were empathetic, and had the same view of business as I did.
Invite them to something free. Host a "wine night" at your house and talk about things you have in common (ideally, things in your wheelhouse that you can help them with). Don't do any direct selling; just get a feel for these people and what their pain points are and the way they're engaging with each other.
My first meeting of the women that were in my community was in my apartment. People sat on borrowed chairs and on the floor, we drank wine, and everyone brought something potluck style. I think it cost me $40 to host it and it was amazing (plus, I got to keep any leftovers and I got to write it off as a business expense! Double win!).
Do this regularly. They want to feel like your inner circle, so keep hosting (or take turns, but you keep acting as the "owner" of the group). As they get more and more value around the community that you're building, they'll start talking to you to their friends, which will increase your visibility even more.
When I launched the Boss Lady Bash, I had already been meeting with my "Creative Lady Club", a personal group of 10 women that I had met either through business or just because I emailed them to have coffee, for two months. These women helped me promote it, and essentially sold it out for me.
Check in with them. For my personal "Creative Lady Club," I created a Facebook group for us all to ask each other questions when we're stumped. It's great because we get to share our wins and struggles without a huge. Plus, I like to check in and see how everyone is doing; the feeling of having a "mother hen" sometimes is relieving and makes my community trust me (enough to continue to recommend me to their network and help me grow my business).
This looks an AWFUL lot like a "marketing funnel" for a digital product, but to be honest, I didn't get digital and email marketing AT ALL until I organically came up with the process above. Essentially, the formula is the same, but with events, it can be so much more daunting because there is skin in the game.
I'm not going to say I made a ton of money on my first event, but it did show me the power of creating an engaged community BEFORE going out on a limb and selling an event.
The bottom line: just like on the internet, you need a community of people who know you, like you, trust you, and will recommend you to their friends. Start building that community and you won't have to ask the question "But how do I get people to come to my event?"