Go To a Meetup
Meetups are a great way to meet local entrepreneurs. Networking with local business and/or tech people can pay off big time. You'll get to learn from experienced people who know the ins and outs of the industry. There are plenty of ways to find a local meetup. Your first destination should be Google to search "your town __ meetup". You can also go to Meetup.com for keywords like “startups” and “tech” to see who else is working on an online venture in your area.
When you attend your first Meetup, here are a few things you can do to make the most out your experience:
- Cross promote online – Exchange coupons with them for future mailings or simply write about each other’s businesses in your emails.
- Tweet and share each other’s content – Going back to the rule about business karma – help your local online business buddies by sharing their content online on sites like Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin. They will repay you for it by doing the same.
- Guest blog – One great way to spread awareness of who you are and to get some SEO (Search Engine Optimization) benefit while doing it, is to write guest blog post for other people’s business blogs.
The one big benefit from going to tech or online business Meetups is that you meet people who have experience. The knowledge and people they know can be very valuable in your own startup quest.
Start Your Own Meetup
One thing that can really boost the awareness of your online business is to host your own Meetup. Now you don’t want to make the focus of your Meetup about your business. What you want to do is to create a reason to meet with local people in your area who might have an interest in something related to your business.
Here are some examples to help illustrate what you can do:
- If you own an online kayaking store, you might want to organize a weekly kayaking Meetup at your local river or marina.
- If you operate an online shoe shop that specializes in high-top footwear, you can host a Meetup that is a 2-on-2 basketball tournament. Offer a trophy and a free $100 gift certificate for the winners.
- If you own an online jewelry shop, you can host a jewelry making Meetup.
You may find that running your own Meetup is a faster way to network since you will be the hub of all the activity. But there are few important things to remember:
- It will take nurturing – You will need to update your Meetup page often, reply to comments, and make sure your group is happy. You’ll probably want to spend a few hours a week answering questions, responding to comments and updating your calendar of events.
- Don’t make it about your business – Create a Meetup that provides value for the attendants. That’s what will keep people coming back and spreading the word.
How To Start
Remember how we said to always be building your marketing lists , a great way to spread the message about your Meetup is through your marketing lists (Facebook, Twitter and your email newsletter). Hopefully by now, you have a few good sized lists that you can market to about your Meetup group.
It might also be wise to reach out to your network of friends and family to kick-start the first few Meetups. They can add to the attendance and help facilitate ice breaking.
Be sure to fill out your Meetup profile to 100 percent completeness. This will help target people who are searching for new Meetups. Meetup.com will also market to people on your behalf who they think might be interested in what you have to offer. They will use the data you input towards this marketing, so take advantage of it.
One really nice feature of Meetup.com is the group statistics they provide. These stats are a great way to monitor the health of your group. Here are three important metrics you should watch:
- Member joins – This keeps tabs on how well you’re attracting new members and how your audience is growing.
- Attending – Knowing your RSVP counts over time is a great indication on whether or not your group has that “viralness” that you should shoot for.
- Total and Active Members – By tracking joins and leaves you can get a sense of how engaged your group is. Keep in mind that Active Members are more important than Total Members. Keep an eye on your “Active Member” count, make sure that number is growing.
By monitoring these stats you can determine ways to improve your group’s activities, location and meeting times. For instance, you may want to try:
- Changing the day of the week – Which days of the week work better for your group members? Maybe Mondays are too busy for most people as well as Friday. Perhaps weekends are the sweet spot.
- Changing locations – Locations are a huge factor to the success of a Meetup group. At first you may want to try many different locations. However, later on, you may find that switching locations is disruptive to your group’s growth.
- Changing times – Having events at 5pm on weekdays might make it really hard for your members to attend. Try testing different times to help narrow in on that sweet spot. Again, changing times too much down the road may throw members off.
- Changing the event format – Remember, the goal is to provide the most value for your group. What can you do to make sure your members get the most out of your Meetup? Be careful of trying to pack in too much because you might spread the event out so thin that the overall value received becomes very mediocre.
And Finally, A Couple of Secret Tips
First, you need to be careful about having your group become too directly related to an individual person, simply because the group becomes “Jane’s Group” or “John’s Group” and less about the brand. This can become a problem if “Jane” or “John” leave the company or can’t attend the Meetup anymore.
Lastly, many people have found that January is a huge month for new member signups. So whatever you do, make sure your groups meets in January and doesn’t die out because of the Holidays.
We can’t emphasize how powerful Meetup.com is to spread your brand’s awareness and generate sales. We highly recommend you give it a shot if you have the time and a creative approach to weekly events.