I had a wonderful experience this past Saturday that highlights the power of “Being There”. I was at an open house hosted by one of our local bike shops. At one point, a cyclist came to my table and was clearly familiar with our NJ Ride. It turns out that one of his neighbors, who happens to be one of our top volunteers, had been trying to get him to join his riding team. The cyclist had been on the fence - he had another event the week before, a few concerns about the fundraising – nothing I haven’t heard before. I shared a bit more about why our ride was special and joked about what a coup it would be if after this coincidence, he ended up signing on. And he did, right on the spot.
No email, e-blast or incentive could have made this story happen. And there are more stories like this waiting to happen.
My suggestion that emails don’t get people registered is of course extreme. I’ve shared it to illustrate that relying purely on digital marketing as a driver for P2P participation is a mistake. We, as P2P leaders need to go beyond the classic “I sent an email and am waiting to hear” as the primary method of attracting participants. Here are a few good steps
Go Where the People Are: Whenever possible, be a part of the communities you’re trying to engage. If you’re trying to reach walkers – usually thought of as cause-motivated participants - attend informational sessions, workshops, panels etc. related to the cause. Maybe even the mall or the park. If you want to reach runners, you know the drill: expos, running stores, and of course running events. The list goes on. I realize there are limitations and we still need mass efforts to reach the masses. Nevertheless, becoming a part of the community, someone that is seen to be around, makes a difference.
Pick Your Spot(s): It’s a hard call to define those few perfect points of engagement so you’ll need to experiment through trial and error. For example, communities often have several cycling shops that attract riders with different interests. Some cater to big clubs while others bring in the tri-set. Ask an owner if you can table at their place, try the expo for a big ride or join the group ride. See what works for you and your event. And then stick with it.
Pick Up the Phone: OK, so you can’t be everywhere all the time. But again, stop relying on emails and e-blasts to do the fun part of our job: connecting with people. If you can’t be there – out in the community – pick up the phone! Long ago, in a galaxy far away, we used to pick up the phone and call people without even setting up an appointment on Outlook. Try it. You’ll be amazed how cool it is to actually talk to your volunteers and participants live.