Adding seminars, workshops, or training initiatives to your current product or service offering can be a great revenue stream for your company. In addition to the revenue a seminar offering produces, is the value they bring as a highly effective sales and marketing tool by:
Creating an environment for potential customers to ‘try before
Providing an opportunity to cement relationships with prospects Establishing a reputation as an expert in the field-building credibility Developing qualified leads and shortening the sales cycle
Marketing and conducting an effective seminar initiative, however, can be costly and time consuming if poorly planned. And, because it takes about 10-12 weeks to develop, coordinate, and implement a seminar effort, the planning phase cannot begin too soon!
As you create the marketing plan for your seminar effort, be sure to consider:
The Audience. Start with the audience and be as specific as possible. Who are you trying to reach in the big picture? What is their title, role, company size, etc.? Where do they go for their information today? What are the topics they wrestle with in their daily lives? You want to base your seminar topics on their specific needs, so understanding specifically WHO you are targeting is key.
Also important is making sure your target audience definition is not so broad a target that you can’t find them or purchase the necessary lists for your marketing efforts. You may need to break your target down further (i.e. geographically) if you find the list you want to purchase is too large or expensive.
The Seminar. A vital component to any seminar is having a good speaker who can speak with energy and enthusiasm, as well as from a position of credibility. When constructing your seminar, make sure you take into account the needs of the audience and the key messages you want them to take away.
Unless you are in the seminar-only business, keep pricing in mind. You should cover your costs, including the speaker’s fees or labor cost, but remember that turnout is drastically affected by how much you charge. If your goal is sales leads, as well as revenue generation, you will want to balance the opportunity with the cost to avoid pricing your seminar too high.
From a logistical standpoint, avoid Mondays and Fridays, as experience has shown these days to be taboo for seminar attendance. Also, morning seminars tend to do better than afternoon. If you do choose an all-day format, be sure to have plenty of refreshments and scheduled breaks. Finally, don’t forget the importance of location. Choose a room that is big enough to hold your maximum, but not so large that even a full house seems like meager attendance. Look for locations that allow for space outside of the seminar room for registration and information tables.
The Marketing Mix. I am often asked which marketing vehicle (ads, direct mail, billboards, TV, email, etc.) work best. It truly does depend on the audience and the seminar topic and format; so strategic planning is essential to getting it right. There are a few rules, or lessons learned through experience, however. Primarily being to build a marketing mix that leverages telemarketing, direct mail, email, and public relations. Success rates vary from effort to effort (as widely as .05% – 5%), so the more you get a mix that works together in concert, the better your chances are of achieving the higher percentage rates.
First compile and/or purchase your target list. Use both direct mail and email as your initial invitation (this can take shape in many formats) to your seminar and, if appropriate, include a course outline. Leverage as many third party endorsements as you can within the content of the invitation and course outline.
Next, conduct a call effort (telemarketing) as follow up to your invitation a few days after the invitation/information has been sent (this can double your success rate). In some cases you may want to use telemarketing to qualify your list prior to mailing to them and then again as follow up.
Finally, launch a persistent publicity effort around your seminar effort. Develop a press release to distribute to a targeted media list and follow up to see if there is a potential story idea you can participate in. Invite key reporters to a seminar for free, so they can see first hand what value you’re bringing to your attendees. At a minimum, be sure to submit your event to the appropriate publications’ calendar of events sections.
I have found that creating a seminar checklist and timeline that walks you through all of the steps to a successful event (including your marketing and logistics tasks) will save you both time and money in the end. Defining your target and their needs, developing a seminar offering that supports those needs, and building a marketing mix designed to efficiently get to them will drastically increase your seminar success.