Outside-the-Box Promotional Ideas
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Discounting in Return for Help at Your Event
When I do my own large seminars I generally try to recruit a few volunteers to help me. The best way I’ve found to get people to help you out is to offer a few individuals a reduced rate or free admission to your event. Don’t do this too early in the sales cycle.
If you’re promoting a seminar for March, don’t start making this option available until the middle of February. You obviously want to capture all of your paying customers first. Those people who may have wanted to come to the event but couldn’t afford it are the people who may come as volunteers.
The most important thing to remember is that you need people who can and will really help. To make sure that this happens, you may want to put together a very simple one-page agreement. This agreement would enumerate their responsibilities in exchange for free or reduced-rate admission to your event.
Also, be sure to tell your volunteers that they can’t let anyone know that they’re attending for free or a reduced rate.
I’ve been extremely lucky when I’ve used volunteers this way. Most of the time I get people who are highly competent and more than willing to help. I think it might have something to do with the quality of events that I offer. People who know they are getting to attend a great event for less than full price usually give you their best efforts.
Sponsorships by Associations or Organizations
One of the best ways to do seminars is to get a trade association to sponsor your event. Using this technique, you can reduce up-front costs and risk virtually nothing. In most cases, the association or sponsoring organization will give you a split of the revenue that comes in. You’ll want to set up some kind of a minimum guarantee for the event.
A relationship like this can take many different forms.
The key to doing this right is to create a partnership with the organization. If at the end of the event, you make all of the money, they will not use you again. Find a formula that is fair for both of you.
Paying Others to Promote Your Seminar
Some seminar promoters will hire people to help promote their events. If you do this, I suggest you put them on a straight commission basis. Paying people this way makes a lot of sense. Paying anyone on a straight salary inevitably doesn’t work. Don’t do it. If people will work for you on straight commission, hire as many of them as you possibly can. After all, what’s the downside?
One-Shot vs. Double-/Triple-Shot Mailings
A one-shot promotion is when you send prospects a single promotional mailing to get them to attend your event. If you are doing a traditional mailing it is more likely that you would use this approach given that the total cost of the mailings increases each time you mail. With an in-house email list there is no additional cost to mail more than once. In that case you would do a sequenced campaign consisting of two or three mailings.
If you’re doing direct mail, you mail to them two or three times. In many cases, your second and third mailers will continue to be profitable, just not as profitable as your first mailer.
To use this technique effectively, you need to know the average value of a seminar attendee. In my case, seminar attendees in some of my niche markets are worth an average of more than $400 per person. This amount is determined by averaging the total amount of money attendees will spend with you over a lifetime (i.e., before they stop buying entirely or have purchased all your products).
If you’re charging $197 for a seminar, it may make sense to continue to acquire customers at $200 a piece knowing that you’ll make an additional $200 from them over their lifetime of association with you.
If you’re just starting out in the seminar business, I would recommend against your doing multiple mailings until you have a good idea of your costs and an approximate idea of lifetime customer value. In other words, here’s your favorite word again: test.
Free 90-Minute Sales Pitch
Many higher-priced seminars are promoted via a free 90-minute presentation that is really an information-packed sales pitch. You will generally refer to these as “free information seminars.” If you’re a good salesperson for your events, this can be a very effective means of promoting a relatively expensive, lengthier event.
This technique works best in more general-interest seminars. It would be difficult to use this technique when promoting to a small niche market. The opportunities just aren’t there.
A “just show up” Registration Model
Seminars will sometimes be advertised and not permit people to register in advance. This is a very interesting approach and one I have used myself on occasion. Here is how the thinking goes. If you are spending money on advertising and promotion, you aren’t going to cancel your event no matter how few people show up. You’ve sunk all of your costs and you’ll be looking to recover some money no matter how poorly registration goes.
Given this fact, you tell people in your ad that there will be NO preregistration. People must register an hour before the event and only the first “X” amount of people will be allowed in. People reading this ad will be intrigued by someone who advertises this way. They know that the event will not be cancelled because of the way you have structured registration.
Your prospective participants will perceive you as pretty cocky. This may work to your advantage depending on the type of people you’re trying to attract.
The only downside is not knowing what your exact count will be. This will make it tough to judge how big a meeting room to reserve. You’ll learn your numbers through testing. When you’re just starting out and using this system, always get a slightly smaller, rather than slightly larger, meeting room than you think you’ll need.
It is much better to have to turn people away than to present to an empty room.