In our never-ending search for effective marketing techniques, we’ve discovered one that has really paid dividends for us.
At Whitlock ebs, we have a group of people who are very effective speakers. We also have a terrific group of clients. We decided to put the two together and offer a six-part seminar series called “360 Degrees of eBusiness.”
If you’re thinking of doing something like this, here are some steps to take.
- Make a short list of topics your company is comfortable talking about. This can include core competencies or some new technology your company is developing.
- Define what your company’s main areas of expertise are. Whether you work in an ad agency, government agency, or a particular industry, you have people you work with who know their stuff. Get their buy-in. Trust me, they’ll be flattered you asked. Now you’ve got the internal speakers set.
- Find cospeakers from your list of wonderful clients. This is the big one. Imagine your clients’ thoughts when you call and ask them to speak at one of your seminars: “They must think I’m a good representative of my company and that I know my stuff.” What better thoughts could you put into your clients’ heads?
- Plan a schedule. How many seminars can you run effectively? We chose a six-week schedule and decided each seminar would take place from 8 to 9 on Thursday morning, except for our big three-hour wireless seminar. We kept the location consistent and made it easy for people to find information.
- Create a seminar section on your Web site. After we set up ours, all of our marketing and public relations efforts sent visitors to a page with all of the information people would need to find us. You can see how we did it at http://www.whitlockebs.com/seminar.
- Take care of advertising and public relations. We set an ad budget of $5,000. We used the money to place ads in the weekly business supplement of the Richmond newspaper. We also sent press releases to our list of business writers in the metro area. All roads led people to the Web site. We also sent short emails to our mailing list each Wednesday, reminding everyone of the next day’s seminar topic.
- Decide how much to charge. We’re still debating this one. Lots of people run free seminars, but we decided to charge $10 for businesspeople from our office park and $15 for everyone else. Our thinking was that people would show up for something they paid for. We’re still not sure about this yet.
- Make a few hundred VIP passes. Do you have a sales force at your company? Nothing warms the cockles of their hearts (yes, some of them have hearts) like a good excuse to visit a client. We made small VIP passes that the salespeople could hand to their top clients and prospects. It gave them a reason to call on these people, and it gave potential clients a good look at our company in a fairly informal setting.
- Practice the speeches. So you think getting two people to collaborate on a one-hour presentation is easy? I worked with each part of the speaking team the week before the speeches. We also scheduled a formal run-through the day before the seminar. It has paid huge dividends. We worked out some potential dull spots in rehearsal. Invite a few other people in to hear it. The speakers will welcome the feedback.
- Make sure that the seminar room is ready. We were lucky. We partnered with the Innsbrook Foundation, which helps run the office park. Innsbrook gave us its email list and a free seminar room, and we gave Innsbrook some publicity. It also meant that we secured an excellent meeting room in a great building. If you are the one with your butt on the line, make sure that the room is ready at least one hour before the seminar starts. That means that the chairs are set the way you want, the audio/visual is functional, and any little giveaways are ready to be handed out.
The first seminar was 10 minutes from starting, and the laptop we had didn’t have a power source! Thankfully, we were 2 minutes from our office and got another one quickly. Always, and I repeat, always have a backup presentation.
- Ask for feedback. On each chair, we place a short feedback form and a brand-spanking-new Whitlock ebs pen. We ask people to fill out the form and return it before leaving. This feedback is valuable for the speakers, and it will let you know if you’re on target with your speakers and topics.
- Make friends with your fishbowl. Collect business cards any way you can. We have a drawing each week for a golf shirt. We make sure that everyone has left us their business card for a follow-up thank-you email after each seminar.
- Get your executives to the seminars. Having a strong showing from your company is vital. It shows your people in a relaxed setting, interacting with clients and potential clients. It’s also very helpful during the question-and-answer session to have a lot of your people ready to jump in and help. It makes for a very united front.
Is this a lot of work? Yes it is. But if you are looking for an effective way to get in front of people who are interested in your company, this is an excellent way to do it. Another interesting outcome is that people who are attending the seminars are meeting one another and doing business together. They’ll always remember who put them together.
And, speaking of doing business, we’ve already received business from the seminars. Give it a try, and see if a seminar series is something your company could do to raise awareness. It could be a good way to tell your story to a group of people who are excited to hear what your company has to say.