As you consider which marketing strategies to pursue that fit your voice and your message, it’s important to remember that offline marketing is just as powerful as having a strong online presence. In some cases it can even be more powerful. One way to position yourself as the expert and attract your ideal clients is to host your own free event. People are always looking for free resources, seminars and training opportunities. Maybe they just want to learn a little more about a particular topic, or maybe it’s the way they entertain themselves. Either way, free events can help fill your practice.
Think about free events kind of like your blog and ezine, you give out lots of free content to attract visitors and get them interested in your expertise. Then you give them an opportunity to learn more and get one-on-one support from you by means of your programs and services. Free events are the same thing, but they just take a little more planning to be effective.
To create your own lead-generating event, follow these simple steps:
- Find a location: Check with your local chamber of commerce, the library, your local SBDC office and other shared office or meeting spaces regarding availability and pricing. Here in the Bay Area we have a company called Sandbox Suites that rents meeting space inexpensively. You may also try Regus who has meeting space available worldwide. Of course, the size of the space you reserve will dictate how many attendees you can host.
- Set a date and start marketing: You’ll want to give yourself at least six weeks to setup and market the event. Distribute press releases to local media, secure radio interviews and maybe even do small direct mail campaign (Modern Postcard can help you with this). This is in addition to your online marketing strategies. I also suggest collecting a registration fee (you can refund the monies at the event) so that you have an accurate headcount and eliminate “tire kickers”. To do this, you can setup a simple online registration form at EventBrite. (You can certainly charge an inexpensive fee for your workshop too, perhaps $49 or $99, but for the purposes of our example we’ll focus on hosting a fr.ee event).
- Plan your presentation: Start off small, maybe a 90 minute talk with 30 minutes for questions. Be sure to include exercises and some type of handout to encourage participation. It’s best to teach in a step-by-step format that is easy to follow. You want your audience to walk away with information they can implement that will make a difference in their life and their business. You can have documents printed at Mimeo or FedEx. Practice your presentation and be well prepared so that you create a positive learning experience for your audience!
- Prepare a comfortable workspace: Make sure you have everything you need so your audience can get the full benefit of your presentation including a microphone, projector if you’re doing a presentation, good air conditioning in the summer, or a good heater in the winter, etc. You’ll want to check all logistics and materials about 48 hours before the event.
- Get some help: You’ll want a door greeter to welcome guests and guide them to the registration table. The registration table should be simple: a form to fill out with their name, phone number, physical address and email address is fine. You might want to also include a “how did you hear about this event?” question so you can track your marketing efforts. You’ll also want to have name tags available to make networking a little easier. You should not be doing these tasks yourself – you should be fr.ee to roam the room and meet your guests.
- Craft your offer: Your attendees will probably want to learn more from you than you’ll have time to present during your event. So make it easy for them to get access to your expertise! Create a special offer for your products and services that is only available on-site that day. Ideally the offer should be a continuation of the topic you presented so that it’s an easy next step. Be sure to offer a payment plan to make the offer affordable. This is how your “FREE” event can become highly profitable for you!
- Follow-up: You can call your attendees, send them an email or a personal card. Regardless of how you decide to contact them, make sure it’s within 24-48 hours of your free seminar so they don’t have a chance to forget about you. Then, put all attendees on a monthly follow up list so you can keep in touch. That way when they need your services or know of someone who needs your services, you will be on top of their mind.
Hosting your own live workshop gives you a chance to connect with your prospects live and in person. It could take months of online marketing to develop a deep connection with them, but the same results could be had in one afternoon at a live event. Thus, you create a win-win for you AND your audience. They get access to your expert advice and solve pressing problems they face. You create a new revenue stream and attract new clients and raving fans. What could be better!
Let me know how you plan to apply this smart, simple strategy to your own business by commenting here on the my blog!