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Marketing tips, observations & philosophy, plus a few rants and random musings - from those who practice, preach and teach marketing, research, advertising, public relations and business strategy.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Nobody Came to the Free Seminar

Here is an all-too-frequent scenario:

Really smart, ambitious, growth-minded company (or consultant or business person) decides to host a free seminar to attract new prospects.

She plans and prepares for the free seminar. She rents the conference room at a nice, respectable hotel. She prepares the course material and notebooks ... orders the appetizers.

She sends and invitation to many promising prospects and would-be customers.

On the day of the event (seminar), no one shows. Empty room. PowerPoint presentation loaded and LCD projector at the ready. Notebooks at every empty chair. Dazzling appetizers, piping hot, sitting untouched. Snappy marketing brochures arranged for no one to take.

She concludes that the seminar was a bad idea.

Has this ever happened to you? Regrettably, it is not uncommon.

So, what went wrong?

Was the free seminar a bad idea? I contend that it was not. Instead, I would suggest that it was poorly designed and promoted.

What could she have done better? How could it have been more successful?

First, we have to understand that our prospects--especially the really good, lucrative ones--are incredibly busy. Plus, they are absolutely bombarded with promotional offers of every flavor, including offers for seminars.

To make this seminar and business development event more successful, she could have designed and planned it differently. Instead of "putting all of the eggs in one basket," she might have split the event into three, smaller-scale seminars. Host the event on three distinct dates, at three different locations. One at the breakfast hour, one at lunchtime and one right after work. Give your prospects options and choices. Sure it is more work for you. And perhaps it costs a little more. But we are focused on a successful outcome, aren't we? Prospects present ... butts in seats, right?

Even the most well-intentioned prospect runs into jams, emergencies and unforseen problems. If that primo prospect planned to come but ran into a client crisis that forced her to work late ... or if she had to pick up a sick child from school ... you missed her if your event was a one-shot deal. Alternatively, if you offered the seminar three times, on three different dates, there is a much better chance that the same primo prospect would have come to your seminar at one of the alternate times.

From a promotion standpoint, she could have greatly increased the success of the event by sending the "invitation" multiple times, in varying forms. At the very least, the promotional message for the seminar should have gone out three times. Recalling that our prospects are bombarded with promotional messages, we know that the invitee (the primo prospect) may not notice our message until she's seen it at least three times. (This is the Rule of Three, which is fundamental in marketing and communications.)

The first two times our invitation gets overlooked or stuffed into a stack of items to be reviewed later. Perhaps ... just maybe ... on that third message, she says, "Hey - I remember something about this. I had better take a closer look."

So what does the three-part event promotional campaign look like?

The first communication is something in the way of a short message with an emphasis on "save the date."

The second communication presents more information about the seminar ... a synopsis and a benefit statement. "You need to attend this seminar because ...."

The third message is a brief, catchy reminder ... perhaps with a hook, or special offer of some sort.

The moral of this story? One-shot marketing tactics never work. When we place all of our eggs in one basket, we are bound to fail. And finally, we need to be smart and use the power of repetition to cut through the clutter in the overloaded, saturated environment in which we live.

3 Comments:

Anonymous andra said...

The problem was that the seminar was FREE. ..free doesn't work in this way, it
actually says the seminar is worth nothing and their is no commitment from the
customer. Only the real advertising seminars  on your own location in order to
sell products are meant to be free.

12:48 PM

 
Blogger Armando Ortega said...

None Came to Mine Either...

I have had that problem, several times. I have tried to schedule the free seminar at different hours, and yet no results.
There must be another solution. Help me find it.

Armando Ortega
http://marketing-in-mexico.blogspot.com

6:04 PM

 
Anonymous IL said...

I agree - professional people need to be paid for. FREE is a lesser word. You paid for your edjucation, didnt you? Look at this high pro disaster planning seminar - it is almost sold ou and two weeks to go! http://www.gurneysmeetings.com/seminar.htm

7:20 AM

 

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