Published on March 22, 2009
LEAD GENERATION WHITE PAPER: Successful Seminar Marketing Preface In every economic climate, dinner seminars have remained one of the most effective forms of lead generation. The “social dynamic” of bringing together people with similar concerns from the same neighborhood to a local restaurant continues to generate a consistent flow of qualified prospects. This White Paper will review some key components to successful seminar marketing SEMINAR MARKETING There is little debate over the effectiveness of using events (seminars) to generate a consistent flow of qualified prospects. Planning, execution, patience and practice are also integral to successful year-round seminar marketing. If done correctly, seminars can be the best method of building your business and expanding your client base. Seminars are one of the ultimate forms of leverage. You can reach a large audience while only having to tell your story one time, rather than making 50 separate presentations. Here are some of the many benefits you may derive from conducting seminars: • Satisfy the audience’s quest for knowledge • Increase the effectiveness of your prospecting • Increase or build your business quickly • Establish your credentials as knowledgeable on your subject • Develop a valuable source of prospects • Create a strong base for future referrals through personal contacts • Add to your experience and build your self-confidence • Communicate with your prospects face-to-face, building relationships • Reinforce past performance and levels of service • Demonstrate your professionalism • Add value to your clients and prospects THE PURPOSE OF SEMINARS The most important reason to conduct a seminar is to convey your professionalism, credibility, and trustworthiness. You need to establish rapport with your audience because the real sale you are making is the sale of You. Once that is done, asking for and setting a follow up appointment becomes much easier to do. GOALS TO ACCOMPLISH AT YOUR SEMINAR: 1. That you are ethical, credible and trustworthy 2. That you are competent to handle their financial needs 3. That you understand their financial concerns 4. That you are experienced in this area 5. That you are a reliable, accurate source of knowledge 6. That you genuinely care about everyone there and want to help them The following guide will show you how to prepare, deliver and follow up on your seminar. The information in this booklet was collected over years of conversations with top seminar marketers from across the country. Because “success leaves clues,” and there are many definitions of WHITE PAPER: SUCCESSFUL SEMINAR MARKETING PAGE 1
success – much care has been taken to include a broad spectrum of ideas, strategies and tips. Careful planning lies at the core of every successful seminar campaign. A checklist is provided to help ensure the success of your seminar marketing activities. SEMINAR BASICS The key to an effective seminar is that your message meets the needs of your audience. Target your market and direct your prospecting efforts toward that specific group. Whether it’s pre- retirees, those on the verge of retirement or seniors already in their retirement years – be sure your seminar is CONCEPT and SOLUTIONS-FOCUSED and NOT PRODUCT FOCUSED! To feed or not to feed? Dinner seminars tend to attract the most prospects. Top producers hold their seminars in local, American cuisine restaurants with private function rooms that comfortably seat 50 people or less. Select a date and time that suits your audience Historically, Tuesdays and Thursdays are the best days to hold seminars The best time to hold your seminar is 6:30 pm. Dinner seminars consistently garner the best response rates. You may want to consider holding one “early bird” seminar or a lunch event – neither of those will consistently draw prospects like 6:30 event times will. The key is to make the seminar convenient for your target audience and that also means you should “promote” at least three (3) events in your invitation. Location of your seminar Seminars in restaurants always experience the highest attendance. Country clubs are sometimes viable as second choices. If you are hosting a small client seminar, think about using the conference room in your office – but a small private room at a restaurant always works best. If you are going to be using a location such as a hotel, you will have to do a little more research. As a rule, hotels are not recommended. Most successful seminar restaurant locations are characterized by the following features: • The locations are easy to find – especially during the scheduled event times • It’s no more than a 20 minute drive for attendees – considering rush hour traffic. • Ample parking is provided • A nice facility in a good part of town • A good reputation for food and service You should also: • Select a room that is large enough • Select a room that is well lighted, clean and well-ventilated • Select a room that is quiet and free from outside distractions (the room should have a door you can close) • Select a restaurant/room with easy wheel chair access If you will be using a projector, be sure the room that can be darkened enough for people to easily see the screen but allow you to maintain eye contact with your audience so you can read their body language and gauge their responses. The font size on the slides should be large enough to be easily read from the back of the room. Mailing List: Who do you invite? A key factor in conducting a successful dinner seminar is to know the demographic characteristics of your “ideal” prospects. When you work with your RME marketing consultant, he/she will be able to help you secure a list that will ensure the right prospects attend your seminars. It’s important to note that there are no “special” or “exclusive” seminar attendee lists. There are only a handful of list vendors (brokers) in the country and RME has agreements with each. Do NOT fall prey to some of those “mom and pop” mail houses or print shops that will try to
lure you into believing they have a special list that will get you more and better qualified prospects. No such list, sold by a reputable list broker, exists. If you have any questions or concerns about the list you will be buying from RME, just ask your consultant to tell you who the list is being bought from – RME will never lie about its list purchases. SELECTING A MARKETING COMPANY? Since the mail alone will cost you between $3,000-$7,000, you should spend some time researching the best seminar marketing companies. There are many “mom-and-pop” mail shops and print shops that may provide a lower price, but they also usually take shortcuts. From using an old list to not mailing the quantity you ordered, it’s in your best interest to really research the company you want to call your “marketing” partner. Ask them: • How long they have been doing seminar marketing? • How many full-time employees do they have? • How big is their facility? • How many seminar marketing campaigns do they market each month? • Do they rent a NEW list every time you place a new order? • Do they include Planet Codes in their mail services, allowing the mail to be tracked? • Do they “drop ship” your mail to its destination or just drop it off at the post office? • Do they personalize the recipients’ name in the letter or just on the envelope? • Do they outsource their seminar reservation service? During your conversations with each potential marketing company, you should be looking for a company that positions itself as your partner not a vendor! Marketing, advertising, lead generation – no matter what you call it – is an investment, not an expense. Your decision should be based on the company that has a track record of success, a passion for the business, and dedication to providing you the service and support you expect from a marketing partner. How do I know all my invitations were mailed? Ask your seminar marketing company to provide you with a FORM 3602 from the United States Postal Service. This is a “postal receipt” that is issued for every mailing campaign. ANY reputable seminar marketing company will be able to provide you this receipt. How do I know if the invitations were delivered? The only one way to know if the United States Postal Service (USPS) delivered your invitations is if your marketing company included a “Planet Code” in the barcode on your invitation envelope. A Planet Code allows your marketing company to track your mailing throughout the mail delivery process. Before selecting a vendor, be sure to ask if they include Planet Coding in their mailing services. If they don’t, keep looking until you find one. Seminar reservation services No matter how good your letter is, no matter how good your list is, no matter how many invitations you mail – if you don’t have a 24/7 seminar reservation service – your seminar is doomed to fail. Some think they can take the calls at their office but soon find out that more than half of all reservation calls will come after regular business hours. Put yourself in your prospect’s place. Would you want to leave a voice mail for a seminar reservation? Be sure to ask your marketing company the following questions: - Do they own their seminar RSVP service or outsource? - Are their call center agents specially trained to take seminar reservations? - Do they have a way to easily access, view and manage the RSVPs? - If they outsource their reservation service, has their vendor agreed to NOT sell the RSVP data to any other party? Seminar seating arrangements
This is a DINNER event so be sure that when your guests arrive that your room is set up like a normal restaurant: round tables set throughout the room. Be sure that only half the table is set for guests – you don’t want any of your attendees to be sitting with their backs to you while you speak. The room should be set up to accommodate 30-50 participants. DO NOT SET YOUR ROOM UP CLASSROOM STYLE – this gives the impression that something will be “sold” and undermine your ability to establish a good rapport with your guests. The presentation: PRACTICE Simply put: PRACTICE. PRACTICE. PRACTICE! Before you get up in front of your audience you should have your presentation memorized. You do not want to be looking back and forth at the screen to get cues on what to say when. Even though you’re going to be sharing important information, a seminar presentation is still a performance. You must show complete mastery of your presentation and the subject matter. This leads to the next key point on making a great presentation – know your stuff! Know your stuff Knowledge is power. The key to conducting a smooth, successful seminar is to know your topic inside and out. The better you know your material, the more compelling your message will be. Your audience will know if you are prepared and will quickly determine if you believe in what you are saying. The more compelling you are, the more people you will move to action. Remember, you’ll never be able to set appointments with your prospects unless you can establish that “know, like and trust” factor. From the minute you stand up and begin talking to the minute you’re finished – you are “on stage” and being assessed by each attendee. Don’t “wing it” and don’t take for granted that each person is “sizing you up” as you speak. In addition to knowing your stuff inside and out, you want to know yourself even better. There are a couple of “closes” that take place during the presentation – well before your prospects consent to make an appointment to see you: 1. You will have to sell them on “Why you?” 2. You will have to sell them on “Why your company?” 3. You will have to sell them on “Why they should take action now?” 4. In other words, from the prospect’s perspective: “What’s in it for me?” THE SEMINAR It is very important that your staff arrives in plenty of time to ensure that everything is in place and all the arrangements have been carried out according to your instructions. Attendees will sometimes arrive early. You do not want them to see you or your staff rushing around trying to set up the room. It sends a bad message that you might be a tardy and disorganized person. It is especially important to arrive at least an hour early if you are using a location for the first time. Inspect the set up of the chairs, the audiovisual aids, the refreshments and the signs directing people to your seminar. Greeters It is highly recommended that you have staff members greeting guests at the door. Be sure that your staff is friendly and outgoing - this breaks the ice, builds rapport and begins setting the tone for your presentation. Make sure that each person registers (have them confirm their address) and is given a name tag. Audiovisual aids Many presenters like using LCD projectors and Powerpoint presentations for their seminars. Here are some key things to keep in mind when using A/V: - Be sure everyone can see the screen and read the slides clearly from anywhere in the room - Be sure everyone can hear you – especially at the back of the room
Don’t use a hand-held microphone. Instead, use a wireless lavaliere-style that - can clip to your shirt/jacket Bring replacement bulbs for your projector - Bring replacement batteries for your wireless lavaliere microphone - Have a back-up of your presentation on a CD or Memory Stick - The question-and-answer session While some speakers enjoy the Q & A portion of their presentation – most professional speakers do NOT. While you can’t always stop someone from asking a question during your presentation, it’s crucial to always keep control of the room. Here are some helpful tips on how to deal with questions and answers: - Tell your audience at the very beginning of the presentation, “I have a lot to go over in a very short time and I want to make sure you have plenty of time to enjoy your dinner.” - If someone asks a direct question about their personal situation, you can say, “Thank you for that question, and because it would be inappropriate to discuss yours or anyone else’s personal situation, I’ll defer answering that question until after the seminar is over. - To help gain feedback and give a reason for an attendee to set an appointment, you can say, “I have a lot to go over, in a very short time and I want to make sure you have plenty of time to enjoy your dinner. There will be a question and answer segment at the end of my presentation but if you have additional questions, or if you don’t want to address your question in front of everyone else, you can write them down on the Seminar Evaluation Form that you have in front of you. Someone will be by after the seminar to pick them up and we can set a time to meet and discuss your individual issues, questions and needs.” Public speaking tips • Stand up straight while you speak. Your posture is very important for establishing your credibility. It also allows you to breathe naturally. • Memorize your presentation from start to finish! • Practice your timing. Timing is everything. Many speakers rush through the information. Pace and voice inflection are very important for stressing key points. Practice to get your timing down perfectly. • Remember to speak clearly and use words that everyone will understand. Don’t talk over people’s heads and don’t use words and acronyms they won’t understand. • Practice, practice, practice. Know your material. A great speaker can capture the audience’s attention and keep right on his message outside the safety zone of the podium or front of the room. The better prepared, the more naturally your seminar will flow. • Take the first few minutes to let your audience know how the evening will proceed. Tell them upfront that you’ll be giving everyone a chance to make a no-obligation, private meeting/appointment. • Include as many personal stories as you can. People love to hear about YOU. Your family, school/education, what you like to do with your free time, hobbies and even your favorite sports team. This is a way to bond with the attendees. • Consider handing out packets of material covering the seminar topic at the end of your seminar to avoid distraction while you’re speaking. • No matter how appealing your message, there are people who will tune you out. Do not try to establish eye contact with them. Maintain eye contact with people who express their receptiveness through responsive body language.
SEMINAR TRAINING Whether you are doing seminars now, have done them in the past or are just getting started, you should consider attending SeminarSuccess University (SSU). Here you’ll hone the skills necessary to get the most out of your seminars, increase your appointment-setting rate and grow your business. For more information, go to www.SeminarSuccessUniversity.com FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT SEMINARS How many people should attend my seminar? Limit attendance at your seminars to between 30 and 40 people for two reasons. First, you want to set appointments with as many people as you can at the seminar and within the first 48 hours after your seminar. If you wait too long you lose the momentum you created at the seminar. Strike while the iron is hot! Too large a group makes it difficult to follow up and set individual appointments in a timely fashion. The second reason is that people generally feel less threatened in smaller groups and will be more comfortable and open with you. It is also easier to develop relationships in a group of 25 to 40. How many people will I have to invite to get one attendee? Some successful marketers who mail between 6,500 and 10,000 invitations often receive around 100-150 attendees. Remember, your invitations should have at LEAST three (3) event dates and times. Tuesdays and Thursdays are best, and at least two of your seminars should start at 6:30pm (Dinners will always out-pull lunches). Should I charge people to attend my seminar or make it FREE? Never charge a fee to attend a dinner seminar. Your response rate will plummet! How long should I rehearse my presentation? As long as it takes. You want to come across as being very comfortable with your material. It should flow easily and effortlessly. The more you practice, the more relaxed and confident you will appear. Practice in front of a video camera if you can. By viewing the video you can pick up on body language that you need to correct, such as slouching or fidgeting with your hands. The time you spend alone in front of the video camera will pay big dividends when you are actually in front of an audience. You should also practice your presentation in front of family members, friends and business colleagues. They will give you valuable feedback. What can I do to get rid of the “butterflies” before I speak? Not much - it’s normal. Even the best professional speakers get butterflies. Once you get the momentum started and are involved in the seminar, you will be fine. I feel that if you don’t have butterflies you don’t care that much about what you are doing. It is natural to be nervous, and it is an indication that you want to do your best. What if it is start time and not everyone has arrived? You should ALWAYS start on time. The only exception would be due to bad weather, traffic accident, etc. Starting on time sends the message that you’re a professional and you value the time of those already seated and ready for the seminar to begin. To avoid being interrupted by late arrivals be sure to have the registration table outside the room. This way your staff can check in a tardy attendee and keep the distractions to a minimum when they enter the room. What should I do if someone interrupts me? Every now and then someone will ask a question that interrupts your train of thought. If it is pertinent to your discussion, welcome it. If attendees weren’t interested in your presentation they would not ask questions. One way you will know that you have someone’s attention is if he/she takes the risk of asking a question.
What is the best way to handle someone who becomes overly talkative or seems to doubt what I’m saying? Any time someone expresses doubts or objections, you should let that person’s comments work in your favor. In some cases, those people are your best prospects. The more they object, the more interested they are. They are often just looking for reassurance. At times a member of the audience will become loud and try to dominate the seminar. When that happens you should not hesitate to interrupt the prospect and say, “Mr. Jones, that is an interesting point and deserves more attention, but I think we’re taking up way too much of the group’s time. I’ll be happy to discuss that with you individually, after the seminar.” What if I don’t know the answer to a question? I can guarantee you that at some point you will be asked a question that you can’t answer. Say, “Mr. Jones, that is a very good question and I don’t have that information with me right now, but I promise to get back to you with that answer by noon tomorrow.” It’s KEY that you give them a specific time and date – it shows commitment, follow-up and it’s a reason to give that prospect a follow-up call. Remember the old adage: Honesty is the best policy! It’s true. People understand that no one has all the answers, and by being honest you will be perceived as having more credibility and integrity. What is the best way to conclude my seminar? Always try to finish your seminar on time. As you near the end of your seminar, say, “If you have questions that have not been addressed, write them down on the Seminar Evaluation form – along with the day, time and place that best fits your schedule for us to talk privately. There is no obligation to meet with me – either in-person or initially on the phone.” ALWAYS take time to thank everyone for attending your seminar. Let them know that you look forward to meeting with them one-on-one and tell them to enjoy their dinner. Should I stay behind and mingle with people during dinner and/or after the seminar? There are some who believe you should stay and others argue that you should leave. You can make a case for both and the only way to know what works for you is to try both. NOTE: Be sure to have staff there to take the evaluation forms and to set appointment dates and times. ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Bob Wilgus, Director of Business and Product Development, Response Mail Express (RME) Before bringing his unique financial services insight to the Seminar Marketing profession, Bob worked in the financial services industry for nearly 15 years for companies like Coca-Cola, Prudential, GE Financial Services, Phoenix and Lafayette Life. His experience includes everything from direct sales, product development and marketing, to lead generation and advanced sales support. For the last five years at RME, Bob has worked with Independent Marketing Organizations, mortgage brokers, mortgage lenders, insurance agents and financial advisors from across the country to help maximize their prospecting and lead generation efforts. In his current role Bob directs all new product development for Response Mail Express. Bob has a Bachelors Degree in Marketing Communications from Westfield State College, Westfield, MA, is a member of PRSA, and is a Certified Dale Carnegie Instructor.
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