Friday, December 28, 2007

Guest Author: Will Seminars Get You Clients?

By C.J. Hayden, MCC
Author, Get Clients Now

I often suggest public speaking as a powerful way to show prospective clients what you can do. Many professionals and consultants have built successful practices by giving free presentations to associations, businesses, and educational institutions. But what about producing your own seminar, where you arrange the logistics and invite the guests? Does this work as a strategy for landing clients?

Offering a seminar can be an effective means to become more visible to your target market. If you are a good (or even fair) presenter, and the right people come to your seminar, you will definitely get new customers. But to use seminar marketing successfully, you need to be very clear on your goals, and plan each seminar carefully.

If the purpose of your seminar is primarily to get clients, you shouldn't be expecting to make money on the seminar itself. You may wish merely to cover your expenses, or maybe even spend a little extra. For this type of seminar, the key to making it pay off is to attract people who are good prospects for your business in the first place, rather than just filling the room.

Instead of making your seminar free, it's a good idea to charge a small fee. That way, your prospective clients will perceive you as offering something of value. The fee will also discourage attendance by people who can't afford your product or service. It's the quality of the participants that matters, not the quantity.

If what you really want is for your seminar to turn a profit, you must recognize that by offering full-fee seminars, you are adding another line of business to your company. Operating as a seminar producer will require the same kind of planning and ongoing management as your existing business does.

It can be as difficult to make a profit on your first seminar as it was to originally launch your business. Many people won't sign up for a seminar the first time they see it; others would like to come but can't make the date. You'll have a better chance of making money if you plan at the outset to offer your seminar on a regular basis. You may find, though, that this takes away too much time from your core business.

Whether the seminar you are planning is promotional or for profit, estimate your projected income and expenses before making a commitment to proceed. Base the income you project solely on the fee you will charge per person multiplied by the number of attendees you expect. Don't include any projected spinoff business in your income estimate. If you land new business, you will still have to work additional hours to earn that compensation.

Typical expenses include design and printing of a flyer or brochure, postage, posting a notice on your website, purchase of mailing lists (if you don't have your own), print and Internet media ads (including calendar listings), facility rent, audiovisuals, handouts, and refreshments. You should also consider the cost of your own time to design promotional materials, compile lists, compose e-mails, and make phone calls, as noted below.

In designing a snail mail or e-mail campaign for your seminar, keep in mind that it is quite typical to get only one registration for every 100 pieces you mail, even with a pre-qualified list.

Subtract your projected expenses from your income, then make a rational decision on whether to proceed. If the purpose of your seminar is to get business, estimate how much spinoff business is likely. Before going ahead, ask yourself if there might be an easier or cheaper way to get that many new clients or contracts.

If your purpose is to make money, divide your expected profit by the number of hours it will take you to design, market, and deliver your seminar. Is that amount a reasonable level of compensation for you?

If your best guess at the numbers tells you that producing a seminar makes good business sense for you, go for it! Because people do business with those they know, like, and trust, seminars can help you build a solid client base. And because repeat contacts raise awareness, mailings and ads about your seminar will generate more visibility for your core business.

Copyright C.J. Hayden.
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