When one decides to put on a live face-to-face business event, one has to be prepared to answer the never-ending questions that swirl around your head for weeks on end:
- When to have it?
- Where to have it?
- How much should we charge?
- What topics should be included?
- Should we even do it?
- How do we market this?
- How much time is this going to take away from my “normal” business and is the trade-off worth it?
- Who should we target?
- How many people do we want and need?
And of course when we make the decision to do it, the most important question: how do we fill this bad boy?
This year marks my 6th year of doing an annual full-day, face-to-face, nothing-but-organic SEO workshop. It’s one of my favorite things I do, even if it is a little stressful – ok often a lot stressful – to put on.
10 Tips for Marketing a Marketing Workshop
Six years later we have learned a thing or two. Here are 10 tips I can share with you about what we have learned:
- Partner with a Complementary Colleague:
Combining forces with another business owner has been a strategic decision I continue to pat myself on the back about. Because I was lucky enough to nab/trap Mickey Mellen of GreenMellen Media into co-teaching with me. Mickey is a great teacher, marketer, and friend. We share similar energy, teaching style, humor, a passion for what we do, and genuine concern and care for our workshop students. When you partner with someone, you get to share ideas, expenses, and double your prospective attendee pool.
- Find and Target “Strangers”: For the first few years, you’re thrilled when anybody signs up and pays for your classes. Then, a couple years in, you realize that your classes and events may not be sustainable if you continue to market to the same people. A couple years ago I was given great feedback about how to attract those who weren’t necessarily familiar with us yet. We have tried (this is always a work in progress) to spread awareness to strangers through a variety of methods: content marketing and videos, asking referral partners to spread the word, promoting for weeks and months ahead of time on social, seeding the event at speaking engagements and networking events, and more.
- Get Face to Face: Strangers are great, but nothing beats people who know, like and trust you. Mickey and I work hard at cultivating a community and a list, and although we run in the same circles, we each bring a different pool of referral partners, clients, colleagues and advocates. I have followers and a community, mostly in part due to my speaking engagements I’ve done with WordCamps and around town over the past 6 years. Mickey has a huge following because he is a visible leader in the WordPress community and runs a very successful meetup. We have people who consistently come to keep refreshed. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – your SEO will only gain momentum if you combine it and boost it with face to face. SEO, ranking, and visibility cannot solely exist online.
- Hold a Pre-Event:
Having a pre-event to generate excitement about the actual event is very strategic. This year, it was Mickey’s July Meetup. Last year, it was a 2-hour keyword-research clinic that helped sell into the bigger 8-hour event. I got feedback years ago that it will be challenging to ask people to invest in a $200+ event if we haven’t shown value with something that first requires a smaller commitment first.
- This thing isn’t going to market itself: Creating an event is much like putting up your website. Just because we declared that the doors are open does NOT mean people will come. This workshop does not sell itself, people! Social media, outreach, phone calls, emails, experimenting with shooting an elevator pitch video which was loads of fun and hugely nerve wracking, speaking events, flyers, an email marketing campaign. One of my biggest tips for asking people to spread the word for you? If you ask people to promote your events, write social copy for them.
- Finding a venue: If you’re doing an event that requires an Internet connection and you are planning on having more than a handful of people, here is my biggest tip: do not get a venue that has anything less than stellar Wi-Fi. Make a point of asking about it. Last year our hotel meeting room unexpectedly had Internet issues, and it was embarrassing and awful. It was fine the year before so I didn’t think to ask and confirm the Internet was nothing less than perfect. Now I know better.
- I have to send HOW many emails? Initially, I was unprepared and stubbornly against sending out more than 1-2 emails to my list to promote. I didn’t want to annoy anyone or have people unsubscribe. But my Internet marketing skills have “grown up” a bit, and so has my mentality. The truth is people really are just so busy these days, we all need multiple reminders. I’ve just learned to be ok with the fact that I might slightly annoy some people and people might unsubscribe. But that’s ok. The other thing that helps is the past 2 years I’ve had a program that could better segment my list into Atlanta-area only people, southeast-area only people, people who clicked, people who didn’t open, etc.
- Early bird rate and a sense of urgency: There’s a lot of behind the scenes work and preparation that starts 6 months in advance. This year we were really on top of it, and thus we were able to really make the most of offering an early-bird rate that was very successful. My goal was to have the workshop 60% full one month out, and we more than surpassed that. This year was the first time we sold out earlier than the week of.
- Have a support team: I’ve been lucky enough to have a rock star team member, Tiffany, with me for a few years now, and this year we were able to take so much off my plate on what needed to be done. (not to mention having a pretty rock-solid Asana template we’ve perfected over the years of a checklist of what needs to be done when.) There really is so much more than I initially thought that goes into putting on a simple event: research, identify, and coordinate the venue and all logistics, write the landing page, set up the landing page, write social media copy, coordinate the venue, write a crap-ton of emails including promotional, existing students welcome, details and post-event, set up and schedule out emails, create the registration info in Eventbrite, create coupon codes, provide support and answer questions, post the event everywhere we can online, etc. We were able to sell out the past two years in a row because our ducks have been in a row and because of my awesome team.
- Plan in recovery time: I’m an extroverted introvert. Which means that while I love being in front of groups of people, and going to conferences and events, I tend to collapse into exhaustion and need to go into hibernation anytime I have to really put myself out there publicly. (If you’re an introvert you totally are feeling me right now #thestruggleisreal). Not to mention speaking for an extended period of time (see point #1 again about the benefit of having a co-instructor). I’ve been better able to manage this, and certainly have learned to treat myself and build in recovery time afterwards which was just learned through experience.
And that’s it! Now your turn – any tips to share about putting on – or attending – a great event? Do you have any horror stories? Share your tips and experiences in the comments section.