Saturday, August 18, 2007

Advertising a Seminar

Case Study: The Research Coaches, Chicago
Challenge: Increase attendance at upcoming live seminars in October
Idea Wanted: Creative, hopefully free, ways to advertise the event.

The Background: A successful research firm has branched off into a research coaching firm and is holding two live seminars in October. Most of the budget has been used for the venue and an email campaign of 25,000 emails being sent to businesses in the Chicago area.

The seminars are titled: "Know Your Customer" and presented by Ed Erickson, owner of the company. Attendees will learn segmentation, how to identify their customers, and what their customers want. The promotional material promises that the seminar "...will provide you with no-nonsense practical tools to better understand and serve customers," and that you can take what you learn in the morning " increase sales and profits by the end of the day."

The targets for the campaign are:

  • Small to mid-sized business owners, managers, marketers
  • Entrepreneurs planning to start a new business
  • Consultants who serve the small business community

Advice: After reviewing some promotional materials for the seminar, we felt that publicity was not the only thing needed to attract attendees to the seminar. We felt the four page promotional brochure needed to be condensed and needed to have more impact.

With little or no budget left to advertise the seminar, what we are really talking about here is public relations: getting free publicity. The way to get free publicity is to offer something of value to get the free publicity you want. Distribute a press release with some valuable information to small businesses.

Our Ideas:
1. Distribute a press release to all area media outlets and local publications. This press release will feature "How to leverage sales data into new customers" or valuable information such as a "Top five questions to answer about your customers." At the end of the press release, promote the Research Coaches website and upcoming seminar. Without valuable information, a press release is unlikely to get publicity. Use this press release generator tool to format your press release.

2. Distribute the press release through free internet press release sites. Here is a list of free sites. Media outlets often search the internet for story ideas and articles. In addition, Chicago is a huge metropolitan area and business owners that might be interested in this seminar would have a propensity to spend time on the internet searching for ideas.

3. Launch a new blog titled "Customer Mining" or a title that relates to a common theme from the seminar. Have daily or frequent entries to the blog demonstrating authority on the subject. Don't be afraid to give away some of the material from the seminar. With each blog entry, countdown to the next seminar and provide a registration link. You can also make reference to the blog in your press release. Blogs are free to create, but take time and effort to maintain.

4. Re-work the promotional material for the seminars. We didn't feel it had a compelling call to action or exciting visuals. One visual we brainstormed was to use an enormous sea of people with a few, select people glowing in the crowd. The caption is "Can you see your customer? Yes you can."

We also recommend making the titles of the sessions more dynamic, and even possibly renaming the seminar from "Know Your Customer" to "Find Your Customer"

The Lesson:
Free advertising is about getting publicity that you can't pay for. This means the information you offer has to be of value to the recipients. Don't just send press releases. Think of the value angle and turn your press release into a news story.

The other key component to your press release is your authority. Why do you deserve publicity on this subject? Anything you can do to increase your authority, increases the value of your press release. Are you president of a related organization? Have you been recognized for your expertise in this field? If you have a history (such as the blog we recommended) of being an authority on this subject, you are more likely to get some media play from your press release.

If you have any other suggestions, please comment below.

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1 comment:

Micah Olson said...

Great advice! Thanks for the article. I will fill out a request for some help with my seminar needs.