Will Giving Seminars Get You Clients?

Article by C.J. HaydenPublic speaking is one of the most powerful techniques available to showcase your abilities to prospective clients. Many professionals and consultants have built successful practices by regularly giving free presentations to associations, businesses, and educational institutions.

But what about producing your own seminar, where you arrange the logistics, promote the event, and invite the guests? Is this approach a productive strategy for landing clients?

Offering a seminar can be an effective means to become more visible to your target market and build your credibility. If you are a good (or even fair) presenter, the right people come to your seminar, and you follow up with them afterward, you will almost certainly gain new clients. But to use seminar marketing successfully, you need to be very clear on your goals, and plan each seminar carefully.

Promotional Seminars

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 in some cases you may be willing to spend more than you earn. With a seminar designed for marketing purposes, the key to making it pay off is attracting people who are good prospects for your business in the first place, rather than just filling the room with a large audience.

For that reason, instead of offering your seminar for free, it’s often a good idea to charge a reasonable fee. Then your prospective clients will perceive that you are offering something of value. Legitimate prospects may be skeptical of a free seminar, suspecting that it is simply a sales pitch in disguise. Charging a fee will also discourage attendance by people who can’t afford your services.

For a promotional seminar, the quality of your participants is what matters most, not just the quantity of them.

For-Profit Seminars

If what you want instead is for your seminar to turn a profit on its own, 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, ongoing management, and promotional efforts 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 and becomes a distraction instead of an asset.

Evaluate Before You Commit

Whether the seminar you are planning is for promotional purposes or for profit, estimate your projected income and expenses before you decide to proceed. Base the income you expect 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 put in additional effort to earn that compensation.

Typical expenses include design and printing of a brochure or flyer, postage, posting information on your website, purchase of mailing lists (if you don’t have your own), print and Internet advertising (including calendar listings), issuing press releases, 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 suggested below.

In designing a postal 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. With an e-mail list, especially if the recipients don’t already know you and your work well, your conversion rate may be even lower. This means you should be prepared to promote your seminar to at least 100 times as many people as you hope to have attend.

Also, you should plan to contact each person on your list more than once to encourage them to register. For example, follow a postal mailing with a round of phone calls, or couple an e-mail campaign with mailing postcards. You’ll get much better results when people hear about your seminar multiple times through different channels.

Make the Final Call

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. Then before going ahead, ask yourself if there might be an easier or cheaper way to land that many new clients or contracts.

If your purpose is to make money from the seminar alone, 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 seminar marketing 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 will raise awareness in your marketplace, mailings and ads about your seminar will also help to generate more visibility for your core business.

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