I’ll be honest, getting 20-30 people to put their hands in their pockets and book on your workshop isn’t easy. In addition to persuading people that it’s a good idea, and that it’ll be a good investment of their time and money, those people also have to be available on the day you’ve chosen to run your workshop. And it’s that third dimension that adds a certain extra pressure to marketing workshops.
You need to market to an even wider net of people than you might if you were selling a product or service (which could be enjoyed at any time), because a good proportion of people that think it’s a good idea, and are even willing to spend the money, will find that they can’t make the date you’ve picked (for whatever reason). So just how do you market your workshop or seminar in a way that will help it sell out without causing you an embolism in the lead up to the event?
Your database is your goldmine when it comes to booking workshops and seminars. If you’ve been marketing your business properly (you have been sending out emails and newsletters haven’t you?) then these people already know who you are, they know that you know what you’re talking about, and they probably know that they’d enjoy your workshop. You can then use this list of warm leads to market your workshops to. “Buying one in” by the way doesn’t count. They need to be warm leads. Don’t have one? Run a competition with some friendly people in your industry to give away a place on the next workshop and get building yourself one. There are still plenty of other things you can do in the absence of a database.
Buddy up with people in your industry who will help you market the event – either just for the love of it, or in return for some cold, hard cash. We recently worked with a wedding planner who didn’t have a database as her business was only a couple of months old. We recommended she ask wedding dress shops, wedding bloggers and her twitter friends to help her promote the event along with any friendly media.
Use your PR charms to get your event published – online blogs, forums and event sites are great; newspapers and magazines even better. And after the event try and get a write up – why not invite a journo along for free?
Tweet it, put it on LinkedIn as an event and invite your contacts, add it to social networking forums, your Facebook fan page and sites like Ecademy.
In June, I ran a Blogging Workshop with Tom Evans. Between us we managed to get 28 paying bums on seats. That’s much harder than it sounds. It was a huge help to have two of us promoting the same workshop but the other thing that really helped was my “blog campaign”. About six weeks before the event, I started blogging about blogging – how it benefits your business, how to generate comments, how to gain readers and so on. It raised peoples’ awareness and meant they were much more receptive to the workshop.
If I’m running a Marketing Planning Workshop in December (which I am, by the way, spot the shameless plug!) then I’ll start blogging marketing planning type stories now (ooops! note to self) and I’ll also ensure that this is the topic of my newsletter for November.
That’s in my experience anyway. So I email six weeks before, four weeks before and two weeks before. You might find it takes more or less time depending on the size of your database, the number of workshops you’re offering and the subject of the workshop.
Write to people, call them, invite them and tell people about it at networking events. Use the feedback from people to improve your copy and make sure you’ve answered all their worries and reservations.
Now there must be more tricks to it than that. What other tricks do you employ to get your workshops sold?
I started running marketing workshops for my customers back in January 2007 and I haven’t looked back since. Each workshop has helped me to develop relationships with my customers, find new customers, demonstrate my expertise and most importantly, help my clients grow their businesses.
Some workshops have been easy to fill, others harder. And whilst no one could say that they’ve been easy money, I’ve made a great profit out of each and every one of them and generated significant amounts of business after the event from the delegates in the room. You could say that I’ve had such a good experience with them that I’ve become quite evangelical about running them! In fact, I recommend that many of my clients run them for their customers too.
But many of the business owners I speak to can’t quite get to grips with the idea of running a workshop. They know it’s a good idea, but they get that sort of glazed look in their eyes when I mention it, and I can see them thinking “Just agree with her and she’ll stop pushing you”. But I can see that for most business owners, running a workshop is scary.
So why wouldn’t you run a workshop? Why might it be a bad idea? Well having done a bit of a brainstorm, I have a few theories.
Firstly I think people are scared. “Who do I think I am to run a workshop on X, Y or Z”. They’re worried about being lynched by their competitors for daring to put themselves out there as an authority on the subject. But you can’t run your business for the benefit of your competitors. You have to do what’s right for you, your business and your customers. If you think that you have some knowledge that will help your customers, why not share it?
I also think they’re worried about being “found out”. Found out by their customers for not being the world authority on their subject. Worried about having someone in the room who knows more than them. Worried about looking like a fool.
Well you know what? Maybe there will be someone in the room who knows more than you. Unless you’re a professor in your subject, the chances are that you don’t know it all. But if you’re clear about what you are good at and who this workshop is for, you will add value to your delegates and you won’t look like a fool. I promise.
People are also worried about no-one coming. Selling 20 spaces on a workshop is not easy. Even if people tell you it’s a good idea to run a workshop on the subject of your choice, getting those people to commit financially and making sure they’re available on the day isn’t easy. It takes skill, tenacity and organisation to fill a workshop. And that puts people off. Either they’ve tried it and had their fingers burnt, or the sheer scale of what they need to do puts them off.
Having filled workshops and conferences for more than three years now I know how tough it is. But I promise you that the benefits far outweigh the hard work.