How Do I Build a New Region – Using Educational Marketing

Downtown Grand Rapids

I’m Back from Grand Rapids and heading into a busy week, but not without some reflection on the benefits of last week’s educational event.  27 business leaders attended this event where I addressed the group on current security trends and threats specific to the SMB space.   Over half of them will be looking at their security issues in greater detail this week with the sponsoring solution provider, in the form of an assessment.  The majority of these companies are not currently engaged as clients, but are still receiving this assessment as a thanks for joining the meeting. This is a significant step in the right direction and a value to both the business owner and the consulting firm.

On Friday (the day after this event) I spent some time with a rep out in the north west (by phone), going through this type of event and what makes an event successful.  On the call, we discussed ways of attracting new clients, a question I have run into more and more over the past year. He mentioned that they have tried doing  lunch & learn events, like the one above, to demonstrate their value to the local firms – “But we can’t seem to get people to attend – why?”  “How do you continue to attract audiences, even in cities where there’s already of glut of these kinds of events?”, he asked. There are a couple of key issues to consider here:

1. People attend events that offer something they personally need and care about.  If I am in the market for a particular kind of tool or home improvement, I might attend a home show or head over the the Woodcraft store’s open house (a popular store for those engaged in fine woodworking).  I have a specific need and the above mentioned gatherings offer some insight.  If the thing I am buying is obvious, I don’t need to attend.  The problem here is, my lunch & learn at this point only appeals to a certain group of people who are currently shopping for something – it’s a small audience, and my chances of marketing to the right people are slim.

2. If I make this into a product pitch, I can still draw an audience.  Consider RSA – a product show that continues to draw thousands.  What’s the attraction?  There show is advertised to technical people…but the attraction comes with the speaker line-up.  Technologists convince their firms to fly them there and pay for lodging and food, to see John Chambers or Marc Benioff speak.  The problem with your lunch & learn at this point is, you don’t have a speaker that will draw an audience.  Stop saying, “People are too busy,” or “We have too many lunch & learns in our city,” the truth is you don’t have a show worth going to.

3. Too many companies are focused on the numbers.  My coaching client on Friday told me his sponsors only care about numbers in exchange for marketing dollars – meaning it doesn’t matter who shows up.  This is wrong thinking.  The vendor requires some re-education on the importance of converting attendees to buyers.  The percentage matters far more than the number of attendees when we are working with expensive solutions.  With this in mind, getting the large technical audience referenced in point number 2 is not really valid.  Based on the attendee list, I can almost predict the percentage that will sign up to do the assessment (or any other offering).  IT people will love the talk (if it has great content), but will pass on the assessment – why?  Two reasons, they have no liability, and they have no money.  The bottom line here is; setting up an educational event for technical people will buy some good will and demonstrate value to an existing customer base, however it generally will not produce new clients for a solution provider.

4. Content that will attract business leaders, must focus on the business leader and their business. What do they think about all day?  Obviously they hire advisers; legal, health, financial and investment, and more..what about technology?  The event mentioned above was specifically designed to help business leaders understand their risk and liability regarding data and intellectual capital that resides in their most important business applications and databases.  These attendees saw value, responded to a message aimed at reducing their risks of data loss, and followed up with value delivered through the sponsoring solution provider in the form of an assessment.

© 2012, David Stelzl




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