Kill the Sacred Cows

June 24, 2013 — Leave a comment

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This morning I am preparing to speak to Cisco channel managers, account managers, and channel marketing. The topic – Event Marketing. 

Challenging Presuppositions

Years ago Tim Ferriss, Author of The 4-Hour Work Week figured out how to accomplish more in a few hours than most of his sales colleagues could accomplish in an entire day.  How did he do it? After hours upon hours of unproductive cold calling he decided to step back and analyze the process.  The gatekeepers were always getting in his way – no one would let him speak to the decision makers.  So instead of making his calls during work hours, he simply moved to 8:00 AM, calling for 30 minutes, and then picking up again at 6 PM for another 30 minutes.  In no time he was closing more meetings than any of his peers. 

Tim shares a story in his book of how he won the Chinese kickboxing National Championship by studying the rules and changing the game to create an advantage.  He writes in his book, ” Sports evolve when sacred cows are killed, when basic assumptions are tested! The same is true in life and in lifestyle.” Tim’s process was revolutionary – but senior management has caught on, and in my recent CIO meetings I understand that they don’t want to hear from you before their administrative assistant shows up.  So now what?

Traditional Lunch & Learns

This past week I spoke with two different manufacturers about lunch & learns.  In both cases my clients – both resellers, were working on funding for events they are planning.  In both cases the vendor sponsor was skeptical about sponsoring me to speak. 

My events are different.  I counsel my reseller clients not to let vendors do the speaking, and I insist on inviting executives.  “That’s not the way we usually do it.”  Both companies made this statement…but what are the results of the typical event? 

It’s like Tim Ferriss’ cold calling.  Traditional lunch & learns are drawing small audiences of technical people, reporting high attrition rates (like 50% of those signing up never actually get there), and no measurable return on investment. The measure of success I hear all too often is, “How many attended?”  That’s like measuring sales by asking, “How many calls did you make?” – what does it matter.  If you don’t generate any gross profit, what’s the point?  And if you managed to make your entire quota on one call, why do you need to make 100 more calls?  A second call might get you to your accelerators (assuming your compensation plan has this feature built in.)

Changing the Rules

Why am I so stubborn about how the event happens?  Several years ago I started challenging the assumptions.  Why does the vendor have to speak?  Does it lead to more sales? Don’t get me wrong here,  I don’t care if they speak – but let’s not speak just to have a role in the event, or just to feel important.  The only question everyone should be asking is, “What is the purpose of having the event and are we achieving that purpose?”  From what I can tell, there are two reasons to have an event:

1. To reignite old buyer relationships.

2. To create new buyer relationships.

From the reseller’s perspective, these are the only two things that really matter.  Traditional cold calling doesn’t work – my clients all agree.  Tim Ferriss had a great idea, but it too has lost it’s savor.  Lunch & learn events with IT people have been around for ages, but they aren’t producing.  Why? Because technical people don’t have any money. 

So I started looking at the buying process.  The seller needs time in front of a decision maker, but there has to be a compelling reason for that meeting.  Decision makers are business people. They spend money for one of two reasons: to make more money, or to mitigate risk.  That’s it – simple, just two reasons.  Then I started looking at events in general.  What makes one event a major success, while another has almost no attendees?  Why do some events lead to 1000 people making major life changes, while other events lead to no measurable change at all?  It’s the speaker – and the motivation they provide to make a commitment, change something, or move in some direction.  It’s a conversion process, and there’s a simple formula to make it all happen.

So 10 years ago I joined the National Speakers Association and started studying great speakers.  It’s not the product they sell (Every motivational speaker worth their fee has a book or DVD set.)  If it was, they would simply set up an online store and go on vacation while the money rolled in.  They can’t do that. Most speakers sell their products at the conference or seminar.  Their book sales online are mostly unmeasurable.  But at the conference, they often sell enough product to double their speaker fee income.  It’s the speaker’s passion, combined with a life changing message, delivered to an audience that has the authority to make the commitment or accept the challenge. 

This morning I’ll be sharing the basic principles of event marketing success.  Why would anyone want to continue making dozens of unproductive cold calls five days a week when they can sell to 30 or 40 people at one time in one hour?  I have found that with the right message, at least 60%, and on average 75% of the audience will respond to the right message.  If the right conversion product (assessment or strategy session) is offered, they’ll sign up.  This leads to multiple meeting opportunities.  If you don’t close business after all of this, you can’t blame it on the event – but you are way ahead of where you would be on a cold call.

© 2013, David Stelzl

 

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