Archives For educational marketing

Back from South Dakota – we had about 70 attendees last night, mostly business owners and leaders from the local community.  About 90% of the companies represented signed up to have their security assessed…why?

Because the event was focused on their business and a growing need every attendee had in common.  This event had nothing to do with products, or the WHAT Golden West Technologies (The sponsoring VAR) sells.  It had everything to do with educating those who have worked hard to build businesses, and who want to keep those businesses going in the future.

This is the time to be talking about security…just this week government representatives and consultants have made statements in the Wall Street Journal saying things like, “Consider every one of our networks to be compromised”, “All we can do now is focus on preserving the data”, “We are losing the war with cyber criminals.”  I also read in Wall Street this week that business leaders tend to shy away from knowing too much…but with a compelling campaign encouraging them to take action, we had over 70 responses in just a couple of weeks.  5 or 6 had to cancel, but consider some of the average attrition rates at lunch & learn programs and you’ll see numbers like 50 and 60 percent.  This was a great event and more are needed just like it.  The business leaders need the education, and the solution providers need to take a more active role in helping business leaders understand the issues and why they need to be involved personally.  Last night was a perfect example of this in action.

© 2012, David Stelzl



This afternoon I had the opportunity to present Event Marketing tips to a large group on Webex.  This is such an important topic, it needs more time.  For those who missed it, and perhaps a refresher for those who attended:

1. Getting the right people is both the most important part, and the most difficult part.  But, contrary to what most sales people believe, it is not impossible, and not even as hard as you might think.  It just takes some strategy and time.  While most people don’t really like call scripts, a well rehearsed script can do wonders.  Some have accused me of making this into a robot sounding message, but far from it…you would never accuse Russel Crow or Brad Pitt of reading from a script, but they do it all the time.  It’s just that they have practiced to the point of sounding natural.  The fact is, if they just did their own thing, the movies they are in would fail.  They use a script, but add their own personality to it.  Once practiced, this is not hard to do.

2. Mistakes are common.  I reviewed several serious mistakes even the most sophisticated companies make.  Why do they make them?  Simply because no one is really studying and optimizing this process. One simple mistake is not gaining commitment there in the meeting.  A follow up program that starts an hour after the event will take a 75% response down to a 5% response and you’ll never really know what happened.  You don’t want this to be salesy – but that doesn’t mean you don’t sell anything.  I heard one woman refer to this as the Invisible Close.  By educating attendees, and providing a place for them to get more of what you are talking about, you help them get what they need.  This can be done professionally without sounding like an encyclopedia sales person.  Much more of this is addressed in my audio series – Important topics from Vendor to Adviser…in fact there are 5 hours of critical concepts in this series.

3. Conversion is key.  If you aren’t focused on conversion rate, there is no reason to do this event.  There are customer appreciation dinners, but you don’t really need to spend this kind of time and money on IT level customers…there are a handful of customers that deserve this type of treatment, but not many.  Instead, measure your conversion, and work on building the percentages.  Focus on getting the right people, and test your messaging, repeating the same kind of program over and over.  Make minor changes  – and there are millions of secrets I have discovered, including reducing attrition, getting higher level audiences, using better topics, etc, that draw the right people and increase the rate of conversion.  This is a science, not a hope…don’t be fooled into doing the event for as little as possible.  Make a wise investment and get a strong return.  That is good business.

© 2012, David Stelzl

How do you get people to attend your next marketing event?

Recruiting attendees for your next marketing event may not be as simple as it looks. The tendency here is to assume that you know how to do this, and when everyone seems too busy to get involved, to assume that a call center is a great alternative.  The problem is, I have yet to see this work.  Since event attendees really need to be management level, and if possible, senior level – asset owners, there is more selling required here than might be obvious.  A track record from past events suddenly becomes irrelevant when you look back and realize, most of your events have been sold out to IT and other non-asset owners.

In a recent event, where the invitation process was contracted out, I was told by the manager of the call center, “We are professionals and don’t require any input.”  Wow!  That’s great, so I can stop worrying about attendance, and just show up to speak on the appointed date?  Far from it.  Instead, their response turned into a last minute fire drill, with rooms rented, food ordered, speakers paid for, and only 2 qualified attendees signed up.  With two weeks to go, this solution provider was forced to either cancel and take a loss of the committed expenses, or open the doors to unqualified IT-level attendees.  The lesson here is this; the call center can fill seats, but it takes a higher level of expertise to reach people who can actually buy something.  Our event went forward, with predictable results.  A long list of attendees, high attrition on the day of the event, and very few resulting sales.  Event marketing can be highly effective, but when approached incorrectly, can produce “nothing” at a great cost.

© 2011, David Stelzl

Filling Seats

April 25, 2011 — Leave a comment

Spring is here and it is the perfect time to be working on demand generation events to fill your summer pipeline.  I’m working with several companies right now on the invite process, with hopes of filling our room with quality people who have needs – whether the know it or not.

The hardest part of any educational marketing program is filling the seats.  You can say, “We are focusing on decision makers”, but getting them there is a challenge no matter how you look at it.  In my previous examples I have talked about technical people being in the seats and not responding to the message.  That’s normal because they have no liability.  It’s not that these companies didn’t do anything to get the right audience; it’s more likely they didn’t know how.  They assumed an email blast would do it.

Why would an executive attend one of these events?  Only if the education is directed towards them, and they believe the messenger will be great and worth the effort of leaving the office.  An equal motivator is the networking opportunity.  Many of these higher-level managers don’t have frequent interaction with peers from other companies, so creating this type of gathering has many benefits.

With this in mind, start your invite process with a letter directed to business leaders in your community.  Keep it short and to the point, but make it clear that there are issues to consider together as community leaders.  This can be fortune 1000 or small business, but include yourself in this group.  I recently used trends in cybercrime to create such a letter, noting that we are all under attack and we all need to do something about it.  With this in mind I am bringing in a certain industry expert to give us direction on this.  My follow-up value proposition will show that I have been formulating a team of experts within my company to address this growing emergency, which creates some urgency around the problem.

Assume that your prospects will not see the letter if you mail it first class and make it look like an advertisement.  Hand written letters are more likely to be read, or there is actually a service now that will digitize your handwriting and print it so that it looks handwritten.  You can learn more about this at

Talk up your speaker, promote your venue, and name drop people who have already committed.  Invite your key clients first so that you have some names to drop.  Finally, work out a call script and make the calls.  The letter simply gives you something to refer to.  Be prepared to sell the administrative assistant.  Most decision makers have one, and if it’s a prospect, chances are you will have to work through this person.  It’s okay, they have been trained to take important messages to their manager, so make it important, and build a relationship with this person.  If your event sounds meaningful, the message will get through.

I like to think of this process as if it were a wedding.  The wedding invites look nice, they demand an RSVP, and they promise a good meal alongside friends and family.  As a follow up, ask your attendees to pick a meal.  Preordering requires them to commit one more step.  By selecting steak or fish, they realize you are spending money on their seat.  I find this to be a higher level of commitment than signing up online for a massive event where no one is really counting.

© 2011, David Stelzl

Have an Opinion!

April 20, 2011 — 1 Comment

The inflatable gorilla doesn’t work for me, but neither does the obvious presentation.  I want your opinion, not just facts.  I want perspective, not just the vanilla, left brain statistics.  If you want people to listen, you’re going to have to step out and say something.  Three key elements of educational marketing sum it up:

Credible.  Educational must be believable.  It has to make sense to the target audience.  That means people understand what you are showing them, in a language they can grasp, not jargon that is outside of their ability to comprehend.  Too many marketers have given us meaningless phrases using terms like integrated, adaptive, scalable, etc.  They’ve put together phrases that sound good, but have not practical meaning, leaving the prospect confused.   Educational marketing seeks to show a prospect something they have not considered, convince them there is something they need to be doing, and show them a high likelihood of achieving a desirable outcome if they will simply follow your program.

Unexpected.  It can’t be obvious.  The prospect must be hit with something they have not considered, in a way that is almost shocking, whether good or bad.  It interrupts your day, not like the inflatable gorilla, but by moving you to action suddenly.  If I show you malware on your own computer and then begin to describe the potential it’s owner has to steal your data, you should be moved to action.   When the vacuum company shows you how disgusting your mattress is, you are suddenly shocked into wanting their vacuum, although in a couple of weeks you will likely be back to your old habits and realize this is just part of life; no different than having dust mites crawling all over you right now.  Of course, you have already made the purchase, so the marketing department has achieved its goal.

Opinionated.  This is where sales people and marketing fall apart.  It’s your opinion as a thought leader that matters.  Too many sales people rely on vanilla slides that speak through statistics.  Statistics are left brain sound bites that hold some credibility, but move the listener into a state of judgmental thinking.  They question what you are saying rather than being drawn into your story.  Good marketing is emotional and opinionated.  When you hear Howard Stearn or Rush Limbaugh, you think emotionally.  They are thought leaders that represent a certain way of thinking.  Sure, there is a group that hates them, but then there is another group that loves them.  And the more the haters hate, the more the lovers love.  They are men who are willing to stand up for their brand regardless of their opposition, and it builds their brand.  People who want to be liked by everyone end up standing for nothing, and therefore have no followers.  Look at the ratings and you’ll have to agree with me on this.

© 2011, David Stelzl

Photo Taken By David Stelzl

Flying to Philadelphia this past week I am struck by how often marketeers interrupt my day.  The tray tables have ads, the flight magazine is almost all advertisements, and now I have to listen to the flight attendant tell me about the great opportunity I have to get a $100 annual fee credit card if I will just fill out the form as they pass through the isle.

The difference between old school marketing and educational marketing is in the message content, format, timing, and location.  Old school marketing interrupts someone’s day.  It shows up in the middle of a great movie, places pages between the start and finish of an article you’re reading, or stands in the middle of a car dealer’s lot in the form of a giant inflatable gorilla.  Who likes this stuff?  Getting an unexpected call in the middle of dinner from a credit card company, or having a lawn care company representative call your cell phone on Sunday afternoon, while you are spending time with your family, is not the way to attract new clients.

However, being invited to speak at a technology conference, and showing up with educational material vs. a product pitch, will be well received.  I remember well the day I was asked to speak at an educator’s conference in Greensboro, NC.  Attendees from the state’s major universities included technical support, IT managers, and CIOs.  My topic was security, but rather than showing up with a firewall pitch, I put together a talk on industry trends and how universities might be at risk.  With giving systems and administrative applications needed to run the business side of a school, sitting on networks shared by students downloading and sharing all kinds of pirated music and video files, and teachers hosting student projects while at the same time accessing grading systems, this was a recipe for disaster.  At the time, people hadn’t really thought through segmentation, and vLans (virtual local area networks) hadn’t yet been invented.  By taking my audience through traditional network designs, evolving risks, and recommendations on how to reduce risk, my audience now had concrete information on how to approach IT.

The results spoke for themselves.  Several organizations arranged follow up meetings with our company and we landed several very large assessment deals.  Not only did these go on to the remediation stage; the referrals fueled new opportunities in state universities all over the state.  Since these schools weren’t competing, the network of IT managers gave us entrance into numerous new opportunities without having to go through the cold-calling process.  This is network selling and doesn’t eat into anyone’s personal time.

© 2011, David Stelzl

Illustrations by David Stelzl

When I say educational marketing, I mean that the presentations, collateral, blog posts, etc. shed new light on subjects your prospects are interested in.  One of the first educational events I personally attended (as a prospect), was just after having received great news, “Your wife is going to have a baby!”  It was our first of seven, and what an exciting time it was.  In the process of signing up for things,  buying at baby stores, and perhaps visiting the doctor, we ended up on the marketing call list for Baby Tenda-care, a company that manufactured and sold a multi-purpose contraption for babies.  It served as a height chair, porta-crib, and several other things.  As you can imagine, anything that looks like a porta-crib, can’t easily turn into a height chair, but they claimed it did.  Our first introduction to this amazing device was through an invitation to attend a free dinner at a low-end buffet steak house; a place where you pay about seven dollars for steak, sides, and desert.  (Another sign that this wasn’t going to be good).  While the speaker did spend time on educating us, most of the talk was high-pressured sales.  It was distasteful and aggravating.  I told my wife about ten minutes into it that we were absolutely not buying anything.  We didn’t buy that night, but it was uncomfortable not to.  Many did, and the guy signing up new customers did his best to make the husband feel like he was cheating his wife out of a great, time saving tool that was almost guaranteed to take the work out of parenting.  As far as I can tell, this product is no longer on the market, and I know why.  This can’t be your approach to educational marketing if you plan to succeed.

© 2011, David Stelzl