My favorite marketing platform is local events. My first major lunch & learn came on the heels of moving from an IT position to a presales support role in the wide area networking (WAN) space. A major manufacturer sponsored our meeting, the marketing was taken care of by our in-house marketing person, sales people were charged with getting clients and prospects to the meeting, and I was offered an opportunity to be one of the speakers in our half-day event. I hadn’t done much speaking at this point in my career, outside of a local Toastmasters club I had joined and some oral reports I did in school, so I labored over my presentation material wanting it to be just right. As a presales guy, I wasn’t involved in the logistics of this event, just responsible for great content. I had no working knowledge or experience with marketing, demand generation, follow up, or anything, other than articulating what various technologies could do (all from a speeds and feeds mentality.)
Finally that day came when I would present. It was the first time I had seen an attendance list. I had dreamed about presenting to 50 or 75 people, maybe even 100 would show up to hear my presentation! There were 6 on the list. Six! I couldn’t imagine presenting to an audience of six. Do you actually stand to do this, or just sit at a round table? We decided to go forward given we had some pretty good names on our list. You’ve probably guessed this already, but as I’ve come to learn, attrition is the biggest enemy of any event, and only two showed up. I thought six was bad; two is horrible. I think I would have rather had one and made it a sales call. We had two companies with completely different business needs. It was a total flop.
That was over twenty years ago, and since then I have learned that this really is a great way to market. However it doesn’t just happen. It takes a strategy, commitment from sales and marketing, and contribution from every person on the team. When done right, it is an excellent investment, done wrong it can be a very costly mistake.
© 2011, David Stelzl