Monday, December 4

Sponsored Speaking vs. Seminar Marketing 

This just in from Rick Segel, CSP, courtesy of the National Speaker's Association. It's a great way for speakers to work with clients - and vice versa!

Over the last 13 years, I have been fortunate enough to recognize some interesting niches in the speaking business. Some were deep veins that have gone on to become industries in which I became almost a celebrity speaker, while others had a nice run, and still others were short lived. Ten years ago I started doing keynotes for annual mall meetingsa very small niche market. This was a great run until mall developers ceased to fund these gala events.

For the past few years I have uncovered an interesting trend that has slowly developed into a major part of my business. It is a vein so rich that it supports Cavett Roberts Bigger Pie Concept. (Instead of assuming the size of the market is one size for all of us to share, the concept suggests that we make a bigger marketplace pie so that we can all share. By making more people aware of professional speaking, more people will use professional speakers.) This vein has potential for all of us because it makes sense and is truly a win/win/win for everyone.

It is not about having public seminars, although it could be. Its not about someone sponsoring you to speak all over the world, but it could be. Its not about being a spokesperson for a company, but it could be. Its not about endorsing a product, but it also could be. What it is about is what I refer to as the Transfer of Affection.

Let me explain. Businesses have products to sell. The biggest problem some companies have is reaching the right buyers. Everyone is busy, and the gatekeepers are becoming more sophisticated than ever before. Between answering machines, caller ID, e-mail and better trained assistants, a cold call has become almost frozen in time. Yet the quest for knowledge and understanding about critical issues and topics pertaining to an industry has become the necessity of survival. This is where we come in. If we can bring the necessary information, unique approaches, professionalism in the presentation, celebrity status or even a light-hearted view of a topic to the clients customers and prospects, we have become a valuable asset.

What is Sponsorship?
If you or your topic can become a draw to attract prospects for a company, your value will be determined only by the potential of the ultimate buying power of the participants. You are probably thinking that all sounds good, but its just sponsorship. Not really. Let me define what I consider the difference between sponsorship and seminar marketing. Sponsorship is advertising, exposure, goodwill. It is something that has a long-term benefit. We have all probably been sponsored at some conference by someone we dont know. Many times I have come to events where I am speaking only to find out that I am being sponsored by a company or group that I know nothing about. The name appears in the program, on the sign outside the room or in the introduction.

Many times organizations sponsor events to support an industry or for the pure advertising value it brings. I was once sponsored at a trade show by a manufacturers repping firm. The name appeared every place my name did. The trade show had a schedule of events all over the facility with both my name and the sponsors name. The show book listed the sponsor, and I thanked the company (less than 60 seconds) at the event. The strange thing is that the representative from the sponsoring company didnt even show up at the event. But he didnt have to because he used the sponsorship as the best form of advertising he could ever buy. That is not Seminar Marketing.

What is Seminar Marketing?
Seminar marketing occurs when a speaker is hired to do a program of interest to the clients customers where the client is present to create relationships with customers or prospects. Many times a product demonstration might be part of the program, but the client is generally present--even if only to distribute brochures and to introduce themselves to the prospects. I am currently involved in a seminar marketing initiative with a Microsoft division that has created a software package specifically designed for independent retailers. I wrote the Retail Business Kit for Dummies, and my reader is Microsofts market. They supply me with places to speak or I find them venues that their potential customers attend, where a value-added reseller is in attendance, and they are introduced and do a brief demo when I am finished. I dont endorse the product, but I do discuss the benefits of technology. The event is judged on the leads created.

Staples Seminar Marketing
To further differentiate and maybe even confuse you, I would add that you can have a client that uses you both ways: sponsorship and seminar marketing. I am the featured online marketing expert for Staples.com. Many times Staples is asked to supply a business speaker for a chamber of commerce or a business group event. Because I am on their Web site and people read my articles, I will be requested. That is purely sponsorship. However, Staples, also has in-store seminars for their customers about a variety of business issues. Thats seminar marketing. Those events make the register ring immediately.

Financial institutions have been doing seminar marketing for years by creating a strong compelling topic that will make people want to come, such as How to Pay for Your Childs College Education. The professional speaker can bring the topic, as well as expertise from an outsider, celebrity status and a less vested interest. He or she represents someone who can deliver a message in an effective and professional way -- delivering expertise with eloquence. Many companies and individuals believe that a good salesperson can make a good presentation (and some can), but an experienced, trained presenter can make the difference between success and failure.

Transferring Affection
We are transferring the affection the audience has for the speaker over to the company, and that has value. But there are other advantages, including the fact that our client becomes positioned as a source of education and expertise. Its separated from price. We are in the education business, and education to many is the highest and most noble of all of lifes endeavors, either being a student or the teacher. We like doing business with the experts in the field.

From a speakers point of view, its wonderful because we are marketing to sales managers, which is an easier group to address. Sponsorship proposals go to community service departments, which review proposals and try to fit the winning ones into the budget. Sponsorship is exposure, seminar marketing is sales. A winning seminar marketing program can have an almost endless budget, because it is a sales generator that pays for itself. But the best part is that it can be a multiple-date engagement contract. Any time I can develop a long-term relationship with a client, I love it. However, when that relationship can hire me over and over again, its a winner!

The more companies that adopt this form of marketing, the better it will be for all of us. The more speakers think in terms of seminar marketing rather than sponsorship, the bigger the pie becomes. The company that offers a customer service program in the fall might be offering an organizational skills program in the spring. Lets buy a bigger pie plate.

Rick Segel, CSP, is a marketing and retail specialist. He is the author of 7 books including the Retail Business Kit for Dummies ,and he is the online marketing expert for Staples.com. He can be reached at (781) 272-9995 or rick@ricksegel.com.

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