Putting on a seminar or event for dealers can be a daunting task for distributors, especially if you're stuck weighing the costs against the potential benefits. It can be hard to justify the man-hours and the expense of the event when you're not even sure dealers will come. Unless, of course, you have the formula that practically guarantees that you'll:
- Have an event that dealers want to come to; and
- Be able to put on an unforgettable seminar for free.
You may be thinking I've lost my mind… again. And you could be right, although my legal representative has advised me not to discuss that at this time. The point is, it's not just doable… it's almost harder not to make this one of your most valuable investments possible.
5 Tips Guaranteed to Boost Dealer Attendance
First, let's address the logistics of your seminar. If you want dealers to come — and you do — then the key is obviously in planning an event that they're falling over themselves to attend. Think about it. Time is money, and these guys aren't going waste time listening to some well-meaning schmuck drone on about the greatness and intricacies of the environmentally friendly metal production involved in the manufacture of every product. I mean … that sentence even made me tired.
So here are the best “5 Tips for Boosting Dealer Attendance” that I can offer. These methods have been shown to boost attendance by 54 percent:
Keep it relevant. What's going on in the industry now that you can share with dealers to make selling more effective? Are they facing the impending implementation of any new laws or industry programs? Focus on making your event something dealers actually care about knowing. The more relevant the topic is to them, the more likely dealers are to not only attend but to feel that it was time well spent. If you make the presumed gain about “you” and what you're selling, you've failed even before you get started.
Keep it interesting. Remember the droning schmuck? It really doesn't matter how great the topic is if the delivery is poor. The first, most egregious and most difficult-to-overcome error of all seminars is boredom. The point is to motivate, encourage and entertain your dealers, not put them to sleep. Hire speakers who are dynamic and even interactive. A good experience will keep dealers coming back to your events — and bragging about you. Kind of the point.
Market your event. Follow the same rules for your dealers that you use to attract new customers. Send your prepromotion letters 45 days prior, then your first true event letter at 30 days, then follow up two more times, ending with a “final notice” letter. Secret “booster” techniques: List how many seats remain in subsequent mailings. Plus, you can boost response with a follow-up phone call to say, “I was just checking to see if you got our note about the seminar, since seats are filing up…” and leave it at that. This phone call can get commitments when nothing else will.
Create demand. Related to the above, a sense of urgency and limitation is required to fill seats and create “buzz.” Most of the so-called event promotions I see have “Time, Date, Place, Speaker and Coffee.” Yawn. Tell people what they'll learn, see, leave with, overcome, eliminate and be able to do for coming… things they would not be able to do if they don't come.
Likewise, let them know that all this excitement translates into popularity and does not guarantee that everyone who wants in will get a seat. If there's only room for 50 attendees in an area central to 150 dealers, that creates a bit of healthy competition, so state that in your letters. No one wants to be “left out” especially when there's the idea that by not attending, other dealers are learning techniques or getting information that will help them outperform nonattendees. Offering limited seating and creating a sense of urgency boosts attendance and the perceived value of your event.
We've handled the marketing for our distributor speaking events and have raised the “average” attendance by 54 percent nearly 40 times in a row. The methods I advise work.
Make acceptance easy. Pages and pages of forms, three different numbers to call and scattered bits of confirmation information are great ways to convince dealers that staying away is just easier. Just like you always tell your dealers, “Be easy to do business with.” So accept faxed, phoned, mailed and e-mailed responses, all listed together on the Enrollment Form. (That is a good phrase to use, by the way; far better than “Sign-Up Sheet” or “Ticket Price Form.”) The more options and ease you give a potential attendee, the greater the attendance. It just works that way.
Now that you've created an event worth coming to, you're now looking at a hefty speaker's fee, room rental, AV equipment and possibly food. But here's the best part — you can do it at no cost to you. Yes, I just said you can do this for:
free (fré) — without charge.
Figure all of your expenses, then divide that by the lowest number of attendees you can reasonably expect. That's your break-even price for each seat. Some of you just choked.
You may have hosted events or seminars free to attendees in the past, but when there is a fee associated with an event, two things happen: 1) Attendees feel ownership rights, and 2) The sense of value skyrockets (same as limiting attendance).
I mean, a dealer may look at your incredibly benevolent “free” seminar and say, “I'm not driving three hours to go to some free seminar.” Translation: “Free isn't worth my time.”
Yet instead of a freebie that dealers can either take or leave — and with about the same amount of enthusiasm — if they pay to attend, they're suddenly invested. Make the deal even sweeter by offering discounts to your best customers or multiple-seat purchasers.
Put all the benefits of attending right on the enrollment form, preferably with a value assigned.
If you really want to be aggressive, you can make the value of the benefits of attending the event exceed the actual price of admission, thus negating any price resistance. That's a huge motivator.
Oh, yeah. What's in all this for you?
How about priceless face time with fence-sitters and large accounts you're looking to sway. Not to mention that when your rep (or you) introduces your speaker, dismisses the crowd for lunch and then closes out the seminar — you're repeatedly sending the message that your brand cares not just about consumers but about the dealers also. Further, you care if they're successful. Oh, of course, you'll be handing all attendees a heavily branded packet that contains the speaker and event notes, just in case you were wondering.
Final Points: Well-timed follow-ups to the event can also motivate your dealers — and boost attendance for the next big event. Just be sure to ask 1) what they liked, 2) what they didn't like, and 3) what topics they'd recommend for next time.
Not only has your event paid for itself, you've established relationships that increase the chances of dealers coming back, selling more of your product and referring their contractor friends. You're consistently hammering home the message that you care, you train and you want their success. And when that message hits home, you both win.
Adams Hudson is president of Hudson, Ink Corp, a Creative Marketing firm for Contractors. He has authored 11 books on contractor marketing, publishes millions of contractor newsletters and creates “turn-key” marketing programs for dealers. He speaks to contractor audiences nationally on “High Performance Marketing” and follows the methods prescribed above to jam attendance and approval ratings. See more at www.hudsonink.com or call 1-800-489-9099.
Adams Hudson is president of Hudson, Ink, a Creative Marketing firm for Contractors. He has authored 11 books on contractor marketing, publishes millions of contractor newsletters and creates “turnkey” marketing programs for dealers. He speaks to contractor audiences nationally on “High-Performance Marketing” and follows the methods prescribed above to jam attendance and approval ratings. See more at www.hudsonink.com or call 800/489-9099.