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“Borrowing” An Audience: How Seminars Can Win You New Business

Yesterday I was browsing through Hacker News and saw that Patrick McKenzie had mentioned me in a thread where “adyus” asked:

“However, one thing that I still haven’t figured out is this: how would I find say, that small insurance company in Kansas who has $100k to spend on a solution I could offer to their problem? Where would I begin to look? Cold-contacting seems unscalable.

I know networking goes a long way toward such contacts, but it can’t be just that. Is there a way to search for clients that’s between cold-calling and a personal network contact?”

Patrick (patio11) gave a great response on tapping into your local Chamber of Commerce to host an educational seminar — which if you’ve been following my work for a while you know is something I’m a HUGE fan of. I then replied with a start-to-finish bullet point outline of the exact steps I’ve taken to pack my sales pipeline using seminars. I won’t recap the entire thread here, but it’s worth your while to give it a read.
Small Business Seminar
Anyway, got me thinking about how powerful borrowing audiences can be, and I wanted to share some of my thoughts with you this morning:

I get asked questions all the time around “How do I get people to my blog?” or “How can I get people to attend my seminars?”
My favorite tactic is to borrow audiences from others. The reason I’m so gung-ho about your local Chamber of Commerce, BNI, and other networking organizations is that they’ve done the hard work for you: they already have in their member roster business owners (check!) who by virtue of their membership enjoy networking and learning (check!)

And for you and me, we can capitalize on this by offering to teach business owners something related to the field you’re an expert in. As long as you provide the attendees value (outside of “cut me a check and I’ll build whatever you’d like”), you shouldn’t have any problem getting a local organization to help you out.

Likewise, when it comes to blogging, the easiest way to bootstrap a new blog is to write for other, more established blogs (guest posting), and drive their readers to you. My friend Greg Ciotti recently put together a fantastic overview on how to do just this.

But here’s the kicker, and where a lot of us go wrong when either hosting an educational seminar or submitting a guest post…

You can’t just close with an open-ended invitation, like “Thanks for coming out… here’s my website…” Your primary goal is to get someone who’s just received a ton of value from you to opt-in to receive even more.

For a seminar or a presentation, this means closing with a “Do you want to learn even more about X? I have a free one month email course that goes into much more detail.” (As outlined in the thread I outlined above, and also described in-depth in my book, The Blueprint.)

One of your most valuable assets is your audience — or what I like to call your “ecosystem”. And if you haven’t started building up your ecosystem yet, now’s the perfect time. Most local Chambers and other organizations are planning their calendar for the new year right about now. Give them a call, ask for a meeting, and make 2014 the year you conquer your sales and marketing strategy.
  • Stephanie

    Wow! This is actually a brilliant idea! Thanks for sharing. Now to work on effective presentation skills. 😉

    • It works very, very well 🙂 Drop me an email after you host your first seminar, I’d love to hear about it!

      • Stephanie

        Will do! 🙂

  • Love it man. Great post. I gotta start implementing some of that stuff!

    • Awesome, thanks Tyson! Let me know how it ends up working out!

  • The link to The Blueprint is broken. It just goes to http://~link-735~/

  • Coral Capettini

    I see a lot of talk about giving something worth value for free to potential clients in order to keep them in arm’s reach and whatnot. I’ve been trying to decide what that thing is for a couple months now. I like your idea about seminars at local COCs (and others’ ideas for blog and such), but my question is; What happens when I (the freelancer) are just NOT good with people. I’m not good with public speaking, I’m not good at talking to people whom I don’t know, I’m not conversational in the least. I just feel like all the options for getting good leads and keeping good customer service is, really, having a bubbly, out-going attitude. Can’t afford to hire someone… so what options do people like me have? I’d love to see an article on “The Introverted Entrepreneur”! Haha!

    • Two options:

      1) Stop being an introvert within your business. I’m a HUGE introvert (see: but quickly shift gears when networking. If I’m in a group of peers, I’m the guy nursing a gin & tonic in the background; if I’m at a networking event, I’m systematically making my rounds. Checkout Toastmasters and other groups that can help in that respect.

      2) Stop consulting. This sounds rough, but I think that a lot of what we might think is introversion is really a resistance to sales, marketing, and “showmanship” — which are all required if a consultant is to have a sustainable business. In all honesty, teaching an event is a GREAT way to overcome that… people actually come up to YOU after you teach, and want to talk with YOU, and respect YOU and your opinion — a much different reality than what happens when you drift up to someone new at a mixer. I’m always most confident when I’m at a conference or something where I’m speaking or at a workshop I’m teaching, vs. when I show up as a conference attendee. Remember: customer service and “success” isn’t about being able to make casual conversation as much as it is talking through problems with people to come up with the right solution to their problems.

      Hope this helps 🙂 Feel free to drop me an email ([email protected]) anytime if you need any specific pointers… trust me, I’ve been there.

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