Christa writes . . .
- Hi Karl,
I’m planning our first ever Lunch ‘n Learn seminar for late January. (Thanks to Robin Robins, I’m finally systematizing our marketing efforts after 12 years in business!) I’d like to have a prize drawing or two for our attendees and thought maybe some of our channel partners or vendors would be willing to give me some items.
Do you have any experience or ideas on this? Best vendors to approach? Key contact names? How and when to approach?
We’re Microsoft Certified and Small Business Specialists and SonicWall, Dell, HP partners, etc.
Of course I responded to her already, but here are a few thoughts to consider when you're planning such an event.
The best place to start is whatever contacts you have. Your sales reps at sonicwall, HP, etc. Sometimes they can give product (especially software). But they can all give slick marketing materials.
Your Microsoft PAM or local office should be able to get you some goodies for the show (pens, tablets of paper, squeezy toys, key rings).
On rare occasions you’ll get some hardware give-away.
HP is really good if you get the right person. Call and ask. And ask to be transferred. And ask some more.
If you sign up for one of the Microsoft Ready to Go campaigns, some of them include a whole “kit” for such events. Tell them you’re hoping to get 30 people and they’ll send you 30 sets of goodies. If you only have ten show up, you’ll have twenty for next time!
If you hit dead ends with Microsoft, contact the partner desk. I don’t know the exact address, but start here: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/mssmallbiz/. If you have a PAM of any kind, ask them. It's their job.
A few vendors are super good with free software. These include Diskeeper and Storage Craft.
You may even get a line on give-aways from your reseller (ingram/synnex/CDW).
WHY would a vendor give you anything?
Well, this is all just marketing to them. So who is your audience and how large is it? If you're going golfing with three people, you'll have less luck than putting on a symposium.
The Microsoft Ready Set Go programs are spectacular because you put out some effort and Microsoft puts out some effort.
Our best events have been ones where we did lots of marketing on our own (email, direct mail, telephone, etc.) and engaged more than one vendor.
You can also combine marketing campaigns from HP and Microsoft with your own stuff. Extends the number of "touches" for very little extra money.
And, if you have staff, here's a very simple way to pick some low fruit: Have a well-spoken administrative assistant call each contact on your mailing list just to enquire whether they think they'll be there, "So we know how much food to have on hand."
Every once in awhile you'll get someone who says "I won't be there, but I'd like to talk to someone about . . .." That's a win for the vendors who are helping to host the event. They want to know how many warm leads and hot leads came out of this activity. This counts.
Another helpful tip:
Host events with other partners. I love to do things with our local New Horizons learning center. For 25 people and under, they can provide a room with all the presentation equipment. And since we both market to our mailing lists, we cross-pollinate those lists. Always a good thing.
I haven't had luck partnering with multiple partners at once. I end up doing all the work and then I have to chase down someone to get their share of the expenses.
We have had one event at our Co-Lo facility and we're planning another. That's pretty cool because you access the mailing list of the co-lo, the training partner, and your own. We gave tours of the facility, had a catered lunch for cheap, and did a 15 minute commercial in their meeting room.
A lot of work came out of that, from current clients and new prospects.
Events are a pain in the neck. Planning, organizing, marketing, begging, execution, . . . and paying for it all.
So it's easy to forget to do the follow-up. And that the most important part!
Here's the coolest thing about follow-up: The people who missed it don't have any idea whether it went smoothly or was well attended. So you can call them and say "I'm sorry you missed our event. It was really great." And then close them on whatever your action step was (68-Point Problem Prevention Audit or something else).
Don't have time to get in an event before the end of the year?
No problem: Second half of January is a perfect time, and you won't have much competition. Remember, in January, the Grasshopper is out freezing his tail off while the Ant is reaping the rewards.