Let’s take a step back and make sure we understand how seminars fit into the marketing mix and how you can ensure their success:
1. Understand The Objective of a Seminar:
When VAR seminars are unsuccessful, the #1 reason why is that marketers, salespeople, and VAR principals misunderstand the objective of seminars within the marketing mix.
- The objective of a seminar is NOT new lead generation.
- The objective of a seminar is advancing pipeline opportunities already in progress.
A seminar probably won’t be your first point of engagement with a prospect, because a cold lead is probably not going to show up for your seminar. If your prospect has never heard of you, never downloaded your white paper, never expressed an interest in your solution, or never received an introductory sales call from you, they are probably not ready to attend your seminar.
2. Check Your Pipeline:
Your sales pipeline is the fuel that makes a seminar go. If you can’t name 10 pipeline accounts within 100 miles of your proposed seminar, then don’t do a seminar. Instead, do some lead generation marketing activities (rent a list and promote a white paper, demo, or Webcast). I’ll cover effective lead generation marketing in subsequent posts.
Remember, the primary objective of a seminar is to advance pipeline opportunities. If you don’t have solid pipeline opportunities then first you have to do the *prerequisite* lead generation work to build your pipeline. There’s no real shortcut here, folks. Your attendee list for your seminar will be derived primarily from sales calling into your pipeline, not from marketing emails or direct mail or banner promotion or social media posts.
3. Build Quality Content:
The days are long gone where you would jam a bunch of prospects into a room and then deliver the same sales presentation you deliver in one-on-one sales meetings. Wouldn’t it be great if it was that easy? If that ever worked, it doesn’t work today. In a tough economy it is not that easy for your prospects to justify time out of the office for something like this.
Build a quality agenda where the attendees will learn something valuable. Include guest speakers (customer case studies, industry experts, etc.). And make sure your marketing promotions highlight the quality and the value.
4. Begin Execution Well In Advance:
People are busy. Be respectful of that. Calling your sales prospect in a panic 2 days before your event and pleading with them to come to your seminar is not respectful of *their* busy schedule and *their* business priorities. I recommend that you…
- Begin planning your seminar 2 months in advance of the seminar date. Get all the details sorted out: topic, agenda, date, time, & venue. These are the details you need for your marketing promotions.
- Work hard to come up with a good seminar title — a compelling seminar title is the most important factor in getting people to register. Test it with your sales people, customers, and prospects to make sure it has perceived value.
- Create your email. Make sure it highlights your valuable agenda. Include a section entitled “What you will learn” and use at least 3 bullets of key information you will cover. Be sure to mention your guest speakers — good guest speakers will increase your attendance. An HTML email is good for email blasting, but more importantly, create a OFT version of your email. An OFT email can be used by your sales people to send one-off emails to their individual pipeline contacts to invite them to the event. (If you don’t know how to create OFT emails, I’ll post a comment below with instructions on how to do it.)
- Begin promoting your event at least 1 month in advance of your seminar date. This gives your prospects plenty of time to fit it into their schedule. It also gives you time to send out at least 2 waves of invitations — sometimes it takes more than one invitation to get the job done.
- I’ll write some more about writing effective seminar invitations later.
PTC Resellers and Regional Marketers: I have compiled a bunch of helpful tips in our PTC Partner Portal: Log into the Partner Portal, under the Departments tab navigate to the Marketing page, then look for the “How-To / Best Practices” section. There is content here that includes planning guidelines, how to write effective invitations, and even good presentations and content you can leverage to build your seminar agenda.
Now that we are all on the same page about how seminars fit into the mix, PTC has all the tools to help you knock it out of the park!
OK, as promised above, here is a quick tutorial on creating an OFT email:
1. GET IT INTO OUTLOOK:
You can create an OFT email from scratch by just clicking the “new” button in Microsoft Outlook and typing away. Or, if you have already created an HTML email then just send it to yourself from your email blasting software, open it in Outlook, and click the “forward” button. Now you just have to do a little bit of cleanup.
2. CLEAN IT UP:
Check the subject line of your email. If you used the method above where you forwarded it to yourself, then make sure you delete the “FW:” prefix from the subject line. Check the top and bottom of the email. Delete any empty space at the top so you get maximum exposure of your message in the preview window. Delete any forwarding and time-stamp text from the top of your message. Delete your personal email signature if it is appearing at the bottom of the email (remember it will be sent from your sales people to their prospects, your signature is not appropriate here). If it was sent to you from your email blaster software then delete the footer that has subscription management links because they will probably be linked to your account.
3. SAVE IT:
When you have it all cleaned up, then click “file > save as”. In the dialog box click the drop-down box for “Save as type” and select “Outlook Template (*.oft)”. Check the top of the dialog box to see where it is going to be saved. I suggest you change the folder to a place where you can easily find it, such as your desktop or your “My Documents” folder, otherwise it will be buried in a templates folder and you will have a hard time finding it. Click the “save” button.
4. TEST IT:
Now that you have saved your email as an OFT file, make sure you test it before you give it to anyone to use. Double-click the file. It will launch as a brand new Outlook email, ready to send. Type in your own email address, or the email address of your colleague, and click “send”. When you receive the email, look at it closely. Make sure you didn't miss anything during the “Clean It Up” step above. Make sure all the hyperlinks work.
5. YOU'RE DONE!
Now you can give it to your sales force to use for one-off, personalized invitations to their sales prospects. Send it to them as an attachment. When they double-click it, it will open as a new email, ready to send. All they have to do is type in the email address of the recipient, add a sentence or two to the top of it if they want, and click the “send” button.
There is some more info available here: http://support.microsoft.com/kb/258256