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September 4, 2006

Seminars: how to do it yourself

How did your last exhibition go? Did you generate enough leads? If so, how did you follow them up? This may sound crazy, but have you ever thought of holding your own event for your existing and potential customers, incorporating key features especially for them, like a seminar programme? Well, more and more companies are doing this for a variety of very good reasons.

“Exhibitions are proven sources for better-qualified, lower-cost leads,” says Kim Mhyre, vice president and general manager, EMEA, at brand experience agency The George P Johnson Company. “However, they offer limited scope for customising the attendee’s experience and customer journey. And they are certainly not ideal for wooing established contacts. Exhibitions fit in very well with the early stages of the cycle, building awareness, developing new contacts, up-selling and cross selling. But if you are looking to expand key accounts, retain current customers or communicate complex messages, you should look to other event types, such as a seminar series.”

Jan England, managing director at England Marketing, agrees, adding: “Holding your own event built around a relevant seminar programme presents the human face of your company to your customers, increasing exposure and your presence in the marketplace. They are a great way to promote or launch new products and services, get across new ideas or concepts, or simply as a networking opportunity and discussion forum.”

Whatever their aim, if organised well, bespoke events like this certainly make those who attend feel special, and are, therefore, a great way to develop strong, new business relationships and cement existing ones. And if they include a good seminar programme, they can really raise your company’s profile and kudos, establishing you as an expert on the chosen subject, perhaps even gaining press coverage. What’s more, if you have any large clients, these events can help put you in touch with key players from other parts of the organisation that don’t currently use your service.

Like many companies, Blue Sky Consulting, a leading UK performance improvement agency, hadn’t considered running its own seminar programme – that is until the idea was suggested by Amy Scott, managing director of marketing consultancy and event producer Sedulous.

“I ran Blue Sky’s highly successful Directors’ Summit – A Leadership Workout event, which attracted senior directors from major sales and service organisations,” she recalls. “It took place at the Tower of London and was quite an expensive exercise. The event ran smoothly and to Blue Sky’s delight, the results of a delegate questionnaire – covering every aspect of the event from speaker and content to organisation – showed an exceptionally high satisfaction rating, which resulted in increased business.”

Blue Sky now runs similar events three to four times a year, and they are always oversubscribed.

Of course, running your own event that takes you closer to existing and potential customers can be disastrous for your business if you get it wrong. So there are some vital factors you need to bear in mind.

“Before you decide to hold your own event, decide on the aim – a product launch, new innovation or concept, business forum – then make sure the seminar programme matches the theme and will appeal to your target audience, which you also have to carefully research,” says Scott. “Obviously, to do this you need to understand the subject very well. If you’re considering running a business forum to provide a networking opportunity, for example, you need to be well on top of the latest market trends. The key is fresh, innovative, relevant content.”

Scott also stresses the need for a good speaker, but recommends that if you are choosing a professional, that they’re not over-exposed.

Running your own customer event may sound like a daunting prospect, but the benefits of doing it well are more than worth it. And there are plenty of people out there, like Scott, who will be only too happy to share their expertise.

You can email Amy Scott at [email protected]

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