Thursday, March 12, 2009

Free Marketing Ideas - Part II

Orginally Published 11.4.2008

4. Conduct Brown Bag Seminars For Area Employers

A brown bag seminar is a lunch seminar where people bring a sack lunch and listen to a speaker. Some employers sponsor brown bag seminars for employees on a variety of topics, usually things of interest to the employee.

When I worked in the Fortune 500, two of the brown bag seminars I remember were on vacation planning and financial planning. These were led, as one might guess, by a travel agent and an investment advisor. The company bought soft drinks and the seminar leaders gave out a door prize and an advertising premium.

If you can swing an invitation to lead a brown bag seminar, you get 20 to 30 minutes in front of a group of prospects. Who wouldn’t want that?

You might wonder, 20 to 30 minutes of what? What will I say? What do I talk about?

Think of three to five questions you hear from your customers. For example, plumber might get questions about tankless water heaters. An air conditioning contractor might receive questions about energy efficiency. A pool contractor might encounter questions about salt water pool systems. An electrician might encounter uncertainty about compact fluorescents.

Each question represents a potential brown bag seminar…

Plumber: “Everything You Wanted to Know About Tankless Water Heaters”

A/C: “How to Cut Heating Costs This Winter”

Pool: “Should You Consider a Salt Water Pool?”

Electrical: “Amazing New Options With Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs”

The questions asked by your customers are perfect for a brown bag seminar. It’s what people want to know. Of course, you aren’t limited by things customers ask about. You can add topics people should ask about, but do not…

Plumber: “What’s In Your Water?”

A/C: “Is Your Filter Making Your Home Uncomfortable?”

Pool: “How to Add a Fountain to Your Pool”

Electrical: “What Are Brown Outs, Why They’re Increasing, and Why You Should Care”

You can find other topics by perusing your trade magazines and looking for hot industry issues that may not be on the consumer’s radar…

Plumber: “Should You Buy an Ultra Low Flow Toilet?”

A/C: “What The Refrigerant Phase Out Means”

Pool: “New Pool Safety Requirements”

Electrical: “New Exterior Lighting Design Solutions for Your Home”

Coming up with three to five seminar topics should be no problem. Approach each topic with an eye towards education, not sales. You do not need to sell. Your mere presence is self-promotional.

To make a seminar more fun and memorable, come up with a way to involve one or more people from your audience in a hands on demonstration. Bring a (new) toilet and plunger to teach the proper technique for clearing a stoppage using a volunteer from the audience. You aren’t reducing the need for your company by teaching people how to clear a stoppage. You’re ensuring the audience members think of you when they can’t clear one.

Bring an unusual tool, like an infrared camera, for people to play with. Everyone will have fun using it to show body temperature like the Gatorade ads. Let people play, but then show how it can find air infiltration in a building, identify electrical parts before they fail, identify roof leaks, and so on.

Bring things homeowners don’t usually see, like a condemned furnace heat exchanger. Show them in detail how it failed, how the failure is detected, and why annual inspections are important.

Now that you’ve got a set of topics and some thoughts on how to present them, you’re ready to line up the seminars. Your best route will be through the human resources department. If the company is too small for an HR manager, it’s probably too small for a brown bag seminar.

Call the company and ask for the HR manager. Ask if the company provides brown bag seminars. If not, briefly describe them and probe for interest. Offer to drop by and spend a few minutes with him or her planning a seminar.

Some will be receptive to the idea. Some won’t. If the HR manager rejects the concept, it’s not a rejection of you. It’s the sign of an old school, unenlightened HR manager. Schedule a callback in a year when there might be someone else in the HR role.

Once you win over the HR manager and lead your first brown bag seminar, leverage it for future opportunities, starting with the HR manager. Ask the manager if she can recommend other companies or people to call. If the manager is a member of the Society for Human Resource Management, she might know a number of HR managers in the area.

And don’t forget the leave behinds. While the seminar should be educational, you can leave promotional material. At the very least, leave refrigerator magnets. You might also give the audience members gift certificates (greater intrinsic value than a “coupon”).

A month after the seminar, follow up with the HR manager to see if you can offer the company an employee discount.

5. Create a Community Information/Resource Guide for New Residents and Give It to Realtors

Even in recessionary markets, people move. As a small business owner, you may stay put. That doesn’t mean your customers will. Ours is increasingly a transient society.

New homeowners in a community have to build their contacts and connections from scratch. They leave behind their referral networks. Sometimes it’s not that the new homeowner doesn’t know who to call, he doesn’t know anyone to call.

So help. Create a listing of all of the government and community services a new homeowner could need. Provide websites and phone numbers. This includes everything from the State Department of Motor Vehicles for drivers licenses and vehicle registration to the local pound for pet licenses. List the branches of the library, the public pools and parks, tennis courts, schools, etc. It’s easy to come up with quite a list.

Now add basic services. This includes electricity, water, trash, gas or oil, phones, hospitals, etc. Some are municipal. Some are private.

Next, add essential service businesses. List two or three leading companies for each category, except one. Which one? Yours of course.

Add restaurants, retail, and entertainment. Add key community events and dates.

You should wind up with a useful guide. Make sure you note your sponsorship of the guide on the front and back. Make room to add a newcomer’s coupon with your company. Print stacks of the guides and give them to area realtors to pass out to new homeowners.

Assemble an electronic version for your website, calling it a community links page. Ask every business you link with to reciprocate. This will boost your ranking in the search engines, reason enough.

© 2008 Matt Michel

1 comment:

  1. This means that the person you are calling must have the potential interest in the product, you know that this person has a buying pattern that would elude you to this fact, this person is excited by new products - all combining to give a magic formula that should yield you the time necessary to make your sale and convince them. Seminars for marketing provide more information on marketing of new products.