The Marketing Word | Differentiation Marketing

Death to Sell-a-Thons?

I received two separate reports of an internet marketing event that took place this last weekend.  Though saying it took place is being generous.  The promoter was expecting 800 people.   He revised his numbers to 400 the week before.  The actual count was under 30; probably under 20.  Was the event promoter just not good at his job?   I have seen this happen to other promoters, too.  Is it a sign of the times?  Possibly.  A combination of both? Maybe.

Twice I have seen events labeled as "Expos" fall flat on their face.  (If an event can fall flat on its face.)  What's the problem with the word expo?  Nothing, if you're putting on an expo.  But think of the way that audiences participate in expos.  They come and go at whatever time, maybe they have a schedule and have a few events that they will make a point to see.  But for the most part, an expo involves wandering through aisles of booths with various demonstrations going on at all times.

The problem that these two promoters had was that they were putting on Sell-A-Thons.  You know the event:  Four speakers a day, all giving a 90 minute talk with an upsell at the end.  The price of admission is low in the hopes of filling the room and letting the speakers sell to the audience.  There's nothing wrong with a Sell-A-Thon if you know what you are heading into from the get-go.  I have picked up a lot of useful information, some great contacts and been exposed to some terrific speakers with truly worthwhile products.  But as a promoter, you really need to get the butts in the seats from 8:30 in the morning til around 6:00 at night.  An expo is a walking around event; a Sell-A-Thon is a butt-in-seat event.

This past weekend's event was called a "Summit".  That sounds like a pretty high level meeting.  But anyone who has been to more than three events knows a Sell-A-Thon when they see one.

Which leads me to some of the problems I see in seminar marketing in general.  (That was a long way around, wasn't it?)

First of all, stop insulting your prospects' intelligence.  If it's a Sell-A-Thon, man up and tell it like it is.  If you are worth your salt as a promoter, you will be able to add enough value to the event to entice people in.

Second, people who go to opportunity seminars (business opportunity, internet marketing, etc.) for the most part, don't have extra money to spend.  That's why they are looking at business opportunities.  That means you should put your event someplace that is cheap and easy to fly into with low price hotel rooms.  (If you are marketing to the super-affluent, reverse everything I just said.)

Third, people have a hard time finding time these days.  A three-day event really cuts into a person's week.  Don't believe me?  Go to a three-day event and count heads on Friday then count heads on Saturday. Count how many people leave early on Sunday.

Fourth, and most importantly, people need value for their time.  They are scrambling to pay the bills, to keep ahead of inflation, to keep up with the world.  Just as they are tight about spending their money, they are even tighter with spending their time.

There's nothing wrong with Sell-A-Thons.  Promoters make money on them every day and people buy good products that they might not have known about.  But try packing some real content into the day.  Give people more than they expected.  The days of people throwing their credit cards down are gone, at least for the time being.  Whether you are selling seminar seats or gift baskets, you have to stop blowing smoke up people's skirts and start giving them real value.

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  • Mike Gusler · 08/18/2010 at 7:13 am

    Great post, content is still king

  • Tara Jacobsen · 09/01/2010 at 3:26 pm

    I agree that there should be more honesty! I have gotten TONS of great info at sell-a-thons, knowing that my credit card will stay in my pocket. I have also seen too many people saying that they are going to sell something that is not even developed yet. Maybe everybody or their friends has been ripped off in the past and are not willing to go into debt to “make easy money”!

  • Bonnie Dye · 09/02/2010 at 4:42 am

    I think part of the problem is that some promoters keep marketing to the same people. I’ll attend and listen to a group of speakers I’ve heard before because I learn something new each time. But don’t fool yourself into thinking I’ll buy a slightly tweaked version of the product. Show me something really new.
    There are plenty of new butts out there to put in seats. Promoters, go out there and find them! Then I’ll show up and help make the room look more full, and we both win.

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