The Marketing Word | Differentiation Marketing

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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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OK.  I'll admit it.  I'm jaded.  Cynical.  Bitchy.  All of the above. 

But I also call 'em like I see 'em.  And I have to tell you, I am really tired of the hype and B.S. coming from the speaker at the front of the room. 

It's called platform sales and it's a great way to market your product or service or yourself.  Don't get me wrong on that point.   Most of my clients come to me by seeing me speak at a live event (which is ever so much more fun than a dead event).  But I think it's time speakers stopped with the crap.  Crap like: 

Hand-Me-Down NLP:  "Perhaps many of you like me have tried many times to be successful."   Wow, I am so glad you scanned through NLP for Dummies while you were swilling your Starbucks Vente (which actually means "twenty") at Barnes and Noble.  "I was sitting in the audience, just like you are today, blah blah blah."   There is more to Neuro-Linguistic Programming than scattering a few trick phrases into your talk.  If you are going to use NLP, spend the time and money and learn what it is all about.  Clumsy NLP doesn't work.  Think nails on a chalkboard.

Tale of Woe:  Stories are powerful ways of relating a message, no doubt about it.  But it seems to me that every speaker who gets up to sell has to have been  1) raised by horrendous or neglectful parents; 2) raised by loving but dirt poor parents; 3) been down to his last eighty-seven cents when he sadly watched his car being repossessed in front of his wife, children and mother-in-law; and, of course, 4) lived in a van down by the river.   I actually watched one psychologist/personal coach do a 90 minute presentation where he laid out all his issues with his mother.  He left home when he was about 15 years old.  When I saw him, he was well over 60.  He had 45 years to resolve his issues and move on with his life.  Obviously, he hadn't.  I am thinking that this is not the guy I want as my mentor.  Get over it.  And stop sharing.  So you had a whacked out mother.   A lot of people did.  Suck it up and move on you baby.  He's wasted an entire lifetime and then he had the nerve to waste 90 minutes of my lifetime.  Just doesn't work for me.  Sorry. 

Touching the Audience:  I'd love to name a particular name here, but then I couldn't tell you all I want to.  Let's just say there is a male speaker who has an old school carny barker style and he likes to rest his hands on audience members' shoulders as he speaks.  He thinks he is demonstrating a "connection" to the audience.  I have actually seen him kiss audience members (male and female) to demonstrate that he loves them all.  One word:  Ewwwwwww.  First, the guy is creepy.  Second, he doesn't even like himself, so how could he possibly love others.  Third, some people don't like to be touched by strangers, even non-creepy ones.  Fourth, he's an asshole.  No.  Really.  Fifth, did I mention Ewwwwwww?  He may sell like a little banshee (and I have heard his trainings are actually great, full of content and he really likes to help people) but he would be so much better off leaving the Grecian formula pompadour and attitude behind.  That "Rich Jerk" style doesn't do it for me.  Which leads us to…

Look how rich I am!:  "I'm rich.  You're not.  You suck.  I'm great.  If you want to be rich like I am (and you are some sort of pinko commie loser if you don't want to), buy my course."  I have to rank this right up there with loudly berating a waiter because the food wasn't EXACTLY the way the high-maintenance jerk special ordered it.  If I have to put people down to elevate myself, I'm in deep kim-chee.  On another note, most of the guys putting up those pictures of themselves and their toys (and, insulting all the women in the room by including their trophy wife/girlfriend in those pictures) don't really have them.  How many times have you seen some guy or gal standing next to that rented Bentley in front of the rented mansion?  Puh-leeeeeze.   We know the house.  We know the car.  We know it's rented.  

Can I get an A-men?:  No, you can't.  I don't want to spend time shouting your fruity, stale catch-phrase back at you just so you can think the audience is "with" you.  And that includes all of you guys still using the Austin Powers "Yeah, baby."  It's obnoxious.   If you want to know if the audience is with you, see if they start filling in the words on their own.  Regurgitating is not learning. 

Shoulder Massage Train: "Everybody turn to the left and rub the shoulders of the person in front of you."  OK.  See touching the audience above.  Ewwwwww.  I don't want strangers giving me backrubs.  Take me to dinner first.  Hello!

Bottom Line:  All of these are effective means of connecting with an audience when used correctly.  My complaint is with the clumsy and stale ways that these sales techniques are applied.  Marketing is constantly shifting.  Our economy has taken a wild swing from a few years ago.  People are smarter and more sophisticated about marketing.  They can fact check and product check in seconds by going online.  Old school marketing is just that.  Old school.  And it isn't working in today's market atmosphere.  And here's a clue:  If this stuff isn't working for platform speakers anymore, then these same techniques that you are adapting to one-on-one sales situations won't work anymore either.  That's your heads up.  Take a look at the way you are presenting yourself and your product.  And start really relating to what your target market wants and needs.  Cuz tricks are for kids.

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February 2018
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