Monday, January 25, 2010

Will entrepreneurs attend my seminar?

A consultant I know emailed me the other day to ask my opinion of a workshop he is thinking of holding for small business. I figure his success will all depend on how well he markets it: small-business owners are normally hard to draw out to attend seminars. They're just too busy.

Which is one reason I often warn that the SME community is a "heartbreak market"

Here is the text of my reply:

Hi Jim. Great to hear from you.
As for your workshop idea, I don't know what to tell you.

The idea is very worthy, and this service much needed.
But will business sign up for it? I have no idea. A lot of people have lost their shirts putting on information seminars that small and medium enterprises could really benefit from. It's so hard to get this audience to come out. Regarding the entrepreneurs, they are very busy, and resent paying out a nickel if they don't have to. If they can find an excuse not to attend, they will.

If you go ahead with this, you should consider ways to get around this universal roadblock. For instance:

- Could you pitch it not to the business owner themselves, but to their technology, finance, sales or operations leads? Many owners would pay for others to go if it means they don't have to.
- Could you round up some sponsors and put it on for free?
- Could you reduce this to a series of 2- or 3-hour webinars that people could access for free on video or on the Web?

Whatever you decide, you need a robust marketing budget. You have to work hard to get people out, no matter how good the product is.

Hope this helps.


Canadian Entrepreneurs, leave a comment below if you think I'm wrong.


Richard said...

It sounds like the time commitment is the major issue here. I sell to small businesses and I've been considering different ways that I could build awareness by educating people; I prefer something that people can use at their own convenience. Maybe workshops aren't a good way to make initial contact in a case like this.

Rick Spence said...

Good point, Richard.
Ironically, I just met a person who runs non-profit training programs for entrepreneurs, and she says they are moving toward long-form modules.
This gives people more time to do homework, to actually practice/use the material, and to discuss it with other members of the group. Sounds like it also builds commitment.
After all, saying "I have no time for this" is usually code for, "I'm not sold on this idea."

Richard said...

Mental commitment is an important part too - it might be better to create a workshop that's highly focused on one key change or benefit and set a moderately high price for it. Then when someone is convinced they need it and pays the price they're a lot less likely to back down.

Sherri Garrity said...

I think it always comes back to marketing and what you've done before launching your event. If you've got a solid prospect list that you've shared lots of valuable free content with previously you can create almost a pent-up demand of people wanting the chance to learn from you in person. The coaching and small business training industry is massive and growing, so I don't think generalizations really work. There is lots of opportunity out there if you're clear on who your market is and you've got a strategic mix of offerings and marketing to support them.