Marketing is the one area of business where everyone seems to think they know what they are talking about. But leveraging speakers at live events may well change what you think you know about how marketing works.
It seems like marketing is unique in this regard. Nobody hand-waves over finance, accounting, operations management, or research and development. Marketing is often an afterthought, and people who haven’t studied it often dismiss it. Writing for the Just Marketing Blog, Niraj Dawar explains why marketers get no respect:
The CEO wonders how you spend your time, the CFO wonders how you spend the company’s money, the sales folks think you’re too conceptual, too abstract, and not sufficiently focused on the immediate business, and the production and supply chain guys just think you’re full of hot air. So, we have a slight image problem. And where there is smoke…
… there must be mirrors.
So why does this happen? I think in part it’s because people confuse marketing and advertising. They are both intended to generate interest in your product, but an ad is a paid tool used by a marketer. It’s a flyer, a radio spot, a graphic in a newspaper, or something else that is designed to tell people that you’re great.
But the other reason that people don’t understand marketing is they don’t understand the market. There is a huge network of people out there who have information, money, and the power to make decisions. When you give them new information and new choices to make, you can influence their behavior.
Author and speaker Heidi Cohen collected some great definitions of marketing.. My favorite is:
Marketing is the process by which a firm profitably translates customer needs into revenue. –Mark Burgess
Let’s compare two processes by which you can turn customer needs into revenue. Suppose you work for a bank, and you want more people to open accounts. One strategy is to offer a special promotion and announce it through advertising. Another ideas is to host community events and earn credibility by association.
The Process of a Sale
We all know how this works. The company decides to temporarily lower prices or provide other incentives. The bank offers extra low financing on car loans, or gives away a free toaster for new accounts. These programs are described on postcards that are sent out in the mail to a geographic area near the branch, or talked about on a television advertisement. The hope is that tens of thousands of people will be exposed to the campaign, and a few will decide to check it out in person.
The advantage to this approach is that you know that people who do come through are truly interested in whatever you’re offering. They want the service at the low price. And plus, countless more people will have at least heard of your bank. But the downside is that you’re spending a lot of money to acquire very few customers.
The Process of Sponsored Events
Instead of low, low, prices, what if the bank decided to keep their branch open later in the evening once a month for a special guest presentation? The market still needs to learn about the event, but this can be done through PR instead of advertising. The program can appear on community calendars and receive coverage through the local news. Since the branch lobby can only hold so many people, direct invitations can be made by email, phone calls, or social media. And since the event is an outside speaker (instead of a sales pitch) the bank earns more respect from the community.
The upside to a speaking event series is that you know who is interested because they have to RSVP. Plus, the bank’s sales team has a common topic of conversation for the follow up: whatever the speaker presented. The downside is that resources need to be spent in clumps. If you’re going to bring fifty people into your branch every month, you want to have the entire staff on hand to shake hands and meet the community.
Speakers Make The Difference
A community event with outside speakers is a completely different way to marketing your business. Whether you’re a bank, a law firm, a construction company, or any other organization, if you want your clients to meet your sales people, consider hosting these kinds of events.
You’ll build connections to the community and establish a higher level of credibility. And if you need help finding the right speakers and event coordinators, contact us. We’d love to help.