Marcus H., Quality Home Improvements
A: Marcus: You are absolutely right to investigate this option! Seminars can be a great way to get leads for your business, but as many contractors have found, there is a lot of preparation and thought that has to go into them on the front end.
We currently have about a dozen clients effectively using seminars to generate leads for their businesses and, after fine tuning and testing, they all follow very similar formats. The following is information we compiled from them with their best advice on how to focus and launch your seminars.
Decide how often you want to offer seminars. The first step to planning a schedule for seminar offerings is to decide how many days each month and each year you want to devote to giving presentations. This will be dictated by the size of your territory and the number of communities in the area as well as your own schedule.
Determine, realistically, how often you want to give presentations and identify a corresponding number of communities. In order to become “known” in a community, you will want to give presentations at least twice a year on different topics. If you plan to give two presentations each month, you can, realistically, reach twelve communities each year. Obviously if you want to stick to your small town, twelve communities will be a stretch but in any suburb or metropolitan area, you will be able to carve out this number easily.
Define your ideal audience. Determining which communities you will target will depend entirely on your ideal audience. Decide whether you want to segment customers based on location, community organization or some other factor. Our two clients who offer weekly seminars, one in the Washington, DC area and one in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area, both segment their communities based on public and private high schools.
Based on your ideal market and how you divide your communities, your seminars can be held in elementary, middle and high schools (public or private), country clubs, community organizations or even private homes.
While our clients started out thinking that local showrooms and cabinet shops were the best place to meet their customers, they have all since realized that the best place to meet with customers is where they already are or already plan to be.
Don’t shoot in the dark. Don’t be the spammy contractor who elbows their way into a community where they have no ties. Whether you get your foot in the door through friends, family or previous customers, having a connection within a particular community segment allows you and your prospective attendees to feel more at ease.
Narrow the topic. Suring each seminar, discuss one type of home improvement. Whether you go with kitchen remodeling, roofing or additions, make sure the focus is narrowed. When presenting to a community two or three times per year, you can vary the presentations that you offer but don’t overwhelm your audience.
Several of our clients recommend choosing the topic based on the time of year (additions in the early spring, roofing in the early fall and basement renovations in the winter).
Promote wisely. For every dollar you spend promoting a free seminar, the cost to acquire each customer rises. Use your resources within a community to have emails sent out to the community listservs, the school community and through invitations sent out by your connections within a community.
Create a short window for signups (1-2 weeks), offer a freebie upon signup and follow up before and after the seminar with email reminders. Promote via social media but be sure to make your event appealing to the community as a whole. Our clients have offered wine tastings immediately following presentations as well as other opportunities for community socialization.
Keep your presentation time to a minimum. Cover the topic thoroughly and succinctly and be prepared to follow up. As the presenter, be sure to ask for questions at the end of the presentation and make yourself available for questions after the presentation during designated social time.
Our clients strongly recommend making this a social activity within the community where your presentation is just part of a social event. You garner good will within a community and offer an enjoyable and memorable experience. This also allows you to get more people in the door.
Whether you provide material to potential customers or sign them up on the spot, be sure that you have a way to follow up after your presentation. Send each attendee (or couple) individual emails and be sure that you have permission to follow up with them moving forward.
Remember that your seminars may not convert attendees immediately but they are an important way for you to garner good will and build up a community around your business.