Marketing On The Cheap: Speak Out!
No matter what business you are in, you probably have something to sell. Furthermore, if you have something to sell, you have something to say. So say it to as many people as possible, and don't wait for them to come to you. You need to go to them. Take your business, your product and yourself, either directly or indirectly, out of the office or store and onto the local speakers' circuit. Don't have one in your area? Think again.
In another article (See "Marketing On The Cheap: Become a Joiner") I wrote about joining a service club to get exposure for you and your business. Those same organizations are always looking for speakers. Most, if not all, Lions, Kiwanis, Rotary and a number of other service clubs have programs during their regular meetings. They are always looking for speakers on any variety of subjects of interest.
Regardless of what business you are in, you can develop a program to fit the needs of those organizations. However, you don't want to develop a program that is a blatant and direct sales pitch. You'll have to develop a program that is somewhat indirect.
If you're in the insurance business, you probably don't want to do a 30-minute program on why everyone needs life insurance. Instead you may want to consider developing a presentation on ways small businesses can save on their worker's comp insurance. You may also want to think of developing a program that has nothing to do with insurance at all. A few years back a local insurance agent became the talk of the local "rubber chicken circuit" when he returned from a hunting trip to China. He put together an remarkable slide show that included incredible shots of the local culture and scenery, but it included absolutely nothing about insurance at all. Of course, he and his business were listed on hundreds of agendas and program guides and mentioned during every introduction.
I served on our local arts council years ago. Part of their responsibility was offering input into the County and City Art in Public Places programs. On a cross-country vacation trip which I took, I made sure I visited a large number of sites that had remarkable sculptures and other works of art in public places. After returning home and putting on a program for the Arts Council, my phone started ringing off the hook with requests for the program at all the local service clubs and other organizations. I did the same thing when I served on the board of directors of the Museum of Flight in our area. In my two trips around the speakers' circuit neither subject had a thing to do with the business I was in. Yet, I made lots of contacts, got a ton of exposure and had a lot of fun, not to mention all those free rubber chicken lunches!!
If you don't consider yourself a very good speaker, not to worry. Pre-record your presentation. With all of the fancy audio-visual equipment there is out there, today anyone can come off sounding like a world-class orator. You may also want to consider hiring a professional to voice your presentation. My company was hired at one time to put together a presentation for a company promoting an affordable housing project. I hired a local television personality to do the voice over. Once his distinctive voice was recognized, it gave instant credibility to our presentation. My name and the name of my company were listed on the program during the introduction, and I handled the question and answer period at the end. Other than that I didn't have too much to do, beyond showing up, setting up and turning on the audio-visual equipment.
Make sure you include some sort of hand out to go along with whatever kind of presentation you do, even if it's just some sort of imprinted premium like a pen or a keychain. These sort items, as opposed to business cards, are less likely to find the trash can before the receiver leaves the building.
Other speaking opportunities you should look into include your local college. Most of them have some sort of adult classes. I had a number of programs I did in our local community college. I made class presentations of 1-2 hour duration and in one case did a 2-week how-to presentation every semester. These were all adult classes and provided tremendous exposure to the exact market I was aiming to reach.
Your local chamber of commerce may also offer any number of speaking opportunities. They may sponsor business conferences or trade shows. I didn't like setting up the standard booths at these sorts of events myself, but rather preferred to be a presenter or do a demonstration of some sort. You might even consider leading the discussion in a breakout group. This will get your name in most, if not all, of the pre-event promotional materials and offers a higher level of exposure and credibility.
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