How to Run a Successful B2B Workshops

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Last week I shared my thoughts as a business owner on the opportunity of running workshops to generate B2B leads. To delve further into the logistics and viability of developing workshops, I spoke with Eyob Yesus from Memphis Events (Sydney) to glean his insights on using workshops as a lead generation tool. If you’re considering this approach for your business, I’m sure you’ll find his insights and suggestions helpful.

How well do you think workshops and seminars work as a B2B lead generation tool?

Really well! They create opportunities by offering more information and engagement. However, this needs to be backed by a strong purpose, good planning, and valuable service offering.

What sort of results…conversion rates…have you witnessed in this space?

With solid content and service offering, a workshop can offer a, 4-6 people conversion out of 10.

Is there an optimum number of attendees or event frequency?

This depends on the service and product however a typical workshop size is 20-30 attendees. Frequency will depend on your capacity to deliver the workshops, and the products and service offering. For example, fast moving products can run 2-3times a week. Often the frequency of B2B workshops is around once a month for service based businesses, and the workshops might be offered in a different location each month.

What are the factors that most contribute to a successful workshop?

The two biggest ones are the value participants gain from having strong content and engagement at the workshop, and the marketing strategy to attract and execute the workshop. The workshop content must have value to begin with, and the marketing must convey that value clearly to the targeted audience.

I’d add that it’s really important to look at workshops as a long term strategy. Don’t be disappointed if your first one doesn’t go to plan, or doesn’t attract the number of attendees you had in mind. Feedback from your first few workshops will give you the opportunity to fine tune the material and presentation for better results. And if your workshop content is valuable to attendees, those attendees will spread the word for you, making it easier over time to attract attendees. So in terms of marketing an event, the first event is always likely to be the hardest and the most important.

How much marketing time should you allow for each workshop?

If you’re planning a first workshop, allow about 8 weeks for planning and marketing. You might need less marketing time once you’re well established and word of mouth and referrals assist you to fill your workshops faster.

So for a small B2B or professional practice owner who wants to set up and run a workshop, what’s it going to cost them to do that?

You can organise your own basic workshop for about $1000-1500. That’s assuming you’re preparing your own workshop content and marketing. The basics include room hire, seats, AV, and some refreshments like coffee, tea and biscuits. The marketing budget will often be $500 or less, and you might have some other minor costs associated with developing and printing your workshop material.

How do you market a workshop event?

In my experience, social media is by far the best way of doing this, particularly on a tight budget. But a marketing mix is ideal – use blogs, articles, print and social. Present it in different formats, to reach your audience at different places. Consider sending out an email to people you know who might be interested. Follow that up with a flyer about the event, and later a phone call.

What if you’re doing all that and not getting the signups?

If your workshop offers value and you’re conveying that well in your marketing, you’ll get signups! But you might not get as many as you want for your first event. As I mentioned earlier, don’t see that as a failure – the first event is a testing ground that will help you improve your approach, and if those first few attendees get value from the event, then the word of mouth process begins.

I’ve heard people say that you shouldn’t offer free workshops because the number of people who book tickets and don’t show up is high. Is that true?

I don’t necessarily agree with that. In my experience the numbers of no shows isn’t that different between paid and free events. It’s the value or offering that matters the most and your workshop ticket offering needs to be assessed according to your market.

So how to you decide whether to offer a workshop for free or charge for tickets?

It really depends on the value of what you have to offer at the workshop, and the level of competition in your industry. In many cases it won’t make sense to charge for tickets because competitors are offering free workshops. If you are going to sell tickets, then you have to be able to clearly demonstrate the value to get bookings.

In the most successful lead generation events you’ve seen, what was the single biggest factor that contributed to their success?

They were selling dreams, not simply products or services. They were tapping into people’s personal aspirations. Most of us have aspirations of wealth and financial freedom – if you look around you’ll notice a lot of free seminars available in that space! That’s because they’re very effective.

What about other effective event types?

Product demonstrations are also very effective. If you’re selling wine, you can hold wine tasting events. If you’re selling make-up, you can hold small make-over demonstration events.  Workshops and seminars relating to investing and buying homes are some of the most effective you see out there.

For those who aren’t confident in arranging an event, can they arrange for a company like Memphis Events to do the organising?

They sure can however they need to have a long term strategy when approaching an events management company as the costs may not be feasible for one off events. We do have a number of smaller separate services that people might find useful in those circumstances. We offer a ‘brainstorming session’ where we work on developing your event strategy and direction. Cost wise that’s usually around $1000-1200, so it’s a good option for understanding your market, laying down a foundation for your event and understanding what works and what doesn’t work for your market.

The idea of running workshops is growing on me, but I’m not at all comfortable on the podium. Should I bring in someone I know will do a better job than me, or just get over it and make more effort to improve my skills?

Understanding what you can deliver at event is critical. There is a method to presenting and it would be good if you can get some advice on this if you are not confident in delivering the presentation. On the other hand, if you can do it yourself, that’s probably going to be the best way to deliver the presentation. There’s also nothing wrong with having someone else do it for you, but if you decide to do that, be sure to choose someone connected to your industry. Even the most engaging professional speaker isn’t going to sound authentic if they have a limited understanding of what they’re talking about, and they won’t be able to easily answer questions.

Do you have any advice on preparing the content for your workshop?

You have to understand your target audience very well. Then aim to have a strong and relevant content with, a focus on engagement. Your message should be clear and well defined, the speaker should be engaging in presentation style, and there should be opportunities for the audience to engage. You want the audience to give you their full attention, or they’ll miss your message!

Well that’s given me more food for thought, and I hope it’s given other business owners some too. Achieving 4-6 conversions out of 10, and at a cost of $1000-1500 per event, would make it an exceptionally good lead generation strategy for my content agency, and I suspect for many B2B services. For me, the next hurdle will be finding the time to think through the workshop topic ideas now cluttering up my head…

It’s probably a good thing I’m currently a little obsessed with organising and structuring my time to get more done and increase the amount of time I have for thinking and planning. In fact, I’ve scheduled in time to write a little something on that topic next week!