By Steven Van Yoder
When Robert Middleton moved his marketing consulting practice, Action Plan Marketing, to Palo Alto, California several years ago, he started his business from scratch. He had left his well-established client base several miles away and now had to find strategies to generate new clients.
Because Middleton had always spoken to promote his business, he turned to public speaking with a vengeance. He researched local organizations whose members comprised professional business owners, his target clientele. He called chambers of commerce, business groups and others likely to be interested in his three-hour marketing workshop.
Within a few months, Middleton had spoken at over a dozen organizations, establishing his reputation as a marketing expert for professional service firms. He quickly became a known entity, having personally introduced his business and credentials to hundreds of prospects.
Better yet, Middleton's speaking strategy helped him land all the business he could handle in a relatively short time period.
Over the course of sixteen talks, he averaged one new client each time. Today, the seminars he conducts at business groups and, increasingly, teleconferences promoted through his web site generate more than 50 percent of his business.
Speaking Is Selling
Many business people never consider standing in the front of their buying public to share professional wisdom. If you're one of them, you're missing the boat.
Speaking is a marketing strategy you can immediately embrace to get in front of potential customers. Speaking puts you within handshaking distance of your best prospects, many times helping you close sales before you leave the room.
By speaking regularly you can end the uncertainty of knowing where your next client will come from. Speaking can help you reach dozens, and sometimes hundreds of your best prospects every time. Speakers report that speaking regularly continuously fills their prospect pipelines, ensuring a steady stream of new clients and customers.
Speaking is effective because it showcases your knowledge before groups of people who eagerly show up to hear it. Your prospects may tune out advertising, but they'll pay attention to your talk because it presents your knowledge in polished form to people who think it will help them.
Speaking gives you tremendous visibility and credibility that increases over time. Whenever you are in the front of a room, you get noticed. People will remember who you are and what your business does. The more people see you speak and see your business name, the more successful people think you are.
Speaking gives prospects a taste of what you offer in a non-threatening environment. When they are in a room full of people, they feel comfortable. There's safety in numbers. They do not feel the sales pressure of a one-on-one meeting. It's also low risk, as chances are, they didn't pay as much to hear you speak as it would cost to hire you.
Get On The Program
You don't have to be a seasoned speaker to put speaking to work for your business. If you're willing to speak for free, you'll find that there are more outlets available than you'll know what to do with.
"If you can get up there and do a decent job you will immediately position yourself as an expert in the minds of an audience," says business coach, author and professional speaker Caterina Rando. "You only have to be 'decent' to make an impact. Even though speaking can be scary at first, anybody can find groups to speak to and master the basics of giving a good speech."
Choose the right topics
Before you contact an organization about speaking, create sample talk descriptions with catchy titles. For example, a financial planner could avoid generic descriptions like "Planning Your Retirement," and use a more snappy title like "Enjoying Your Gold Years On A Champagne Budget".
Targeting speaking opportunities
Once you are clear about your topic and its benefit to the audience, make some calls and offer yourself as a speaker. Here are ideas of where to look for a free podium. Many of these groups need speakers all the time.
- Chambers of Commerce
- Service Clubs
- Industry Specific Associations
- University Extensions
- Professional Associations
Getting the most out of your speech
The promotional value of your talks goes beyond your time on the podium. Often, when you speak to a group, the group publicizes the event. Many people who do not attend the event will still read the information, or will hear about you from other attendees, and may give you a call.
Consistency is the big thing. Getting out there and speaking on a regular basis keeps your pipeline full of prospects. When you're done, put a follow up mechanism in place, even if it's a simple mailing or newsletter. If you keep in contact with people who've heard you speak, you get more long-term leverage from your efforts.
Steven Van Yoder is the author of Get Slightly Famousâ¢. He teaches small business owners how to attract more business with less effort by becoming a mini-celebrity in your field. Visit http://www.getslightlyfamous.com to claim your FREE Slightly Famous Marketing Plan Workbook.