Help, Our Public Seminar Response Rate Is Too Low! (Part I: Ten Commandments For Increasing It).
You're promoting a 3-day, $2,000 public seminar and you're looking for about 20 attendees. How many invitations do you send out?
If this were a wedding, you'd look for about a 70% acceptance
rate, so you'd send out 30 invitations in order to net the
20 you need. Then you'd order enough cake for 25 just in case
Aunt Tillie and her invalid sisters decide to attend.
Specifically, here are 10 criteria that make for full seminar rooms with minimal promotion efforts:
Put it all together and you could be looking at a response rate as high as 5% -- fully 100x the 1/2000 acceptance rate many promoters settle for. And we've seen it happen when a high tech company suddenly obsoletes its own software with a substantial version change then rushes out a seminar to help frantic customers cope. Especially when the technology provider is the one and only source for the essential upgrade training.
More realistically, you aren't going to be able to load all of the dice in your favor -- but you can still influence the shake of things.
Consider the following:
See what you can do to make your offerings a perfect 10. But
don't take success for granted -- even if you do succeed.
Because high public seminar promotion response rates can be
fleeting and difficult to sustain.
Questions you may have:
Q: What's with this one acceptance out of 2000 pieces mailed? I thought 2% was the typical direct mail response rate.
A: There is no such thing as a "typical mail response rate." It all boils down to how much can you afford to spend to acquire an inquiry or an order. The more you can afford to spend, the lower response rate you can settle for.
Q: What's all this direct mail stuff? Isn't the Web making direct mail obsolete?
A: Direct mail is an intrusive medium that confronts a prospect and commands action -- even if that action is to toss it out. Web promotion will not be noticed unless the prospect takes the initiative to punch in the URL. For the immediate future, savvy seminar marketers will need to use both channels in order to optimize their business results.
Q: How about e-mail promotion? What kind of response rates should we expect there? Will e-mail eventually knock snail mail out of the box?
A: Because of the issues of spam and confidentiality, many list owners will not release their customers' e-mail contact information (even though they are delighted to rent their mailing address!). Other list owners require stringent opt-in requirements that significantly limit the available e-mail promotion universe. E-mail contact information that is available is typically highly expensive and suspect as to quality. So, for the time being, e-mail promotion is most viable as a way of promoting to your own customer base. E-mail that is hot linked to a Web site would seem to combine the intrusiveness and completeness of superior direct mail promotion. But we still wouldn't advise abandoning direct mail by a long shot.
Q: How about professional certification? Won't that help improve promotion response to our seminar offerings.
A: In general, yes -- especially if certification is required to maintain professional standing, e.g. in the accounting and nursing fields. We would include this under Commandment II.
Q: Most of your 10 Commandments seem to bear upon the topic of the seminar and the target audience. Can't superior promotion also make a difference?
A: Having the right title, offer and audience can make a difference of as much as 100x in your seminar response rate. Rarely will your promotion copy and graphics make any more than a 2x difference.
Q: We're not in the public seminar business, and don't plan to be. Do your 10 Commandments apply to other education and training business segments?
A: For offers requiring initiative on the part of the learner, for sure. Less so for corporate mandated staples like supervision training, sexual harassment training, safety training, etc.