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Help, Our Public Seminar Response Rate Is Too Low! (Part II: How To Succeed Anyhow).

No bonanza is forever. Especially in the volatile public seminar field.

A hot topic scores big -- and you're awash with enrollments. Then topic fatigue and copycat competitors suck all of the joy out -- and you're back knocking yourself out just to get one enrollment out of every 2000 pieces mailed.

Smart public seminar companies make money ANYHOW.

Some time ago, we worked with a public seminar company that cheerfully budgeted more than $1200 to attract an enrollee to a $400 two-day workshop. Why? Because they knew that each enrollee was worth, on average, more than $10,000 to them over the long haul.

In fact, most shrewd public seminar companies spend more landing an initial enrollment than the price of tuition. Then they cultivate that new customer for all they are worth. They understand that growing the order is the key to sustainable public seminar success. Here's how they do it.

A. Upsell Course Enrollments into a Curriculum Sale

The days when a sharp seminar promoter could turn a quick buck on disjointed stand-alone events are pretty much gone.

Today it pays to develop your course offerings as a curriculum path so that the cost of attracting first time enrollees can be offset by a stream of follow on attendance. To overcome the natural tendency for individual enrollees to see learning as a one-time event, try adding professional certification and accreditation. This can be a powerful reenlistment inducement -- especially if the certification or accreditation is valued by employers in making hiring or promotion decisions.

B. Cross Sell Additional Learning Or Reference Materials

Public course enrollees have demonstrated a powerful interest in self-development. So don't limit yourself to a classroom learning response.

Some large-format public course promoters realize nearly as much in back-of-the room book sales as they do in tuition. Books are also an excellent cross sell item if you are a facility-based public seminar provider with space you can use as a book store.

Also consider offering e-learning or other technology-based training formats as an add-on to classroom attendance. This can be done at the moment of enrollment, during class breaks, or (less desirably) as a follow-on once enrollees have returned to the office. If attendees are concerned about corporate approval of add-on learning materials purchases, consider offering purchases on approval, with bill me later terms.

And let's not overlook that public seminars can be a lucrative cross sell item for magazine and newsletter publishers, for trade associations and for community colleges. Growing the order is a worthwhile endeavor no matter which way you come at it.

C. Turn Individual Enrollments into Corporate Engagements

Many public course attendees have decision-making authority well above the cost of their own tuition. So follow that honeybee back to the hive.

Consulting companies have long used public course events as a loss leader to showcase their expertise. Impress a highly placed attendee at a $995 event and you could be looking at a $250,000 corporate reengineering project.

Even if a seminar participant lacks the clout to adopt your services corporate-wide, there's still excellent mileage in wooing them as a referral and proof source. So always ask attendees who's in charge of in-company training and see if they'd be willing to help pave the way for your private course or courseware salespeople.

Two words to the wise. Don't let corporate follow-on engagements just happen by accident. And do calculate the value of each attendee in terms of incremental profit flow through stemming from follow-on business. If you can't measure the value of follow-on business, there's always a risk you may abandon your public seminar efforts as "too much trouble" and "unprofitable" -- like one company we ran into who realized too late that public seminars were an unappreciated, but
indispensable cog in their corporate selling machine.

D. Expand to a Conference Model

Conferences offer the benefit of multiple revenue streams -- augmenting attendee tuition with exhibitor fees.

Consider moving from a public seminar to a conference model if you are in a topical, rapidly changing field where your audience is as much interested in news and information as learning -- and where you have the wherewithal to blend it all together. Also, be sure your audience is commercially attractive to an identifiable exhibitor/advertiser base.

A conference may also attract a broader cross section of attendees -- particularly senior execs who prefer to learn in a smorgasbord setting with plenty of opportunity to determine their own agenda.

E. Cash in on List Rental Revenue

Each time you rent out an attendee name you're looking at incremental revenue of as much as 15 cents. Sounds pitifully small, I know. But consider this:

Paid seminar lists are attractive for any number of B2B offers. So you can well wind up renting an attendee name 20x - 50x/year over an average of a 5-year term. That's as much as 250 x 15 cents, or $37.50 in almost pure profit. And if you choose to also make e-mail addresses available (in an opt-in way of course) that profit number can easily double.

Many public seminar businesses are delighted with a 10% profit margin. If you are selling $1000 seminars, list rental income can easily contribute 20% - 30% of that.

So be sure that you are aggressively promoting your attendee file -- or hire a professional list manager and hold their feet to the fire. Charge a substantial premium for your names. Remember, as high-ticket buyers they are worth far more than run of the mill compiled lists.

If you heretofore have avoided renting your attendee names, you are missing out on a substantial incremental income source. What's more, you will begin to find that other list owners will rethink renting to you. Concerned about sharing customer information with direct competitors? Don't be -- you needn't rent to anyone you don't want to.

Get all of these follow on revenue sources kicking in and you'll be looking at customer lifetime value far in excess of that initial public course tuition. Here's another way to look at it. To win in the public seminar game, be the provider who can afford to lose the most on the initial sale.

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