by Dan S. Kennedy
The “fill the seats” business looks a whole lot easier and more profitable than it really is, but there is one best way to make very, very good money from promoting and hosting seminars, which I will direct you to here.
Obviously there’s a lot more to the seminar business than I can touch on in a brief article, so I’m going to sharply narrow the focus, and only tell you how to make $100,000.00 to $1,000,000.00 or even more, net profit, from a single two or three day event.
First, though, just a bit of relevant background: I’ve been promoting and marketing many different kinds of seminars for my own companies and hundreds of clients since the late 1970’s. I have “grey hair in the business.”
At one point, I created the largest integrated seminar and publishing company in chiropractic and dentistry, and put on hundreds of seminars for doctors throughout the U.S. and Canada. I consulted with (and, for 9 consecutive years, spoke on) the biggest public seminar tour of all time, the SUCCESS events, 25 to 27 a year, with audiences of 10,000 to 35,000, featured on ’60 Minutes’ and ‘20/20.’
Last year, I created the marketing to put thousands in different high-priced, niche boot camps, including one with Donald Trump and myself as featured speakers. And I am routinely paid $100,000.00 and up to guide a client through the entire process of creating and marketing such an event.
Point being…I’ve been involved in just about every kind of seminar business, including free, low price, high price, huge audience, tiny audience, marketed with sales troops on the street, newspaper, magazine, TV, radio and direct-mail.
(*Incidentally, my speaking colleague of those 9 years on the SUCCESS tour, the legendary success speaker Zig Ziglar and I are re-uniting on one event, one time, and it is possible to get tickets to it FREE OF CHARGE, while supplies last. You’ll find coupons in my new No B.S. books, info at the books’ site www.NoBSBooks.com. I mention this as a special courtesy to IMA members, as these tickets will disappear fast.)
As I said, the fill the seats business isn’t as easy or lucrative as it looks. A lot of people count heads, multiply times registration fee and erroneously conclude that seminar promoter’s making a killing, and I can certainly do what I see him doing! Ah, but it’s what you don’t see that matters most. In most seminar situations, it actually costs more to fill the seats plus put on the seminar than is paid in registration fees, so the promoter is “negative” ie. in the hole when the doors open, then making up that loss/investment and seeking his profit from on-site sales of books, tapes, coaching programs, other goods and services.
Filling seats via media advertising, for example, is very, very costly and risky. Some of my clients who use newspaper, radio, TV and direct-mail to fill seats at “free introductory seminars”, where they sell an actual seminar, routinely spend $200.00 to $300.00 per person to get them into the room.
In the mid-80’s, when I was putting doctors into such seminars solely through direct-mail, we were incurring costs of about $80.00 per body. That means, to fill five evening “introductory seminars” with 100 at each, a promoter might lay out $40,000.00 to $100,000.00 or more before selling anything or taking in a penny.
There are similar risky economics involved with just about every other type of seminar, including multi-day conferences sold by direct-mail, or public events sold by media advertising without the free intro step. Thus, the businesses typically require pretty deep pockets, nerves of steel and considerable skill.
However, make no mistake, this can be a hugely profitable business. I have one client who did nearly $25-million dollars from his public seminars in 2005, in 60 cities, seats filled by direct-mail, e-mail and voice broadcast. In 2005, I worked with 18 different clients and their seminars, and the worst had net profits of over $280,000.00 for a weekend. The best: over $3-million…also from one weekend!
As I mentioned, most people take big risks and you are often in the negative before the seminar begins just to fill seats. The good news is that there are three ways to escape that common but daunting formula and be front-end profitable.
First and foremost, the best way is to develop and promote a special multi-day seminar, conference or ‘boot camp’ only for your own sufficient-in-size group of established customers or members, who have previously purchased information products from you, get a newsletter or monthly audio product from you, have an active relationship with you, and, of course, for whom you have all means of contact and permission to use it; mail, e-mail, fax and phone.
These are the situations most of my clients have, and where I do the most work. Here, the economics are extremely favorable. For example, consider Client-A’s actual numbers (name withheld on request): in 2005, he had 4,200 “members” ie. customers buying his books, tapes, courses, tele-seminars, etc., and about 9,000 on his free e-zine list.
By marketing the seminar only to these groups, he was able to do a lot of quality marketing at a modest cash outlay. To the 4,200, we sent a very elaborate sales letter, brochure, audio CD, DVD package costing about $15.00 delivered, followed by three first class mailings at about $2.00 each, $6.00 total, plus e-mails and faxes – in total investing less than $90,000.00, and doing so on a group very, very likely to be responsive.
To the bigger e-mail list, we only e-mailed, driving to a web site. We sold to 15% of the main list: 630, plus another 40 or so from the e-mail list, at an average registration fee of $1,700.00: totaling $1,139,000.00 in advanced registration fees.
Understand, you’d never come close to 15% sign up rate from a cold list, a rented list; only from your own customer list. From a cold list you’d be lucky to beat 1.5%, not 15%! So, he was over One Million Dollars in front end profit going in; on site profits were additional. Keep in mind two things: this requires prior build-up of a multi-faceted information business, and this is the “big payday” yield from such an asset. Second, the total marketing campaign extended over months…not weeks.
As a big thumb rule, no less than 5% to as many as 20% of the active, happy customers of an information marketer can be induced to pay from $1,000.00 to $5,000.00 to attend a multi-day event constructed just for them. So, if you want virtual certainty of having, say, 50 to 100 at your seminar, you need as few as 250 to no more than 1,000 active customers in the “herd” of your information marketing business. And there are, by the way, information marketing businesses that run at break-even or even slight losses continuously, with everything else they do, just to set up several of these big payday events each year.
So you may see somebody running full-page magazine ads or doing a lot of direct-mail selling some kind of information product and assume, since the ad runs repeatedly, he’s making money running the ads – but be dead wrong with your assumption. Instead, he may be losing money on every sale made by those ads to get customers, yet again losing money on the second sale, on the entire product catalog business, and on the newsletter business, all as an investment in creating sufficiently sized groups of active customers for million dollar profit events.
Second, is to utilize joint ventures, affiliate programs, and similar arrangements to, in essence, get other marketers with established customers to fill seats for you, at zero out of pocket cost or risk. Typically in these cases you pay these partners up to 50% of registration fees and onsite sales.
Third, get sponsors and exhibitors to underwrite part or all of the costs of marketing and/or hosting the seminar. Many seminar promoters neglect this area of opportunity, yet it can provide a substantial sum, cobbled together from a lot of little things. For example, people or companies will pay to place items in attendees’ :goodie bags”, have exhibits, be featured on web sites and in printed or recorded materials that promote and support the seminar, to ‘host’ coffee breaks or meals, and to get time slots to make presentations or be interviewed on stage.
The savviest seminar promoters use all three of these strategies to reduce out of pocket investment, more importantly to reduce risk, and to maximize profits.
For more information about making money in the information marketing business, visit www.Info-Marketing.org. If you woould like to purchase information products, visit www.IMAProductShowcase.com.