Money Talks: Market Your Business with Speaking Engagements

image_freedigitalphotos-microphoneWhen I launched my marketing consulting practice in 1999, I started mostly from scratch. Up to that point, I’d successfully landed clients via direct mail, cold calling and networking, but I was eager to embrace thought leadership marketing in place of expensive direct mail campaigns and meeting prospects via random networking at business events.

I embraced public speaking, contacting business groups and websites and offering to deliver talks and teleseminars on marketing, branding and public relations. It took some effort, but within six months I’d spoken 10 times. I saw that public speaking not only established my credibility but were much more effective in generating sales leads.

My talks are always designed to deliver practical information without sales pressure, and they almost always result in audience members approaching me afterward to inquire about my services. To this day, I average one new client each time I speak. In some cases, public speaking has delivered major opportunities.

In one case, I traced $200,000 of consulting work to a single teleseminar in 2003. This talk was a standard presentation on thought leadership branding strategies. It attracted a Personal Fame Program client, a large corporate consulting contract, and later, an invitation to speak at a conference which led to a consulting contract with a major US company.

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Why Professional Services Providers Should Publish A Book

image_freedigitalphotos-book glassesOne morning, you open your inbox and find several e-mails that will boost your business. There’s an invitation to speak at a national conference. A leading blogger asks for an interview, exposing your business to thousands of prospects. A trade publication editor lets you know that you’ve been featured in this month’s edition, which resulted from an earlier webinar.

Each of these opportunities came to you (instead of the other way around). Best of all, you enjoy the benefits of marketing without actually selling.

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Boost Sales by Sharing Your Expertise (pt 1)

(originally published in Costco Connection Magazine, September 2014)

image_Costco cover-sept 2014In 2009, Virginia-based River Pools & Spas was hit hard by the recession. The fiberglass-pool company depended on homeowners taking out second mortgages. But when the economy crashed, and orders fell from six a month to two, owner Marcus Sheridan knew he had to get creative. He made a bold move and slashed his $250,000 annual advertising budget and made his company’s online presence his top priority.

Sheridan embraced “content marketing,” transforming his website from an online brochure to a fiberglass-pool information resource. He created and distributed educational content his prospects sought while researching swimming pools online. He answered questions about pools in blog posts, informational videos and a free e-book titled, How to Buy a Swimming Pool the Right Way, From the Right Company, at the Right Price.

Most important, Sheridan changed his mindset from talking about his company to becoming a trusted adviser who put prospects’ needs first. “I used to say, ‘I build fiberglass pools,’ ” recalls Sheridan. “But as a content marketer, that changed to ‘We teach the world about fiberglass pools … and just happen to sell and install them.’ ” To demonstrate his commitment, he wrote a blog post listing the five best pool builders (competitors) in Virginia, and didn’t include himself.

Content marketing saved the company, helping River Pools & Spas become the most trafficked swimming pool company on the Web and one of the largest pool installers in the country. Not only did content marketing increase the company’s search engine traffic, it created prospects who were more likely to become paying customers. “People who consume our content are 80 percent more likely to become customers,” says Sheridan. “Content marketing is now our most effective sales tool.”

Teach, Don’t Sell

Content marketing centers on giving customers what they need. Rather than pushing products, content marketing helps brands earn trust and develop an emotional connection with prospects through educational blog posts, videos, case studies and how-to guides.

According to a 2011 chief marketing officer and consumer attitude study conducted by

The Content Council, a leading organization for branded content and content marketing in North America, consumers welcome content that helps them make informed buying decisions, with 61 percent more likely to buy from companies that produce useful content.

The most effective content marketing takes a journalistic approach. This means being objective and telling both sides of a story, showing prospects not only what to do, but when not to apply your advice, even if it means turning away a potential sale. Fill your content with real-world examples, data, studies and statistics. Interview other experts and find case studies that support your position.

Costco member JacksonWhite P.C., a Mesa, Arizona–based law firm, publishes daily blog posts on topics related to its law practice. According to its website data, the criminal law section of the firm’s website received over 65,000 visits in 2013, more than half coming from blog posts. The most successful content is very specific and features experts who focus on details of a particular law, says Lauren Witte, the firm’s associate director of marketing. That content reinforces the firm’s expertise.