Founder and president of Sullivan Speaker Services, Vickie Sullivan's email signature reads: “Dare to Be Brilliant.” It’s a motto that Sullivan obviously takes to heart. She’s been helping her clients become brilliant speakers since 1987. Sullivan believes in the power of public speaking as a marketing tool. Here’s why:
Q: Why would a small biz marketer hire a speaker?
Sullivan: There are more opportunities to leverage than with direct mail or media buys (See above). The experience/education positions you beyond being a service provider into being an overall resource. Better yet, by sponsoring a speaker, rather than using your own people as speakers, there isn't the fear of "this is going to be a pitch" that is so prevalent now. Therefore, the info is considered more objective. This is a great tool for permission marketing.
Because you have an audience for longer periods, you have more opportunities to demonstrate your positioning. The audience leaves with THEIR impression on you vs. your telling them about your company/services. You are planting seeds for ongoing relationships.
Q: What are some things to avoid or look out for when hiring a speaker to speak to a small business audience?
Sullivan: Your choice of speakers reflects how you want to be perceived by the audience. I call this "demonstrating your positioning." For example, to demonstrate your positioning as cutting edge, you use a speaker that has cutting edge content.
Credibility and visibility is key here. You don't want a general motivational speaker unless they are a quasi-celebrity. The speaker needs to be a respected source of info that your target market already knows about. Visibility should be national -- the higher profile the better. Writing a book isn't enough. Make sure the speaker already has his/her own marketing momentum in your target market.
Be sure to check the speaker out. If you are sponsoring a keynoter, make sure their presentation skills are on par -- a boring speaker in this slot will kill you! (Presentation skills are like a clean house. No one really notices if you have them, but all hell breaks loose if you don't.) Most speakers have videos but don't depend on them. Ask your target market who's hot and who's not.
Q: OK, I've hired a great speaker -- now how do I specifically use them to market my product or service to small businesses?
Sullivan: There are two ways to use public speakers to market to small biz: a) Sponsor a speaker in an already established setting, such as an association event or private conference (such as Inc. magazine's conferences or Terri Lonier's SOHO summit) b) Create a "road show" event series (good for folks like Staples who have multiple locations)
There are three ways that hiring a speaker can bring added value: 1. You can leverage the appearance with more media coverage and PR 2. You can get more exposure to a conference with additional mentions and actual stage time (many conferences will let you introduce the speaker you are sponsoring. Also, a speaker can use you as an example or tell a "sponsor story."). 3. Speakers offer the target market an experience that can augment your branding, and can drive traffic to website and booth (free special reports at booth or on website).
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