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Why Offer Free Events?

In the past we have discussed the importance of offering free events by  reasoning that events generate leads which in turn can generate enrollments.   Interestingly, many folks  tend to view event success based only upon the number of attendees and enrollments.  This is fair to be sure–particularly if one is hoping to use the event to fill tutoring slots or a class start.  But as fair as it is to measure event success in this way it is short-sighted.  Event registrations are arguably as important since they allow one an opportunity to engage potential clients for what could be a lengthy client life-span.

Event registrations are essentially leads—or inquiries.  Leads from events come in the form of registrations and registrations, whether they show up for the actual event or not, are viable prospects for follow-up. After all, someone took the time to either call or visit a website and register, right?    Therefore, even an event no-show has value.

In order to understand this value and, without going into too much detail, here is the lead landscape:  the test prep & tutoring industry is reliant upon a supply of willing clients.  It has also been commoditized to the point where discounts & deadlines permeate much of the promotional strategy.  Because of this, a sophisticated sales management strategy is in place with larger companies.

Things like lead pipelines, automated emails, and client acquisition costs are spoken of regularly.  Add in business dashboards and big data, and one pretty much has the ability to measure conversion rate, conversion time, and return on promotional investment.   The process becomes less about the product or service and more about algorithms and metrics. As dehumanizing as this may seem, it is both smart and logical and good companies engage in sound practices.

How then, do boutique companies compete?  Better yet, how do boutique companies compete in a non-dehumanizing (double negative intended) way?  Let’s first assume that the boutique product is exceptional and that the company’s personnel are bright, engaging, and affirming to students.   Next, lets assume that although the product and delivery is superior, the marketing and promotional strategy is drowned out by the web presence and dollars of larger players.  Finally, lets assume that when someone does call or email our boutique company and interact with the owner or staff, those prospective clients almost always enroll.  If this sounds familiar, it should; most of the companies with whom I have worked seem to have this dynamic in common.  This is typical;  boutique companies are often fueled by vision, are passionate about the product, and offer exceptional service.

Anyhow, the assumptions above tell us that:  the product is good, the word of mouth isn’t bad, and that when a meaningful client interaction occurs between company and prospective client–conversion is excellent.   The problem then becomes scaling the number of client interactions. Said differently, if we increase the number of leads (inquiries), then enrollments will increase.  So, how do we scale?

One solution is to simply interact with more prospective clients.  After all, conversion is strong once a client interaction occurs.  Therefore, we could argue that increasing the number of new client interactions becomes important.

Event strategy is one way to increase the number of new client interactions.  And here is where the magic can start to happen; rather than focusing on enrollments, focus on interactions.   This means that registrations, even when they don’t ultimately attend a free event, should be engaged.  This requires more attention and time but it lengthens the client life cycle and ultimately should decrease the cost to acquire new clients.  Once the paradigm is shifted from enrollment to engagement good things generally happen quickly.

Free events have the potential to provide a needed service, humanize the business, and ultimately expand one’s client base through relationship building.  Among the many marketing tactics in test prep & tutoring, events align well with ethical and value driven businesses.  Moreover, this alignment does not diminish their potential business impact.  If anything, it may enhance it. Although, a free event is one arrow in the quiver of promotional strategy, when done well, it may be the truest of the set.

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