I received a direct mail piece today about a free two day marketing seminar and a few minutes later, an email from another organisation offering me a free two day coaching course.
On the face of it, the offer of free training is very tempting for the simple reason that...
it is free.
But it's not really.
First you may not have to pay for the seminar, workshop or training course but you will pay for:
- travelling costs - some of thse seminars I see promoted are in central London and for me, that means an expensive train ticket.
- subsistence - you need to eat and drink while you are there but don't assume that these will be included. I've had to pay when I've attended expensive courses.
- accommodation - a two day course might mean one or two nights away from home depending on the start times and the distance you have to travel. Longer courses will mean more nights away.
But the true cost is still hidden.
That is the opportunity cost of what you would have been doing in the time taken travelling to and attending the free training course. Two days away from your business can hurt - especially if you are a one man band or work in a very small team. Even worse is time away from your family at the weekend.
The cost of going to a paid seminar may not be that much more than attending a free seminar when all the factors are taken into account and you may get much more choice about the content and timing.
There's No Such Thing As A Free Lunch
If you are offered a free marketing seminar or workshop, you can be sure that the company has an agenda.
That agenda is to get you excited and then to sell you an expensive programme.
Several psychological factors work in the favour of the seminar organisers:
- Authority - the speakers are literally put on a pedestal and made to appear more of an expert than they would be if you met them in one to one networking.
- Scarcity - if there are two hundred people at the event and only twenty places on the premium coaching course, then if you are tempted, you will feel an urgency to act.
- Social proof - as you see people rushing to the back of the stage to sign up, you get confirmation that a) it is an attractive offer and b) it turns the scarcity factor up a notch - suddenly there are only nine places left and several other people have started to move.
The more subsidised the cost, the more you can expect a strong pitch to be included with the presentatioons packed with subtle NLP based commands to get you to act.
This is the time share marketing model which is used to sell over-priced accommodation in a hyped up environment. I know some people who have an iron will and enjoy taking advantage of the freebie accommodation and food and take great pleasure in resisting. I know others who have to say No because they can't afford it.
But I also know people who have been persuaded and then regretted it.
You can expect to be pitched at and the more speakers there are, the more times you may be pitched. Some people can't help themselves - they'll almost buy anything and cince behaviour that gets rewarded, gets repeated, they provide the encourage for more hard sell.
Unfortunately I've heard stories of this happening in paid for seminars too although that is irritating. Who wants to pay to be sold to?
Just as marketers should be answering the "What's in it for me?" question on the mind of prospective customers, you should be asking "What's in it for them? How are they going to make a profit on the event?"
The Benefits Of Going To A Marketing Seminar
I'm not going to discourage you from learning more about marketing. I think it's a vital skill missing from many businesses.
The true value of a seminar is what you do differently in the next week, month or quarter and how that impacts on your business.
The longer you leave taking action, the less benefit you'll get from the workshop.
There's a danger that you go along for two days, take lots of notes (if you haven't been given detailed slide presentations) and think you've learnt a lot.
And then not do anything.
That's a classic problem with any training and one of the big reasons why coaching is a better practice which delivers stronger results.
I am an information addict but I do get tired of tedious stories that don't really teach me anything and repeating information that I already know well.
That's one of the big reasons why you can get a much better return on your combined time and money by talking to a business advisor in a one to one setting.
Instead of getting general advice, you can get specific ideas that relate to your particular business. And if you don't want to learn about telemarketing and Internet marketing, then you don't have to waste time on them.
Another alternative to going top a free marketing seminar is to attend Internet webinars. You can get some good content and you don't have to leave your office. Of course you may be pitched to.
Or buy some marketing books. There are some terrific books packed with advice and a growing number of books written for niche markets.
What Are Your Experiences Of Free Marketing Seminars & Courses?
I'd be very interested to know what experiences you've had with free marketing seminars and whether you think they've been good or not.
By all means name names but if you're associated, please declare your interest.
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