August 1, 2001

5 Min Read
Inside Self-Storage 09/2001: The Fast-Start Educational Client Symposium

The Fast-Start Educational Client Symposium

By Cary McGovern

This article focuses on the fast-start educational client symposium, which has provento be a significant generator of new records-management business. Since therecords-management sales cycle is long--six months or longer--a catalyst is recommended toget new business to move through it quickly. The client symposium has consistently workedwell as a "pump-primer." When well-planned and diligently managed, it can be themost valuable start-up tool for a newly formed commercial records business. It can alsoact as a renewed marketing push for an established business. If you are already in thebusiness of records management and want to spur new growth quickly, the symposium issomething you should consider.

What Is It?

For many years, companies such as Xerox, IBM and other market leaders in theadministrative outsourcing and management field have offered educational events valuableto their clients or prospects. These can be a very valuable to you, the vendor, as well.These events are well-planned, strategic marketing tools and generally have two principalgoals: to educate the client or prospect, and move new prospects quickly through a lengthysales cycle.

The event is usually a three-hour format presented either in the morning or afternoon.Some of my clients request both morning and afternoon sessions during the same day or nextday in order to provide an attendance option for the participants. These symposiums areusually at a hotel, conference center, chamber of commerce meeting facility, or any placeconducive to training and education. The topic typically focused on the current state ofrecords management and the movement toward technology in the future.

The event must be of value to your clients and prospects or they won't attend. It mustbe carefully planned and the timing has to be just right for it to work. If you are notdiligent with your plan, it may be a waste of time and money. I have conducted nearly 100of these events and have had mixed success. Those that have been the most successful havefollowed a strict discipline and time line.

It takes about eight weeks to plan and implement a symposium event to get the resultsyou want. The first two weeks are related to site selection, gathering your resources andplanning the implementation process, which generally takes six weeks to accomplish. Eachday during the six weeks, there are duties to perform. Each step leads to the next stepand all are connected in a workflow process that should yield up to 50 percent of theinvited guests in actual attendance at the event.

Plan the Work and Work the Plan

The Location. Pick a place convenient to most of your prospects. I know people who havetried beautiful locations that, though appealing, were just not convenient. The roomshould be suitable for adult education. It should be set up with tables for writing inclassroom style--do not use an auditorium-style setup. The tables should be set with notepads and pens and should not be crowded.

The Materials. You should provide a printed copy of the presentation in MicrosoftPowerPoint "notes" format. The printed presentation should beformal and inserted into a folder with your sales and marketing materials, and businesscards. It is advantageous to include an electronic copy of the presentation and materialson disk or CD. Everything should be in place before the symposium begins.

The Time. Timing is crucial. Depending on your prospect base, the timing could bedifferent from industry to industry. Always avoid the beginning or end of any month sincethese are always busy times for administrative personnel. The seminar industry hasdetermined that Tuesdays are the best day of the week for out-of-office educationalevents. Always avoid Mondays and Fridays.

The Schedule. As I mentioned earlier, it takes about two weeks to find a site anddetermine the time line. The next six weeks includes many activities and must be managedcarefully and diligently. The most important ingredient is getting the prospects to cometo the event.

Determining the Value. Value is difficult to quantify. It is important you put yourselfin your prospect's shoes. You are attempting to determine what value this event has tohim. If you are to get prospects to attend the event, you must provide one or morevaluable skills, tools or resources. They must know they will walk out with something morevaluable than the time they spend with you.

Educational Content. It is my experience that prospects want to know how to solve theirrecords-management problems, what the future holds for them and how they can prepare forit. You may focus on problem solving, skill development, tool selection and resourceidentification. Remember that you are essentially presenting yourself as the"expert" and principal resource for them to look to for solutions to theirproblems. Your course content should be professional and current. Your clients andprospects should consider the presenter an expert.

Follow-Up. As important as it is to get your clients and prospects to the symposium, itis equally important to follow up with them. The "hook" of the symposium is thesurvey. Your primary goal is to get your client or prospect to commit to a survey or needsassessment. This requires quick-response follow-up after the symposium.

Once done, you will have accomplished several goals in the process of planning andhosting a client symposium:

  1. Your prospects will have given you their valuable time, and they are now invested in you.

  2. You will have presented your company as expert in the field.

  3. Records management will be fresh in your prospects' minds.

  4. You will have given your prospects something of value--information.

  5. Prospects will be familiar with you and your company.

  6. You have provided prospects with the next necessary step, the survey or needs assessment.

Regularcolumnist Cary McGovern, CRM, is the principal of FileMan and FIRMS (FileMan InternetRecords Management Services), which provides all of the materials, resources and contentexpertise necessary to hold a client symposium. If you have questions about these or otherresources, including information on marketing, starting up or operating a records-management facility, call 877.FILEMAN or e-mail [email protected].

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