local media insider

How to create an effective advertiser seminar for digital services - and sign up the room

After conducting workshops for 5000 businesses in 2012, Dream Local Digital shares their secrets to success

Alisa Cromer
What to do if your workshop (or several) are postponed by natural disaster? Advertise for more propects while strutting your success thus far. Here's an example from Dream Local Media'.

Seminars  are by far the most effective way to generate leads for SoLoMo packages and other digital services programs, according to Shannon Kinney, founder and Client Success Officer or Dream Local Digital, which held workshops for more than 5000 local businesses.

"Small businesses are hungry for solutions and information, and the local media is a trusted resource," Kinney says. Below are some of her tips, as well as samples of checklists and countdown calendars, that will aid your team in creating a great workshop: 

1. Identify the audience 

Typically workshop and seminar audiences fall into two categories: a. Open to the public, but also relying on personal invites to existing customers and b.  VIP group meetings for top-tier advertisers. 

An example of a powerful combination is an evening seminar for existing customers and a separate VIP cocktails and dinner presentation for high end customers.

2. Use social media and a catchy headline as the "hook" 
Based on experience from hundreds of merchant workshops, a key motivator is education about social media; merchants are interested in information on many of the new channels and which ones would be right for their business. 

Typical promotions that do well include headlines like,  “Top 10 Ways to Market Your Business Online ” or  “Social Local Mobile: Emerging trends in online marketing for businesses.” 

Kinney also suggests use of social icons on promotional materials, and subheads, such as, "Confused by options?" or  "Can you really make money on social media work well too?'" 

3. Personal invites from sales people

While having a great invitation is important, the most effective way to guarantee attendance is a dedicated effort of personal invites from the sales representatives.

"Some markets choose to offer incentives to reps. Others set goals for reps of how many invitations they want given out. Either way, follow up is important to make sure attendance is high."

4. Choose a comfortable, convenient location

Kinney looks for three main things when conducting most workshops: A large comfortable room, central location and good parking. For dinner presentations to later advertisers, a restaurant with some cashe will help bring them in. 

5. Create a workshop calendar and  checklists

Real life samples of calendars and checklists are attached at the bottom of this report. Like most initiatives, launching digital services requires backtracking a calendar from the end result:  A workshop where  lots of advertisers sign up within five days.

Here is an example of the flow from the two month  countdown calendar to a digital workshop that was created for a launch of digital services by  Morris Communications' Savvanah daily in 2011 (also attached in a calendar format, at the bottom of this report): 


• August 10, Plan Event

• August 12, Event Locations Secured

• August 15, Marketing ads complete

• August 20, Status call, Marketing begins

• August 23, Staff digital IQ assessments

• August 24 and 31, Status call


• Thursday training, September  1, Social Media Training; 8, Local taining; 15, Mobile training; 22, SoLoMo training

• Fridays, September 2,9, 16, 23 , 30  Attendee Assessment

• Wednesdays, 7, 14, 21, 28 Status calls

• Tuesdays,  6,13, 20,  Follow-up training

• September 30, Reputation Management training and presentation of packages


• Wednesday 5, status call

• Thurssday, 6, Event roles and responsibilties

• IN MARKET PRESENTATIONS, Tuesday to Thursday,  11 to 13


The day of checklist is also attached below

6. Pre-qualify attendees

"Invariably about 1/4 of (open) seminar attendees are not qualified but that's ok,"  Kinney says. The  best way to identify the good prospects and therefore to focus the sales team is to pre-qualify attendees  by having them pre-register. Kinney recommends running reputation management reports on all attendees, and report cards on more significant accounts in advance of the meeting. 

This helps sales reps assess how serious and each attendee business is in regards to digital marketing - and also makes clear to the attendees that there is a sales process involved.

Reputation management can simply be run via Vendasta, Marchex or even the free site,  www.getlisted.org. "The purpose of these reports is to show how well the business shows up on search engines and identify if there are any problems that need correcting."

Report cards, such as the ones  that Dream Local Digital provides for partners, are more labor intensive, and involve looking at the Facebook page, search engine results compared with competitors in the markets, or additional search distribution reports via third parties such as Yext or other solution providers.

7.  Keep the content educational 

Workshops have a formula:  Tell why digital services are important, Giving some educational information and provide a call to action.

Kinney starts seminars by talking about how social media  has changed marketing overall. 

Then she describes each "big social network and what small businesses should do on them" including Facebook,  Twitter, Google+, Foursquare, Linkedin, Pinterest and Instagram, plus a touching on a few news ones such as Viddy and Quora.

Since search is typically included, seminars also cover  how search works and why merchants should care. 

"Many businesses are being solicited by telemarketers offering to make them stand out on search engines, and they lack a basic understanding of what they’re buying and how much it matters to be found on search.'

"Ultimately, the secret sauce here is informing them but speaking to them not over their heads." 

8. Give merchants a reason to meet with reps ... on the spot

At the end of the meeting Kinney turns takes advantage of the merchants raising concerns about their own companies, but turning the meeting over to the local sales team. She ends the seminar  by saying,   "...and the local team is here to help you, and has report cards/or reports to tell you how you are doing, so see your rep after the presentation."

The score cards and visibility reports are the key mechanism to keep businesses talking to reps after the meeting.  Experience from workshops around the country show that almost all businesses will stay later to see their own report - and most of these result in follow up sales appointments. 

9. Book appointments and close deals within five days

Deciding whether to close deals on the spot, keep seminars educational, or set up future appointments depends on the objectives of the market, and the readiness of packages and teams. 

"In some cases the goal may be to close packages in the seminars themselves, or to get an appointment. In all cases, the optimum time to close a sale is within five days of the seminar," Kinney says.

So if the goal is to gain appointments, reps should be booking thos during the seminar and validating that all decision makers will be present.

Many thanks to Shannon Kinney, co-founder and Client Success Officer of Dream Local Digital for sharing her expertise and planning documents. 

Alisa Cromer

The author, Alisa Cromer is publisher of a variety of online media, including LocalMediaInsider and  MediaExecsTech,  developed while on a fellowship with the Reynolds Journalism Institute and which has evolved into a leading marketing company for media technology start-ups. In 2017 she founded Worldstir.com, an online magazine,  to showcases perspectives from around the  world on new topic each month, translated from and to the top five languages in the world.