How Aspiring Professional Speakers
Can Tap Into the Hidden Job Market
By Ron Ball
Talented newcomers to the world of professional speaking won't show up on the radar screens of meeting planners or speakers bureaus. To build momentum, aspiring speakers need to use some creative marketing strategies and tactics. Let me share one approach.
Any savvy job seeker knows that the best jobs never make it to the Sunday classified ads. The best jobs go to people in the network of the person with the budget and authority to do the hiring. The same can hold true for professional speaking opportunities.
Without considering Fortune 1000 and large companies, let's look at the smaller size corporate market. There are over 31,000 businesses in the United States with annual revenues between $50 million and $250 million. Or, looking at it a different way, there are almost 54,000 companies with between 250 and 1000 employees. Either way, these companies have enough sales or employees to warrant events requiring speakers.
The key is to identify and start a dialogue with the people in these companies who have the power to hire and recommend speakers. I suggest making contact by telephone or postal mail. I don't recommend sending e-mail until you have established a rapport with these contacts. High level executives are inundated with daily e-mails, particularly from people inside their companies. Most likely, your e-mail will go to the bottom of the mailbox or be considered spam, even potentially carrying a virus or worm.
Let's assume that there are at least two people in each firm that could be prospects. You now have a market of either 62,000 or 108,000 individuals. Given that, here's whom I recommend targeting at the vice president or director level in the following functions in order of priority.
On a national level, all sales organizations have annual or semi-annual meetings. Periodically, they also have training sessions. In addition, each district or region holds quarterly sales meetings.
In most companies, the marketing executive is responsible for trade shows, online Webinars, user conferences, customer seminars, employee meetings, and other events. As a former vice president of marketing for over 15 years in hi-tech companies, I only received a letter from a speaker once. Nobody ever called me, yet I had the authority and budget to hire or recommend speakers. That's why this is a powerful hidden market.
As CRM, or customer relationship management grows, one of the groups needing ongoing training and motivation is the customer service staff. Speakers may find opportunities with meetings, training, or seminars.
There may be training opportunities in the human resources department. Also, the vice president of HR is connected with every other executive in the organization.
I purposely left out one other target prospect and that's the company CEO. Why? Because it's very difficult to reach and make contact with the chief executive officer or operating officer by mail or phone in today's business world. If you do, be prepared to quickly convey your selling message. Another reason is that the CEO will most likely transfer you to one of the other people mentioned previously. The best way to reach the CEOs is by referrals through personal networks.
The next step is to find the contact names matching these job titles and functions. The easiest way is to buy the names online. One of the best sources is www.hoovers.com. There's also www.zapdata.com, owned by Dun & Bradstreet, or www.infousa.com. All of these companies update their data regularly. And in today's fast changing world, that's critical. To narrow down your list, you can start out targeting certain geographic areas or types of businesses. Instead of starting with a list of thousands of companies, test a list of 200-500 companies and contacts. Caution, avoid buying cheap lists. They're usually worthless.
Before contacting the company by phone or mail, do your homework. Study the firm's Web site. Do research to find out industry or company issues. Whether you make contact by mail or phone, the most important thing is to articulate that you can help solve an issue or problem. For example, I speak on employee branding and motivation.
Research shows that about 26% of employees in organizations are actively engaged or loyal and productive. 55% of employees are not engaged. They're just putting in their time. And, 19% are actively disengaged, unhappy, and communicating discontent. This means that only about one in four employees are giving their best!
Most companies aren't aware they have this problem. So the challenge is to show companies how to increase their percentage of engaged, productive employees. Imagine the financial impact on the company's bottom line just by increasing the number of engaged employees by 2%-5%. Notice that I'm not selling "speaking." I'm selling a solution to motivate and positively impact employee productivity and profitability. (Of course, one of the ways to do this is to hire me as a speaker or consultant.)
After you qualify a prospect, follow up with your marketing materials and then keep in touch every month or two. Marketing is like building a friendship. If you keep in touch over time, you will be "top of mind" and the first person they think of when there is an event with a speaker opportunity. Follow these steps, and you're on the way to tapping into the hidden market of speaking opportunities.
Ron Ball has over 25 years of experience in marketing. He heads up Inroads, a firm specializing in employee branding, offering speaking and consulting services. Inroads believes that it's important for organizations to do ongoing "marketing to employees to build commitment and zeal." Ron can be reached at (703) 255-5261 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org. The Web site is www.inroads.cc.