The real reason to do intro workshops (and what this can teach you about the rest of your marketing).

52128490 - speaker giving a talk at business meeting. audience in the conference hall. business and entrepreneurship.

I’m a big fan of the intro workshop – that two to three hour experience that gives people a good taste of who you are and what you do.

In the first seven or so years of my business, these kinds of workshops were my bread and butter. I did them for free and used them as a way to fill up my weekend workshops (which I offered on a Pay What You Can basis). Sometimes I still do them.

The model, though lean, worked well enough and I toured happily for years.

Of course, in the first few years, I was still sorting out what exactly it was that I had to say about marketing. It took me five years for things to really gel. And then I felt it. It all came together. My intros felt more clear, coherent and solid.

Right around that time, people started paying me money for these free workshops.

I would look up surprised as they were filling out a $50 cheque to me, “This is a free workshop.” I’d tell them.

They’d look at me, nod and say, “Uh huh…” and then finish filling out the cheque.

After that point, I began to charge for the intros.

I’ve led dozens if not hundreds of these kinds of intro sessions over the years and so I’m well acquainted with them. Of course, I never went to a workshop on how to do them or structure them. I just mucked about until I landed on something I liked and that made sense.

But it wasn’t until a few months ago when it really clicked for me as to why we even do these intro workshops in the first place.

It’s a good question to ask:

Why bother? What’s the point of doing an intro workshop? How would you know if they were successful? What are we trying to accomplish in doing them?

Well, it’s good to contextualize all of this in a bigger picture of marketing.

I imagine you want to have a sustainable business and fill up your workshops and coaching programs and so you’re doing intro workshops to support that. The intro workshops are a way of getting more clients.

Fair enough.

So let’s step back a bit. There are three things that must be established in your marketing for it to work: relevance, credibility and value.

Relevance means that they see a fit for them.

Credibility means that they trust you.

Value means that they see what you’re offering as a good deal.

In an intro workshop, your workshop title, poster, sales letter etc. is what will establish the relevance. People will look at it and say, “Aha! Yes! A workshop for people with fibromyalgia! That’s for me!” Relevance comes from a clear niche.

If you do your marketing right, they walk into the room with relevance established.

This is why it feels so off when you show up at a live, intro workshop and the first half hour is spent establishing relevance. Or the whole event. I remember I went to one workshop about, in a nutshell, how to make more money.

And the first thing the presenter asked when he came out was, “Who here wants to make more money?” And then proceeded, in a variety of ways to ask that question over the first few minutes and to tell us a lot of stories about how making more money was a really important thing. I sat there baffled. I looked down at the handout which had the name of the workshop written on it and thought, “Why the hell would I be here if it wasn’t because I wanted to learn how to make more money?”

So, the content of your intro workshop is not there to establish relevance primarily.

Some people would suggest that the whole point of an intro workshop is to establish the value of your offer (e.g. “Come to my weekend workshop!”, “Come to my retreat!” or “Sign up for my coaching package.”).

And certainly I’ve been to some of these and you might have too. The intro workshop (or teleseminar) promises a lot but delivers on very little. It’s frustrating. By the end, you realize it’s been a long pitch. You kept thinking the substance and content was about to appear but it never did.

I once hosted a colleague and realized part way through that he was, literally, reading out his sales letter. The same colleague was offering a free eBook in the lead up to a program of his and the eBook, despite having a lovely cover, was, very literally, a sales letter for his program. Even formatted as a sales letter. I shook my head at the bait and switch.

When people come for content but get a commercial they’re bound to feel tricked and upset.

So, no, I don’t think that our intro workshops are primarily about establishing the value of our offers. Who wants to sit through a two hour, covert pitch.

So, what is the point? Well, if it’s not relevance or value, then it must be credibility.

And this is the freeing realization: your intro workshops are there to help people get to know, like and trust you. Your intro workshops are there for people to get a sense of your vibe. They are there for people to see if there’s an alignment between the way they see things and the way you see things. They are there for people to decide if you’re a fit for them. They are there for people to learn about your point of view and see if that makes sense for them.

That’s really about it.

If they like you and resonate with your point of view and then you make a good offer of a program, product or package that is high value, they are likely going to say ‘yes’ to it.

If they do not like you or resonate with your point of view and then you make a good offer of a program, product or package that is high value, they are likely going to say ‘no’ to it.

It’s that simple.

Perhaps this is why so many people in their intro workshops, tele seminars, and sales letters skip this credibility piece (beyond testimonials). They skip sharing their point of view entirely.

I’ve read sales letters that, basically, say,

“Are you struggling with _________ problem? Doesn’t it hurt? Let me tell you my story about how bad it was and then some stories of clients. And shit… doesn’t it cost you a lot to have this unresolved? Here’s how it cost me. And don’t you want _________ result? I mean imagine your life without it! Imagine you died without getting this result. Wouldn’t you feel like an asshole on your death bed. But this result can be yours when you sign up for my package and learn my top secret method.”

The whole sales letter is heavy on relevance and value but there’s so little credibility in it. It’s big on hitting the pain points and painting a picture of how it might be and very low on offering any meaningful take on how that might happen.

Your intro workshops are a form of marketing, that’s true. But the next marketing, in my mind, is educational. It teaches them something.

Am I saying that you should give away all of your content for free?

No.

You couldn’t fit it all into an intro workshop.

I am saying to give all of the context away for free.

Now, ‘all’ might be overstatement.

But you can give people the 30,000 foot view. You can let them know how you see the big picture of it all. You can give them a chance to ask you questions for the 100 foot or 10 foot view on places they’re struggling. You give show them your overall map to help them make sense of why they’re so damned stuck.

If they want to sail from Island A to Island B, you don’t teach them how to build and sail a boat in your intro. You bust out your map and show them the route you’d suggest and make your case for that route instead of others. You first make the case for your point of view, not your programs, products or packages. You don’t market yourself. You market your message.

If you do this, you will engender more trust.

If you do this, people will want to know about your offers.

If you do this, people will be more likely to spend more money with you.

If you do this, people will feel confident in your approach to these issues.

And this doesn’t mean that you need to make massive changes in your marketing.

But consider the subtle difference between these two approaches.

Approach #1: Selling Your Workshop – “If you come to my weekend workshop you’ll learn the following seven things!”

Approach #2: Sharing Your Point of View – “If you want to get ______ result, here are seven things you need to understand.” and then at the end of the workshop, “If that approach and those seven things make sense to you, you might enjoy my weekend workshop because we go deeper into all of those things.” Rebecca Tracey of The Uncaged Life fame has done a brilliant job of this with a free checklist she offers of eight things you need to have in place to get more clients. “The checklist itself,” she says, “is a simple list of all the steps we complete in our Uncage Your Business program, with a note at the end that they can work on this with me live and a link to get on the UYB waitlist.”

It’s a subtle shift in framing but the impact is powerful.

To take it back to my friend who was offering the eBook that was, actually, a sales letter. It was selling his course about how to get more clients through offering discovery sessions. That was the orientation of the ‘eBook’ – making the case for them to spend a lot of money in his program.

I emailed them and suggested that they might make a subtle shift and reorientation towards making the case for his point of view. The whole eBook could have been making the case for a business model in which all of the marketing led people to a one hour ‘discovery session’. That’s a solid point of view. There is a strong case to be made for that. Once he had convinced people of this approach, then he might find them very open to signing up for his program.

I was met with a frosty response.

Ah well.

To sum it up: Make the case for your point of view first (credibility). Make the case for your services, programs, packages and products second (value).

Additional Free Resources:

Video Interview on Point of View Marketing (70 min)

Point of View Marketing Primer Video (10 min)

Products to Consider:

The Workshop Package: A collection of my best resources on filling up your workshops and events.

The Art of the Full House

Point of View Marketing

Don’t Market Yourself. Market Your Message.

About Tad

  • Tabitha

    FINALLY! Any time I read stuff on marketing I think, “Good GOD, I’ve screwed it up again!” FINALLY I’ve hit it on the head! I’m actually doing something right! Thank you for helping me see that, Tad.

  • It’s finally clear. Thank you, Tad, for taking the time to write this. I’ve been trying to make sense of this for years, and your post finally put things into place. You’ve made a real difference for me. Thank you.

  • It makes a lot of sense to aim for credibility first. After all, when you go to make your cases for relevance and value, both will be stronger if you’ve already earned credibility than if you haven’t.

  • Here’s a question for you, Tad. And I could post it here, or on many of your other – relevant, helpful, insightful – posts.

    Why is all this marketing so ‘complicated’?

    Let’s say I was reading a dating blog, not a marketing blog. And there were literally hundreds of posts about making ‘it’ work with a woman/man etc. – a relationship, a casual thing, or whatever ‘it’ is that you’re into. Hundreds of posts. And I’m here thinking, is it *really* that complicated? Isn’t ‘dating’ normal, natural? Doesn’t the fact that I’m looking for ‘advice’ – dating, marketing etc. – represent a more fundamental issue?

    Or is dating, like marketing, a skill to be learned?

    I think this is probably more me than you. I think I’m getting tired of ‘how to’ advice. And this comment is a reflection of that tiredness.

    Maybe there’s a post of yours I’ve missed about the simplicity of marketing. (I did buy your ebook, The Art of Relevance, which did make things very simple (thank you). (Simply put: listen to your clients’ needs, not yours.))

    I guess where I’m coming from, writing this particular comment on this particular post is this: “Why is all this marketing so complicated, and nuanced and – dare I say – unnatural?”

    Could it be that we’re not listening to ourselves enough? We’ve forgotten where our answers come from? And we keep looking for it outside of us.

    I don’t know.

    Is it just me, Tad, or do you think marketing gets overcomplicated?

    (Sorry for the lack of relevance of this comment to the ‘intro to workshops’ post – which I did enjoy, but also had a sense of ‘hmm, this is all sounding complicated – again!’.

    Thank you, Tad, I do appreciate you, and the work that you do – honest! :-) If I didn’t, I wouldn’t bother to share my perhaps naive concerns here…

    Cheers,
    Steve

  • fine questions! I think i’ll write a blog about it soon.

  • I find this an interesting question and I’d definitely be curious to see what your response to this would be, Tad. So if you write a blog about it, I’ll be eager to read it.

    My own answer would start where so many answers start: with the fact that we humans have the same basic needs we’ve had for hundreds of thousands of years, but are living in environments wildly different from those in which we evolved and to which we are adapted.

    There are an overwhelming number of choices where there used to be only a few.

    There is an entire industry of people, with a plethora of agendas, using highly-researched tactics to try to persuade us, where we used to just be dealing with a small group of family members for our entire lives.

    So the pursuit of meeting those needs is now complicated with confusion and suspicion and inner conflict in ways that perhaps in the past it would not have been.