Written by Ken Lizotte
Public speaking is considered a potent business development vehicle. It’s a chance for people to meet you, get to know your expertise and your product and your business. Who knows who might be in your audience with a need for what you have to sell?
Yet how many speakers put on a terrific show, winning over an enthusiastic audience, in effect initiating potentially awesome business relationships with hundreds, even thousands of potential prospects… then throw it all away by not bothering to ask for their biz cards or email addresses? As Humphrey Bogart remarked to Claude Rains at the end of Casablanca, “Louie, this could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.” And so could each and every speaking gig! 99% of speakers, however, fail to recognize this.
What do the business-savvy speakers do? They view their audiences as potential goldmines, collecting business cards for a giveaway or a raffle of a copy of their book or white paper, or a free dinner coupon or a free consultation. Something in return for volunteering one’s business card.
Another way to get your audience’s cards (and thus their emails) is to simply be up front about it before you begin. That is, just ask for them! “Before I get started, would everyone please pass their business cards my way, right now…” You can ask people in rows or tables to just move the cards toward you, then add, “…because I want to do something special with them. Does anyone know what I want to do?”
Whenever I use this technique, someone invariably guesses correctly, then yells out only half-jokingly: “You’re going to send us a lot of emails!”
Following a little audience laughter, I respond: “Well, kind of, yes! Actually, I’m going to put you on my e-list so we can stay in touch.” Then I add: “And I’d like you to do the same with me, please add me to your e-mail list as well. That way, our time today will be more than one-time thing. It’ll instead be the beginning of a beautiful business relationship.” I may even attribute that last line to Casablanca, which anyone over the age of 50 or so will happily recall.
Though social media is all the rage, studies still cite e-mail as the most used online communication vehicle. After all, though many folks these days jump onto Facebook or Twitter or Linked-In first thing in the morning, even staying there all day long checking their updates and their internal message boxes, many others (like me) only visit their social media occasionally. ALL of us, however, each and every last one of us, checks our email at least once if not (more likely) multiple times during any given day, including weekends. Thus building an email list, and keeping it active, still represents the best way to go… by far.
Once you've learned to consistently grab all the business cards you can when you’re out speaking, how else can you steadily build up your e-list? Here are a few techniques:
Trade cards when networking
This may seem obvious but often the best of us forget to ask for (or offer) a business card at the conclusion of even a particularly fine networking conversation. So get in the habit of asking every time, always closing a great new connection with: “Let me have your card, I’d like to put you on my e-list and social media.” Say this while handing over your own card.
Follow up the next day with an email script like this: “Hi John: Great meeting you yesterday at the Business Forum. I look forward to seeing you again! Meanwhile, I’ll put you on my e-list and social media and please do the same with me. Have a great day!” Rarely, very rarely, will someone object to this. Everyone realizes that keeping in touch makes good business sense. We just by and large forget to do it!
Put an easily-seen forwarding link on your emails and eblasts
Make it easy for those who like what you send out (your e-letter, an e-tip, an announcement of a new client or project or a newly published article) to entice their friends to sign on with you.
Create useful content for your eblasts, not shameless advertising
Don’t use your weekly or monthly “eblasts” to merely advertise your products or services. Instead, offer helpful hints, a published article of yours, news of an upcoming webinar or teleconference, and other useful content. Give your subscribers something they can use, not just a plug for them to spend money.
Don’t get shoved aside by the SPAM filters
Emails with an overabundance of exclamation points or titles such as “An offer you can’t refuse, limited time only!!!!” are far more likely to meet an untimely death in a spam folder. The same goes for overusing all caps, or having too many colors and too different fonts. Ask people to white-list your e-mail address if their spam filters are blocking your eblasts. Subscribe to an email contact service so you can keep track of where your eblasts are ending up.
Send on schedule
Try to send your eblasts on a regular basis, whether that is once a week or once a month or once per quarter. Let your subscribers know what to expect: “We send out business updates every Tuesday.” Be realistic about what you can do and stick to it. Don’t set yourself up for failure by creating a weekly or monthly voluminous newsletter that you may not be able to keep making time for. Short eblasts are just as effective.
Place an e-list sign-up box on EVERY PAGE of your website
Don't hide your sign-up box by setting it up on only the CONTACT page of your website. That forces visitors to your website to go hunting around for a way to become attached to you.
And don’t burden new subscribers with tons of information fields for them to fill out. Email, name, phone number maybe, and how they heard of you will usually suffice. Also, give people a reason to sign up by offering an incentive of some kind, such as a discount coupon or free article or a condensed e-version of your book (my particular offer) etc. See my own e-box for a sample of how I do it at www.thoughtleading.com
Finally, here’s one thing NOT to do: Never buy or rent an e-list. The kind of email contact I’m advocating should be permission-based and relationship-friendly. Everyone on your list should have met you in one form or another, either one-on-one or by watching you speak or by means of a referral, through a Facebook exchange--- something! In that way, over time, effective business connections will deepen with every eblast sent to your list. You’ll soon see referrals coming your way on a regular basis as well as direct business. You’ll create a “word-of-mouth machine” and develop large numbers of “beautiful friendships.”
About the Author: Ken Lizotte, CMC, is author of “The Expert’s Edge: Become the Go-To Authority that People Turn to Every Time” (McGraw Hill) and Chief Imaginative Officer (CIO) of emerson consulting group inc. (Concord MA), specializing in transforming professional service firms and business experts into “thoughtleaders.” A Certified Management Consultant (CMC), he speaks frequently to industry and professional conferences on such topics as book and article publishing, accelerating creativity, career transition and balancing work & family. Visit him at www.thoughtleading.com