While we keep pitching digital information products, and know from our own experience how great it is to have them in your “portfolio”, there is still space for good old offline get-togethers. Workshops or retreats can be a great way to connect with your audience and to get your teachings across. Once you are physically in the same room with people, there is this realness, this intimacy, that no online program can create. Although meeting online is getting close, it will never be the same.
So yes, there is a space for retreats and workshops, and it is also interesting financially. Especially where we currently live, in southern Germany, where there is a culture of seminar houses popping up all over the countryside. You can do all sorts of things over a weekend or during a 7-day-workshop – from Buddhist Meditation to Business Masterminds. And of course that’s not only limited to our geographical area.
Filling up those workshops can be tough. Especially when you have not been 100% grounded in one location for a long time… If you are more of a nomad, it can be hard to find your audience in new places. Here is where online marketing can help a lot. Let’s look into 5 tips for marketing and selling your workshop places online. Ah, and by the way – you can apply this to all sorts of offline events: Conferences, Yoga Teacher Training, Retreats, Dance Classes, you name it!
PS: No need to leave out offline marketing completely. A poster at the venue of your workshop is still worthwhile, even in 2015.
1. Have a landing page for it
There are multiple platforms where you can also recruit your participants, and we’ll go into a few of them later. But no matter which one you choose – you should have a landing page for your event!
Why #1? Because it is owned by you, and not by a third party that can shut down at any time.
Why #2? Because you don’t want to exclude certain people who are not part of this or that platform.
Why #3? Because you can decide how it looks and works.
So: build a landing page for your event!
Requirements for a landing page
Let’s dive into the requirements for a landing page. Note: I’m repeating this term on purpose, because I’m not talking about a normal page on your website. A landing page, or also squeeze page, has certain characteristics. These are:
- A landing page has one clear call-to-action. It’s laser focused.
- There are no links to other pages or websites. The only thing the visitor can do is follow the call-to-action, or close the browser tab. That’s it.
- The amount of information can vary. Generally you should provide enough information to satisfy any of your visitors’ questions, and remove their doubts. (It’s good to compare the results of minimalistic and super short landing pages vs. long landing pages for your specific case).
- Reveal yourself. A video, pictures and/or a quote by you is worth a lot. Especially when working with people, you don’t want to hide yourself.
- Reality infusion and social proof. Show yourself in action, giving workshops, pictures of participants, testimonials. Demonstrating all those things that show that you are actively holding the workshops/retreats you are advertising will help.
How you do it
If you have a fully fledged website, you should consider the possibilities of creating landing pages there. Many WordPress themes have the option of choosing a landing page template for a new page, therefore switching off the header and footer of your normal website (purpose: removing links and distractions). If that’s the case, there’s no reason not to crank out landing pages from your normal website system. This also makes sure that your web design is being applied.
If you don’t have a website, or your site’s capabilities don’t really allow the creation of landing pages (no template for it, or super complicated to lay out pages) use a landing page generator service. There are many of them out there. We usually recommend Unbounce because their pricing structure is great for small businesses (they even have a free tier), and they educate their clients well about landing page essentials.
2. Consider a “soft” call-to-action
When we are talking about retreats and workshops we are usually talking about price ranges from a couple of hundred to up to a couple of thousand dollars. So we are definitely out of the area of impulse buys. There are different rules, behaviors and psychological factors for selling a $15 ebook than for selling a $500 workshop.
Or, to put it differently: No one will pay $500 to a complete stranger.
This is why online marketing is a bit trickier when applied to those expensive real life events. You have to make the transition from being a stranger to becoming a trustworthy friend or teacher.
Applied to the call-to-action of your landing page this means that a “buy now” button might not be the best idea. The chance that your visitors will leave the site without a purchase is too high. You’re better off when you get something from them before they leave, e.g. their email address.
So: ask them to leave their details to receive more information. Name and email address suffices in most cases, but you can also make it a bit more of an “application form” and ask for more things. Try it if you have the time – stick with email address and name if you want to be on the safe side.
Having the email address of potentially interested people gives you the opportunity to follow up with them and engage in a conversation. How you do that exactly depends on how much time you have left until your workshop starts. In any case, it brings us to the next point:
3. Create 5–7 “points of contact”
Before someone transfers money to your bank account, they need to get to know you better. A stranger doesn’t get your money, right, so why should you get your visitor’s money without them knowing you?
Marketing has a number for what’s necessary to transform your status from a stranger into a more or less trustworthy person: it’s somewhere between 5 and 7. And its unit is “points of contact”.
You can probably already see how this is coming together nicely: as you have your visitor’s email address, it’s simple to create a couple more point of contacts. For example, these could be:
- Visitor comes to your landing page and leaves his details (= requests further information).
- You automatically send out an info package with all the details, and empower him to engage and ask questions.
- He replies to this email and wants to know some details about how to get to the venue. You reply manually.
- You automatically send out some great, related content via email. You add your Facebook page in the P.S.
- He clicks on your Facebook page, reads a couple of posts and likes it.
- He gets a reminder on his Facebook Newsfeed from your page, about the early bird tickets running out soon, with a link to the payment page. He signs up for your workshop.
Note that in reality, it’s not that linear for everybody. The individual journeys can vary. But if you use semi-automated email marketing (read more about it here) and a couple of other channels, it’s not witchcraft to create those 5–7 points of contact. Automatize what can be automatized, but make sure to also add personal interaction.
4. Utilize your existing audience
You should and will have some sort of existing audience. For example via your mailing list (perfect!), via social media and via completely offline and/or not compiled sources.
Engage them. Your existing audience is much more likely to buy than a stranger, and it requires much less effort to “convert” them to customers.
Reach out in the ways that are possible for you. It might be a great point in time to finally put your email contacts into a proper mailing list (using e.g. Mailchimp).
And of course the message, or call-to-action you reach out with is your landing page. Because that’s the place where you explain everything in detail, and which streamlines the visitors into your process.
5. Drive paid traffic to your landing page
Once you have done all the previous steps, it’s worth considering paying for traffic. What is paid traffic? It’s simply advertising where you typically pay per click to your website. So when arriving here, you should have set up your soft call-to-action, and your process of creating 5–7 points of contact. And you definitely should have a landing page and not just your normal website or an Eventbrite page. Otherwise you’ll just throw money out of the window.
The two most used sources for paid traffic today are Google AdWords and Facebook Ads. And with both of them, it’s all about targeting and optimizing. Something we can’t cover in this article in depth. The main precondition is definitely that you have done your business homework and know who your target audience/business avatar is.
With Google AdWords you target certain search terms, in which you “bid” for the ad space above the organic search. So you have to know what your potential clients are searching for. If you are offering a meditation retreat in Bali, “meditation retreat bali” is the most obvious search term where you want your ad to show up. AdWords will suggest you similar terms that you can choose to target as well if they are really related.
With Facebook you can go down various routes, but one that is very well-known is the tactic of targeting based on pages that people like. Have a list of at least 5 pages ready that your potential client likes, and that have more than 10,000 likes. It won’t be possible to choose smaller pages, and also not all large pages are available to choose from, so have several options available.
Then (again: simplified here) it’s all about figuring out how much one signup costs you, and if this is a worthwhile exchange. If your retreat costs $1000 it’s pretty good if you pay $50 in ad expenses to get one participant. Once you have a rough number like this, you can scale. And this is one of the intense benefits of paid traffic: there’s almost no end to how many people you can reach and sign up. But of course you want to make sure that it’s a good deal for you first. Figuring that out is super powerful!
The 5 aspects mentioned above should give you a good overview to start with. Ideally you have the time and resources to implement all of them in order. If not, start from the top and work your way to the bottom within your next couple of events. Step-by-step.
Especially the last point (paid traffic) is quite geeky and might require some expert knowledge. Make sure to read more about it in detail, or get professional consultation before you spend larger amounts of money.
Bonus: Try to have fun and enjoy doing all this! 🙂