Virtual Conferences Getting More Sophisticated

I am participating in an all day online event called “Thrive 2010: The Ins and Outs of Online Marketing“, hosted by PRWeb. I will be conducting a live chat session over the lunch hour at Noon ET. You can ask just about anything you like about marketing and the web. The cost of the event is $99 but use this code PRWeb40 and you can get it for $59. There’s a nice lineup of speakers including:

  • Peter Shankman on Tapping the Tweets: Harnessing Social Media to Drive Visitors
  • Janet M. Thaeler on Boosting the Buzz: Driving Traffic and Publicity with News Releases
  • Anne Holland on Confessions of a Serial Entrepreneur: Marketing for Success

What I really think is cool though is the online environment created by the online seminar service ON24. I’ve used ON24 for webcasts but they have developed this entire suite of templates and services for conducting online shows, virtual conferences with networking lounges, session rooms and lobbies that look like something out of a video game or second life set.

on 24 briefing center

The idea of conducting all day online events through somewhat static platforms kind of pales when you start looking at what’s available as a virtual web show. Imagine what a persistent on demand collection of content presented from a virtual briefing room would look like.

5 Creative Ways to Get More Referrals

referral bonusThe first step to getting more referrals is to be more referable. No matter what you do to motivate your referral sources if they don’t trust you’ll do a good job, game over. But, even if you are highly referable there are things you can do to motivate your customers to willingly participate in your referral system more fully by simply adding a few creative ideas that spark their participation.

Over the years I’ve seen hundreds of ways that businesses from all industries have approached this idea and, a bit like a squirrel collects nuts, I’ve collected dozens of them and put them in my new book The Referral Engine – Teaching Your Business to Market Itself. Below are a few of those nuggets.

Heating and air conditioning contractor—During the sales process they used testimonial letters from satisfied clients and then asked the clients if they would be willing to provide a similar letter if everything worked out as promised. The customers and technician agreed on a quoted price, the technician completed the work, and then before collecting payment, offered an additional fifty-dollar referral fee if the clients wrote a letter on the spot. It worked every time.

Financial planner—Created his very own referral and lead network by sending a letter to ten other professionals whom he had worked with and felt comfortable referring business to. This letter informed them that he was creating a unique referral network of one hundred of the area’s top professional services providers and was inviting them to become a member, but that he needed them to recommend ten others who should belong to this exclusive group. He then created a resource directory and Web site that featured all one hundred professionals. The entire group promoted the directory and Web site and referred business to each other. As a result, other professionals begged to be allowed into the group. The strategy was so powerful that many of network members did no other form of marketing.

Software training company—Partnered with complementary businesses to provide training classes. A local print shop received all kinds of very poorly designed business cards, brochures, letterhead, etc. It partnered with a computer training company to offer its customers graphic design classes. Eventually they expanded it to marketing, Web design, and specific software applications. The key is to look for businesses where you can offer a natural extension of their product or service.

Attorney—Sponsored online teleseminars and invited well-known authors and speakers by allowing them to pitch their books or other products. Targeted clients lined up to hear the prominent speaker and provided their names and e-mail addresses to get on the free call. The teleseminars became so popular that the attorney recorded each call and created an entire library of products that he used for other marketing efforts. By sponsoring the well-known authors, the attorney created a very high-profile referral network.

Remodeling contractor—After this upper-end remodeling contractor finished a project, he offered to throw an open house party for friends and neighbors. The homeowner invited everyone to “come see what all the fuss was about” and see the new home. The remodeling contractor made a very small presentation and then passed out cards. This worked particularly well when he added a cigar tasting, a wine tasting, and a golf demonstration to the event. Of course, he also took photos of the homeowners enjoying their new home addition and mailed it around the neighborhood.

What creative referral ideas have you witnessed or participated in yourself?

Image credit: AchimH

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