The myth that is perpetuated is that you just need to sit at your computer and get endless number of clients.
The reality is the face-to-face connection is far superior. This is why musicians, politicians et cetera hit the road. Face-to-face – even with the smallest audience is extremely powerful.
Here’s how you go about it.
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When I was a teenager, I wrote 16-page letters to my penpal, Marsha.
Marsha lived in South Dakota, in the U.S. And somehow, and I'd write to her about once a month. As voluminous as my letters happened to be, Marsha wrote back just as frequently, and her response was equally bulky.
We seemed to get along so well, that after a few years she decided to visit India. Her plan was stay at our house for a while, and then we'd take the trip up north to Delhi, Agra and a few cities in Rajasthan. On the day she was to arrive, I went to meet her at the airport, and waved frantically as she made her way through the arrivals.
Seconds later, it felt dead. I couldn't explain it, but I didn't like her that much after all. The feeling was mutual.
What you just heard was a story where things went sour instantly. Things worked fine when you didn't meet in person, but the moment you're face to face with that very same human being, the chemistry dies.
And yet, most stories don't end this way. If anything, meeting a person tends to be more positive, more reinforcing than anything you'd experience through e-mail, zoom or any other medium. Which is why today is the day I'm making the case for why you should have an offline meet up. And why you should do so, even if just a few people are likely to show up.
The elements we'll cover are:
1) Why we've had these meet ups—despite being able to do workshops and seminars
2) Why you need to charge for meetups
3) Why you need to have an offline meet-up even if just one person turns up.
1) Why we've had these meet ups—despite being able to do workshops and seminars
When we started out our business, all we did were seminars. I'd have a million slides and I'd present them to the audience over a period of two days. Those seminar-days would leave me exhausted. Which is why we switched to workshops. Instead of just dumping endless amounts of information, we could work with the participants over a period of three days.
If you can somehow manage to have a workshop, it's easily the best way keep clients.
When we were just consultants—and didn't run an online business—we could get our potential clients in a room. Then, we'd teach them about how to improve their prices, or how to know why clients buy and why they don't. That interaction would almost always lead to more work for us in consulting.
However, when went online, we couldn't get that very same connection. Hence, having workshops of some kind became a very powerful way to get in front of clients. The workshop may be for a few hours, or days, depending on how you go about things, but it definitely marks you out as the expert.
Being considered the expert is a good enough reason to have a workshop.
However, it's not the biggest reason. Easily the most powerful factor of a workshop is that it creates a connection. Many clients meet with us, go out to lunch, dinner etc, and form long term bonds. We've had clients who've been around for 10-15 years and some go back even longer.
A workshop isn't a magic trick. It's not like everyone will become a lifelong client, but even a few is often enough to keep you going. It's good for you, and great for clients as well, because they too are looking for someone they can trust.
Despite all of the praise for workshops, this article isn't about workshops.
Instead, it's about a meet-up. A meet-up that may last an hour or two and then disband. There are many reasons not to consider a workshop. You may be painfully shy (for now) or not have enough content (for now).
Workshops also require a lot of work, as you have to get all your participants to somehow leave their homes and show up to your event. Hence, wonderful as workshops happen to be, here's still a big nudge to have a meet-up.
With a meet-up you don't have all the bother of booking a venue, either.
There's no tips you have to pay, no gratuity. All you need to do is get a few people together and then head to a cafe, or to a garden. If you ask me: why would you have an offline event, this is the biggest reason of all. The venue is a nightmare—and will continue to do so.
If you're thinking of connecting with a small group of people, biscuits and tea, or biscuits and coffee—that's the way to go. It's low-stress, it requires almost no organisation, and no venue. Somehow, and we don't know why, the offline meet-up creates almost as much trust as a two or three day workshop.
But wait, maybe we do know why.
When we meet a stranger on a bus, we don't need three days to figure out if we like them. We can chat with them, and find a fair bit in common. It's not unusual to trust someone after meeting them for just five or ten minutes.
Over the years we've got a bit instinctive about the people we like. Which is likely to be the prime reason why you don't need a lot of time. It's also the reason why the offline meet-up works so well.
We used to have workshops at least once a year. It takes about three months to organise everything, get slides and notes together. It's like hosting a mini-Olympics. We still believe that a workshop is a powerful tool. Even so, we've continued to do offline meet-ups because they have worked amazingly well.
And with that, let's move to the second point:
2) Why you need to charge for meetups
When we first made our way across the US, we'd inform people that we would be in a city and at a location. We'd tell them we were going to have a meet-up, and they'd be pretty enthusiastic about showing up. They'd fill out the online form, and on the day and at the time, we'd head towards the meet-up. You know what happens next, don't you?
That's right; not everyone showed up.
You'd think someone who showed a lot of enthusiasm would show up, but that's not the case. When you charge nothing at all, the transaction becomes a bit lopsided. The people who've signed up have merely said “maybe” they'll show up. There's no transaction of any kind. If there's the slightest obstacle, e.g. rain, or they're running late, there's a good chance they'll bail out.
This scenario isn't ideal for at least two reasons.
The first reason is that the person has taken someone else's spot. At our meet-ups, we have a fixed number of clients. When anyone doesn't turn up, they take the space of someone else who might have wanted to attend.
Why keep a limited number? The answer is evident the moment you ask the question. Clients are coming to meet you and wish to speak to you. If you have an open house, maybe just fifteen will show up.
It's also likely that you may get 45 clients, and they don't get a chance to relate to you on a one-to-one basis. Hence, if you have limited numbers and quite a few don't show up, they're taking someone else's spot.
The second reason is probably just as important.
In most meet-ups, you're not meeting someone you know. Hence, you're always looking over the shoulder of clients already at the event. You want to make sure that the clients recognise you.
However, you don't know what they look like, and they, in turn, aren't very confident either. Which means that you're often distracted looking for that “stranger”. When an event is paid for, people show up on time.
They've committed, and they keep to that time plan. On the other hand, when it's free, they may still show up on time, but because of the lack of a transaction, it's more likely that some will wander in late—or not at all.
The “not at all” people you're looking for keep you a bit distracted, which is why we get clients to pay for every meet-up. Before we started charging, we couldn't predict if everyone would turn up. Now, with the charge, we seem to have almost 100% of the people at the time we've allocated. It's a big difference in how people behave when they've committed and paid for it.
This brings us to the sum they need to pay
We had to think about how much it would cause a person to leave home, get on a train or in their car, and head to a venue. Free was definitely out of the question, but so was just $20. It needed to be a higher sum and could be written off. $100 may be much to pay for just a meet-up, but about $50 appeared to be the magic figure.
How do we know this to be true? It's based solely on the results. If we meet up with clients in a convenient city: e.g. Frankfurt, Sydney, etc., then we will almost always get a full house. If you have fifteen seats and all the seats are taken, the clients think it's a fair enough sum.
Since we already know how many people are coming, booking a cafe in advance is also easier.
You can look for a restaurant with a space for a larger group. It could be a covered space outside or some area in the cafe that is separate from the rest of the patrons. The staff at the restaurant also realise that they need to restrict a slightly different location for such a large group.
In short, because all of it is paid in advance, you can confidently go ahead and “book a space” and usually get something quieter than sitting in the central area of a cafe. There are also other locations, like a garden, a museum space etc.
Once clients show up, you will still need an agenda.
I have a simple plan. I introduce myself even though they know who I am. And I tell them the story of how I got to that city. People usually want to know how you chose their city and it makes for an easy introduction.
Then, we don't go through the “introduce yourself” routine. Instead, I tell them that we're here to meet each other and ask questions. It's hard to get the first person to ask the question, so you can have a client who knows you ask the question.
You can even inform them that they could be the first person to ask questions. That starts the ball rolling. The questions come thick and fast, then the coffee and drinks arrive, and everyone settles in.
A meeting may last for two or three hours, but you can all go to lunch if you choose. Or if you really get along, even meet up again for dinner. The tiny meet-up has become a much bigger, fun event. It's a fun, memorable event, and everyone loves leaving their home or office to do nothing much at all.
All of this activity works well, but only when you charge a sum.
3) Why you need to have a meet-up even if one person signs up.
Do you remember going to meet a client? Just you and that client? You'd wake up, dress up nicely and then go to that meeting—and just for one person. Did you know in advance if the meeting would go well? Did you know if you'd get business from it? You didn't know and yet you went.
This scenario is true for any meeting—or meet-up.
We are all swayed by this nonsense, online. We are supposed to meet hundreds of clients, and thousands of fans. No one talks to you about meeting one person. And yet, we've all met with just one person. Often enough that meeting has turned out to be so bad that we're not sure we'll do it again. Just as often, however, we find that it's wonderful and we not only do business with them, but become good friends.
A meet-up with one person is still very important.
Meet-ups aren't what you think of when you think of making a connection with clients. To be fair, most of the clients who come to the meeting may never do business with us again. However, the few that do are enough to keep us very comfortable. Plus, you're having a good time and a coffee.
It's worth it to have a meet-up. Try it today.