Tips on how to grow your business through events by Rich Brooks

  • Grow your business through events: “I have found great success in putting on live events…”
  • If you have never put on a live event before, start small
  • Take an entrepreneurial approach t events. Hold an event to create leads and build relationships
  • Spend a lot of time promoting your event
  • Have a dedicated website for your events

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Take an entrepreneurial approach to events. Hold an event to create leads and build relationships.

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Doug: Well welcome back listeners to another episode of “Real Marketing Real Fast”. Today I've got joining me in the studio, Rich Brooks. He is the founder and president of Flight New Media digital media agency in Portland Maine which is celebrating its 20 years in business. He also shared with me that he just published their 251st podcast episode. He's been in the podcast space for a while as well, interviewing various experts in the SEO space. He's a naturally recognized speaker on entrepreneurship, digital marketing, and social media. Rich founded “The Agents of Change,” an annual conference and a weekly podcast that focuses on social and mobile marketing. He is the author of “The Lead Machine: The Small Business Guide To Digital Marketing.” A popular and well-received book that helps entrepreneurs and marketers reach more of their ideal customers online. He has been featured in Ink Magazine, the Huffington Post Fast Company, CNN The Social Media Examiner and many other news sources for stories on digital marketing.  Rich is the tech guru on the evening show 207 which airs on the NBC affiliate in Maine and he teaches web marketing and social media marketing courses for entrepreneurs at the University's Southern Maine Center for continuing education. So I'd like to welcome you to the “Real Marketing Real Fast” podcast today.

Rich Brooks: Thanks so much for having me. This is great.

Doug: Well it's always a exciting talking to other podcasters because you're probably going to be a lot better than others talking in soundbites. Was there anything you wanted to add to your introduction or anything that I may have missed?

Rich Brooks: No I think you did a pretty thorough job. I'm just sitting here listening and being like, “Do I really do all that stuff? It seems like I don't have any free time whatsoever.”

Doug: Well you did forget to mention all your busy travel schedule is coming up in addition to what you're already doing for your business.

Rich Brooks: Yeah after 21 years I'm finally taking a sabbatical so that should be fun.

Doug: Good for you. We talked a little bit about your superpower and how you felt you may best be able to help those who that are listening that are looking to generate leads and grow their business, and you said that, “I think I can do that through live events.” Do you want to expand a little bit about what you do and how that would apply to entrepreneurs or consultants that are listening?

Rich Brooks: I have found great success in putting on live events and probably our signature event now is the “Agents Of Change,” which we have up here in Portland Maine, although we do do a live stream so we get people from all over the world tuning in. Although it's a different name than my company name, “Flight New Media” there's still that visibility between “Flight” and the “Agents Of Change.” That's been the big one but we also do smaller events here at our offices.

We'll do a monthly marketing thing on different topics and people come in for that and then I also do a lot of smaller events around town. Regardless of the size, I've just found that live events allow you to connect with people in ways that the greatest Facebook ad never will. I'm a big proponent of live events. One of the big reasons is, I often hear from people, “But aren't they a lot of work?” And I'm like, “Yes. Which is exactly why your competition isn't doing it.”

If you're putting on events, everybody's doing Facebook ads, everybody's doing retargeting these days. Those things are like table stakes, that's the least you should be doing to marketing your business. If you're willing to take on a live event with all the different moving pieces that go along with it then you're really going to raise your profile and have something really unique to talk to with people.

Doug: It's funny because I just released an episode. I was down speaking at the “New Media Summit” in San Diego with Steve Osler about podcasting. I took a buddy of mine with me and on the plane ride back he said, “So what's your big takeaway from the “New Media” summit?” The first line in our show note said, “Nothing beats a face to face meeting.” It was really like you said, it was about those connections. It was about talking to people. Having coffee with people. Having dinners, drinks, as well as listening to the speakers but it was really about connecting.

Rich Brooks: Absolutely. And there's definitely that vibe there and when you put together people who are like-minded or have a similar passion or interest and you connect them. Even if they're making their connections without you. They're looking at you as kind of the leader of the tribe. That's also a big benefit as well. You can get up on stage and you can say your piece and you automatically become an expert.

Doug: Absolutely. I've got a question and something I see often, and it kind of relates to a lot of digital media, the build it and they will come. Set up an event and they will come. What I've often seen is people panicking and just frightened because nobody's going to show up to their event. Is there a secret that you've got to make sure that your events are full and you get the right people and the right seats?

Rich Brooks: That is an excellent point. I briefly taught a master class on putting on events and that was the number one concern that people raised is, “What if I throw an event and nobody shows up?” That is an awful, awful feeling for sure. One of the things that I would recommend is, if you've never done this before, start small.

I've gotten “Agents of Change” now to 400 people in the audience plus a few more hundred people who buy virtual passes. But that's not where it started. My first events and I still hold them, are at the local chamber of commerce. I feel great if I get 10 to 15 people in there. As long as they're the right 10 to 15 people. I think that's critical. I am not putting on events to make money from the events. Although I've gotten good at them so I generally do make a little bit of money on each event.

I'm looking more for building my brand and generating leads and closing business. I'm coming at it from an entrepreneurial standpoint. So if you're just getting started, my number one tip would be is to start small. Better to have standing room only in a small conference room than a half-empty auditorium. Even if you've got more people in the auditorium. The energy level is just sucked out of a half-full room.

Start small is one of the big ones and plan on spending a lot of time and energy promoting this event. We've been doing this now for if you include my previous event, 10 years. We still start the promotions from the day of the previous event. We're already selling tickets on the last year's events. If you've never done this before, obviously you can't do that. You really should be giving yourself, depending on the size of the event, three to six months.

Rich Brooks: If you're just trying to get 12 people into a conference room you can probably do that in four to six weeks but definitely give yourself enough time. Budget and make sure that you've got everything in place before trying to put this on.

Doug: Now in terms of strategies, what sort of strategies do you use to get the word out?

Rich Brooks: First of all, I strongly recommend that you have a dedicated website. If you're just getting started maybe you think, “Well I can just have a page off of my website, or a page on Facebook.” That'll help but I usually tell people to invest in this, spend a little time and energy polishing this and having a direct URL you can send people to is always beneficial.

If you can get your own website for the event, great. If not at least build a page off of your website where you can talk about it and start to build authority around that. What I've discovered is I sell more tickets through email than any other channel. I know this because we use UTM codes and Google Analytics, which basically just gives us a little bit more information about where the traffic is coming from and who actually ended up buying tickets. Every year the number one way we sell tickets is through email.

Having a robust email list is always a plus. If not certainly you can be advertising on Facebook. Most people are going to put on events that are local, although not all of them if you are putting on a local event you can definitely target people locally. One of the things that we've done to really build up our local brand is we reach out to business organizations such as Maine small business development centers, chambers of commerce and because we're in Maine, it's like the Maine physicians Association, the Maine Dental Association, Maine Lawyers. All these different membership organizations and we basically say, “Look we've got this great event that's gonna help your members market and I'll give you a discount code so that they can save money on it. Which is going to make you look like a hero. And if you send it out to your email list rather than just posting it on Facebook where no ones ever going to see it? I'll give you a free pass to the conference.”

Very often that'll get an executive director or president interested because suddenly they're saving a couple hundred bucks on a ticket and so they send it out to their list and we're getting in front of all these different people who I couldn't reach otherwise. That's been very effective.

Tapping relationships you already have. Luckily I'm on the local ABC affiliates as you mentioned. I went to them and I said, “Why don't you partner with me on this?” And for a couple years, they would literally film commercials starring yours truly and putting them on the air. That was definitely great in terms of raising our visibility. Other years we've tried other methods as well so some of this is just guerilla marketing but you have to treat this not as an afterthought but as a major project that you're going to put on this year.

Doug: It's funny because I had mentioned to you when we first started this, typically my biggest concern if a client wants to go into a trade store event is that there's gonna be enough traffic there. When I was looking at your bio and did some background research before we started speaking, I was surprised that the first link that I clicked on was actually “The Agents of Change” .com for your event. I assumed it would be your company website so I had to go look at the bottom to find your company website. You've done a great job with your event site with the big video that shows up at the top and just immediately draws me into what you guys are doing.

Rich Brooks: The first year, of course, we didn't have any video from previous years or any photography from previous years, but I knew that I wanted to do a live stream. One of the things that I do now, every year is leverage previous years, photos and videos. We do different things. We'll post them to Facebook on Throwback Thursday and tag people who were at the conference. As you mentioned, we took the video from last year and we snipped it down to about 20 to 30 seconds. Again, just to give people a sense of what it is like to attend “The Agents of Change,” because I want to show them this is a fun intimate experience with some really big name speakers in our field and it takes place in our neck of the woods so to speak.

I think  a lot of people were like, “Oh yeah it's probably going to be at the Holiday Inn in some dark, nothing against the Holiday Inn by the way, in some dark room and it's gonna be not a lot of fun.” And you can see from the video it's very energetic and it's very entertaining and there are people who you're gonna recognize on stage. That kind of tells a little bit of the story.

The first year all I had where those three cartoon characters which represent search, social and mobile marketing. I had nothing to do so I could just leverage my experience as somebody who had put on events in the past. My connections. I email people incessantly to the point where they are like, “Please stop.” It's true you do have to market a little bit hard for an event like this. Now we have kind of a built-in audience but there's churn every year and every year I have to work hard. I think it was last year, maybe the year before, it was the first year I didn't wake up in a cold sweat going, “This is all going to be awful and you're going to ruin your reputation on this Rich. Why would you ever do this?”

I've gotten to the point now if I do have those thoughts I'm like, “Yeah but you have these thoughts every year and it always works out so just relax.”

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Take an entrepreneurial approach to events. Hold an event to create leads and build relationships.

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Doug: There you go.

Rich Brooks: Have a glass of wine or bourbon whatever it takes and just get back to work.

Doug: That's funny. Well we attended an event, local event to us and from a videographer named Sunny Lenarduzzi and she's been growing her business in the social space and she just picked a really cool location. It was in Vancouver down the harbor overlooking the yacht club. It was a community center but it was beautiful because there's a whole wall of glass. I went and I asked them, “did you guys rent the room?” For business, they said obviously yes. I said, “So what is your rental rate?” And they said, “Oh it's like 150 dollars and we include AV.” Like you said, not necessarily hotels are bad but there's an example of a very affordable venue that's beautiful looking at all these big yachts in the harbor so it didn't have all the facilities of a hotel, big deal. It was a great room and an easy way for someone to get started with a small room as well.

Rich Brooks: It's the same thing with me. We have it at the local university and they have just this beautiful atrium and a really really nice hall to have the main conference in. For me, I don't want to grow it any bigger because I don't want to have to move out of that space. I was talking to a guy, he's like, “Well how do we grow this?” And I'm like, “Well we can grow the virtual pass or some other ways we could do it. But the bottom line is I'd really like to keep … we can have it multiple times but I really like this space because it's airy and light and it's just a good place to have that event.”

I think where you have the event does play into the type of event it's gonna be. Another thing I might say is really to try and figure out what the brand of this event is. Know who you want to attend. Know that sort of stuff. I tend to have a very irreverent brand anyway and I'm a huge comic book fan. If you look at any of my social stuff you'll see Spiderman stuff all the time. “With great power comes great responsibility.”

When I decided to develop this brand called “The Agents of Change,” I knew that the agents were gonna be, the agents of change for me are search social and global marketing. But I wanted them to be super agents, like spies and something. With a buddy of mine, who's an illustrator, we developed these three characters, which I absolutely love and adore. Maybe one day I'll have them tattooed on my body who knows?

That's kind of the vibe I was going for and it tells people, hopefully, that you're gonna learn and you're gonna have fun learning. Think about your brand and this event is really going to reflect who you are. That's also another component of it. I don't think you can spend too much time coming up with really good branding. Finding a local graphic designer or illustrator to help figure this out for you.

Rich Brooks: What I did when I was first starting this brand is I committed to three years. I said, “Whatever happens in the first two years I'm still going to have a year three.” Because I thought that by then it'll either be on its own or I'll just have to say, “It was a great attempt but it didn't work out.” Thankfully it's been going strong and we're already planning 2019 at this point.

Doug: That's really cool. In terms of marketing, you're saying market early, market relentlessly to fill the seats. Now, how large does your event have to be before you start seeking sponsors? Somebody's listening going, “Hey that sounds great but I've got a limited marketing budget.” At what point can you go looking for money for people to help you put this together?

Rich Brooks: I don't think size matters. I think if you're pulling in the right type of audience there's gonna be somebody who doesn't want to put on an event but has money to spend to get in front of that audience. Sponsorship has always been kind of tricky for me but just because I'm like, “I dunno give me money I'll put your name up.” When I was starting I had no idea. I didn't even do that for the first couple of years and then I saw a similar conference and they had all these sponsors including my email service provider at the time. And I'm like, “How come they're not giving me money.” So I asked them and they're like, “Okay we'll give you money.”

Rich Brooks: A lot of people over time, as the brand of “Agents Of Change” really started to grow, I'd ask them, “What do you want to get out of this?” They're like, “Oh we just want to be associated with your brand.” Fantastic that you can do. Other people are like, “I really want to generate like 15 qualified leads from the conference.” Okay, let's talk about how that's gonna happen. Sponsorships I think you can get at any point.

Rich Brooks: You mentioned that place in Nova Scotia I think you said, that was only 150 dollars and included AV? That's insanely cheap so one of the things that you're gonna have to look at whether you have it at a hotel, university, whatever it is, you're gonna have costs. Some sponsors can be barters.

Rich Brooks: For example, the University where we have it. We have to use their food service but they allow us for the third meal to bring in pizzas and beer. I worked a deal with Shipyard, a local brewery, that they give us free beer and they get some promotion and some tickets out of it.

Rich Brooks: We have this amazing pizza place in town called Otto Pizza and they give us 500 dollars a pizza for a few tickets. For them, it's a great deal. They save money. For us it's free pizza. Everybody loves Otto Pizza around here and we also have a spirit sponsor too now. A buddy of mine opened a distillery so I said, “Why don't you just give me a bunch of free booze and I'll put your logo everywhere.” He was totally down with it and we even came up with some signature cocktails. Like the “#highball” and the “Agentini” and fun little stuff like that with his spirits and people loved it and of course, people love free pizza and free beer and free booze so of course it was a big hit.

Rich Brooks: That would have cost us thousands of dollars and I got it for basically about, my costs on that were probably a couple hundred. Definitely, even if you can't get someone to cough up 500,000, 10,000 dollars, I would say start with just some bartering stuff including media. Talk to the local radio stations. Talk to the local newspapers. Get them involved as a media sponsor. We have a local paper and they're giving us free advertising space in trade for some free passes for them and their clients. That's just a win-win for everybody.

Rich Brooks: As I see it, anybody who comes in, they're a potential client for my digital agency so they see us. They see how seriously we take this. They see how much fun we have and they're more likely to work with us. This conference has gotten us into a conversation where if somebody's deciding on where to go with their business, Flight New Media or Agents of Change or even Rich Brooks has to be part of that conversation. That's one of the big benefits of putting on an event for your business.

Doug: That's really cool and I noticed that you have healthy snacks at your conference as well. I love Cliff Bars.

Rich Brooks: And that's my ex-brother in law. We just happen to have an excellent relationship and I'm like, “Yeah why don't you send me up some stuff.” Before he worked for Redbull we had a slightly less healthy sponsor back then but he's since moved on to Cliff Bar.

Doug: Well Redbull and spirits go well together.

Rich Brooks: Absolutely.

Doug: What about speakers? Obviously, it's great to have an event and you be part of the speakers. I thought it was interesting, I mean you're obviously part of the slate but it's not just, “Hey this is the Rich Brooks Show.” It's “Hey I'm one of the speakers in the panel.”

Rich Brooks: Right.

Doug: At one point and how do you approach speakers? I'm assuming, at least my point, I'd want the smartest people that I could find. The best people I could find not people that are at my level. I want people that are far above me that are a draw for the event.

Rich Brooks: Right. There's a lot to unpack in that particular question. First of all, I'd say is, you don't need to have other speakers. If you're going to have an event with 15 people in the conference room, you might want to be the only speaker there. You might want all the attention on you and there's nothing wrong with that.

Rich Brooks: For my event and it sounds like for an event in your head, you definitely want to bring in some other speakers. The question is, one is are they going to bring in their own audience? Sometimes yes. In Maine my experience has been there is less star-struck here. They want the content, they want the information. They definitely want to be entertained once the speaker gets on the stage. But with few exceptions, I haven't had a lot of speakers that brought in an audience. Some do. Some do because they're local and people know them. Some because they're just great hustlers.

Rich Brooks: One was John Lee Dumas who's the “Entrepreneur On Fire,” a friend of mine. He's got “Fire Nation.” He's got a whole tribe of people. We had Chris Brogan a few years. Chris has followers all over the place that want to come to see him speak. Those people brought in a few but that wasn't probably the biggest thing.

Rich Brooks: For us, we find that a lot of people go because they want the content. You've got to decide, you might be able to bring, you know if I brought Seth Godin sure we'd get a whole bunch of people who'd show up just for Seth Godin but I can't afford Seth Godin so that's another issue.

Rich Brooks: We don't pay our speakers as a rule. What we've done because now we're a little more established is we put them up in a hotel, we take them out for lobster dinner, we give them a few passes to the show. Sometimes in a situation, especially if they're doing a workshop for us, we'll fly them out. But really that's, we don't have the kind of budget that would allow us to bring in a Seth Godin or some of the other people I'd love to bring in because we're just not that type of show. We're not a 5000 person conference where I can easily be, “Oh yeah let's get John Cena, he'd be awesome.”

Rich Brooks: It's just not gonna happen. So we're upfront about that. We talk about how we help the speaker get a wider audience, how we're gonna promote the speakers all this sort of stuff. We really try to go above and beyond so that then they'll tell other people what a good experience it was.

Rich Brooks: When I first started, it was a lot of people who I had personal relationships with aka friends of mine who would speak who were experts in their field and then as time goes on I definitely I used my podcast actually as a way of vetting potential speakers. ‘Cause now I've got an established brand. I can't tell you the number of times every week that people are like, “Hey I'd love to speak at your even,” or “I've got somebody who'd be amazing at your event.”

Rich Brooks: The first thing I tell them is we don't pay our speakers. That gets rid of 90% of them. But the other ones I'm like, “You know I don't know you. Why don't you come on the podcast, we'll chat for a little bit and then we'll see if I have a space for this year or next year.” That gives me an opportunity too of just getting a sense of are they a good fit for the Agents of Change. Do they have the energy that I like? Do I think that my audience is gonna benefit? Because I only get repeat customers to my conference if every year they leave going, “Wow that was really helpful. I learned a lot this year and I can put it into action. And I'm gonna grow my business.”

Doug: And that it was so good I want to come back next year. I can hardly wait till next year.

Rich Brooks: Yeah the people who buy tickets for 2018 on the day of the 2017 event, that's my audience. That's amazing. They know they're gonna get value and they don't even know who's speaking next year. ‘Cause I don't know who's speaking next year.

Doug: It's funny because people ask me all the time about how I monetize my podcast and I said, “Well I don't. You'll notice I don't run any ads. I promote my guests that come on. But I use it as a way of betting potential vendors that I will use for my agency or my clients. It's a way for me to get access to people that are in the industry, that are smart guys in the industry to see if they're a good fit.” So they provide good content for our audience but in many cases, we've bought products and services from our guests because we thought these are really good solid people. Not unlike you vetting them for your event.

Rich Brooks: That's interesting. I've never actually done that to vet vendors. Thought I have ended up hiring some of the people who've come on my show 'cause I was so impressed. Maybe I wasn't thinking about it, but I actually was.

Doug: To kind of transition. We've marketed, we've got people there. We've got some sponsorship and we've handled the speakers. How do you convert the people who have attended then into leads or at least separate those, the wheat from the chaff who are potential leads for your agency and for your business?

Rich Brooks: That's a good question because I try and do a soft touch. Because in my mind these people paid for the conference. I tell my speakers, first of all, it's like “No pitching from the stage. Although if you've got some sort of value and certainly you can say, “Oh download this white paper, yes it's an email registration, you'll be on my list.” That's about as much selling as I want to go on and the same is true with us. Flight New Media does a ton of work when I say Flight New Media I mean my team does a ton of work to put on this conference. It is one of our biggest projects every single year. I don't feel bad about having a table there. One of the things we've done is we've done free design consultations.

Rich Brooks: My creative director will be there and you can sign up for 15 minutes of his time during the course of the day and people will come and meet him. Just an interesting side note I have a friend of mine who runs a successful business with a terrible website and I kept on saying, “Come just let me fix up your website. Let me get you on an updated website. Your website's about 20 years old. I'll start you off with one of our, 5000 dollars. Honestly, you can afford it.”

Rich Brooks: “No, no, no. It's not worth it people love our old site.” She meets with my creative director for 15 minutes and she ends up buying a 21,000 dollar website from us. I'm like, “Are you kidding me? That's all it took?”

Rich Brooks: Just another strange story-

Doug: That's funny.

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Take an entrepreneurial approach to events. Hold an event to create leads and build relationships.

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Rich Brooks: Because they're friends of ours, I had a 20th-anniversary party for “Flight New Media” and as a door prize I gave away a free ticket. Her husband won it, he gave it to her so it's all because of that party that I got all this business.

Rich Brooks: But back to your question about how do you vet people. I think we have a presence there but in previous years and I think again this year we're gonna have some of our competitors who are there too so it's quite possible I lose business to them but I'm okay with that.

Rich Brooks: I think it's more about the long term. I have definitely, almost every year we get one to two projects that are worth anywhere from 10 to 50 thousand dollars combined for that year. Right there it's a no-brainer. In addition to that there are also those people who come, they don't need a website right then or they don't need digital marketing, or they have a vendor, but the next time that contract comes up, we get pulled in. We get to the table because of this event. It's usually a more subtle thing plus now you're on my list with “Agents Of Change,” so I'm promoting different things for AOC but also for “Flight.”

Rich Brooks: Anybody who is coming to the conferences gets on the “Agents Of Change” list and occasionally we'll have a pitch for something that “Flight's” doing. And every episode of “Agents of Change” powered by “Flight New Media.” There's that continual branding. It's not in your face, “Hey you bought a ticket, why don't you buy a website from us?” It's more like, “Here's all the information you need to do better by the way we could help.” It's a little bit subtler than just going for the close.

Rich Brooks: If I'm doing something like a smaller event I might do a slightly harder pitch or I might have a day of type thing. If I do an email marketing thing I might say, “Hey I can help you develop a lead magnet, normally it's going to be 1,500 dollars but if you buy it on your way out today it'll be 750.” I might do something a little more sales like that in a smaller event where it might be either a free event or basically just the cost of the room.

Doug: That makes sense and I think so many times marketers miss that. I've been to a bunch of events. I've sponsored events. I've spoken events. And you sure run the gambit of people who run events like yours. I prefer the more intimate I'm not so interested in the larger, I used to go to the DMA and the bigger conferences where there's 10, 15, 20 thousand people and it's really, the conferences are great, I go for a different reason, but the type of event you're talking about is more intimate. I'm sure the people that attend your event are going to business with each other because they have a chance to have that conversation as well.

Rich Brooks: Yeah absolutely. And that's been the experience that we've had. People like the event because they actually get to talk to the speakers. We do have a green room now for the speakers. We didn't when we first started but in some years they use it but very often they're just hanging out with everybody. I've heard this from so many speakers, “Oh my god everybody from Maine is so nice.”

Rich Brooks: I've seen Maine podcasters end up getting some of these experts onto their show right there at the conference. They'll just go off to a quiet space and they'll do an interview right there. And I love that. I love being part of it. And if you're doing this year over year, what you're really doing is your kind of putting yourself in the middle.

Rich Brooks: And what you said about you'd like to get speakers who are better than you or smarter than you or more well known than you, and I doubt it because you're a pretty smart guy, but if you did find those people that is beneficial because my first year I had, and your audience may or may not know these people but in my industry it's huge. I got Chris Brogan and Derek Halpern 00:27:46] and Amy Porterfield to all show up and I also was on stage.

Rich Brooks: All the sudden those people in the audience are like, “Oh so Rich is like Chris Brogan and Amy Porterfield and Derek Halpern.” I'm like, “Sure.” Most of the time I feel like the monkey from “Super Friend,” or Gleek. I'm like, “That's who I am in the “Super Friends.” I'm this ridiculous monkey but when you're standing on stage next to those people or on the same stage that they just stood on, suddenly you're elevated to their level. Bringing in top-notch speakers can really benefit you as long as you don't completely blow your presentation, which hopefully would never happen.

Doug: That's right. I heard at a recent event that people appreciate having the opportunity to buy but not going and listening to six people do a hard sell from the stage 'cause I paid for my ticket, I flew, I paid for my hotel, I didn't come here to buy advertising.

Rich Brooks: Absolutely. There are events like that. There are events where you're supposed to sell from the stage and everybody knows that and it's expected. And that's fine. It's more about just being transparent with what the thing is. So for me, I'm transparent to a fault on this. I'll tell sponsors, “You can definitely get a table but let me just tell you that there are only like five times during the day that people are gonna be outside the classroom. This is not an expo. There aren't thousands of people walking the floors. On the plus side, there are like six tables so you're definitely going to get noticed.” Or I'll tell people there's gonna be all these sessions going on and I never try and oversell it basically because that's how I am so I try and be as transparent as possible with how I promote it. Whether I'm promoting it to speakers, to sponsors or to the people who are sitting in the audience.

Doug: Any suggested resources for people that are going, “Hey that sounds really good. I'd like to get a start at this. I don't know where to start?”

Rich Brooks: Probably in two years I'll write a book on it. Honestly part of the reason I started teaching people is that everybody was asking me because there wasn't a resource on it. I know that there actually is or was a podcast about putting on events. And I want to say it was event domination. But to be honest for me it was a lot of seat of the pants sort of stuff.

Rich Brooks: I've written a little bit about it on my blog. It's a great question. I think it's an underserved market. I think a lot of it is just a little … actually, I'd say, talk to the CVB, your center for visitor … what is it convention bureaus?

Doug: Yep.

Rich Brooks: Convention and visitors bureau because they'll probably be able to help you outputting things on but I don't know that yet there is a book or a resource for people who want to put this on. I'm sure there are but I learned by the seat of my pants and through experience. I didn't necessarily have a mentor or website or blog that I went to.

Doug: And not to downplay it but you've taken a what I would say is a fairly complex marketing opportunity and you've broken it down in 32 minutes. Kinda highlights the main point so I'm sure if you're taking notes those of you who are tuning in or look at our show notes there's enough information there for you to break that down, take it to your team and actually pull off you're first eight or 10 or 12 or 15 person event.

Rich Brooks: Absolutely and if people have questions they can certainly follow up with me but again, you kind of asked the right questions but I usually think about it as speakers, sponsors, and seats. Those are the three elements for a successful event where you're going to generate leads and make money. Find the right speakers, and it might just be you but it might be some other people who can pull in an audience or at least entertain once people are there.

Rich Brooks: Sponsors. For me, if it wasn't for the sponsors I'd lose money. I need sponsors for the size event that I have and luckily because I've been doing this I've found some local people who believe in what we're doing and want to be associated with a brand.

Rich Brooks: Then seats and really like this is something you're probably gonna have to do on your own. You really gotta push your email list. You gotta get out there. You gotta be talking to people. You gotta find every opportunity whether it's guerrilla marketing or paid advertising, whatever it is, you gotta put some energy behind your marketing and advertising for this. And again just start small. I can always talk about the best practices that have worked for me but best practices don't always equal best results.

Rich Brooks: Start with your … a 50 person event or a 25 person event and then if you like it and you see results from it, then you grow that.

Doug: Yeah really good advise. What's some of the bad advice you hear about people having events out there?

Rich Brooks: I've worked with people or I've talked to people who have had failures. And I think one of the biggest failures is the assumption that everybody is gonna show up and so they rent the best room and they get the best entertainment and they do all this stuff and it doesn't work. I actually talked to one guy who ended up putting on an event and unfortunately it was a huge fail for him.

Rich Brooks: The problem was is, he was complaining to me that his speakers weren't promoting the event. I'm like, “They're not being paid to promote the event.” They have their own lists and they have their own courses, and they have their own businesses. That's not their job. Their job is to show up and do a great job to your audience, that's it. It's your job to go out there and promote and that was kind of a little bit eye-opening for him.

Rich Brooks: Trying to have too big an appetite for how big this event is gonna be is probably the mistake that most people will make and then underpromoting it because you cannot over-promote your event. You might be sick and tired of hearing about your event and be like, “Oh I'm on Facebook all the time talking about it. I'm doing all these things. People must be sick of hearing of it.” No! People are busy. You have to over market this event. That would be another mistake that I see small business and entrepreneurs doing is just not putting enough energy behind the promotion of the event.

Doug: Really good point. You and I talked about the whole remarketing thing and why it works and we all get busy and we see something and go, “Oh I'm interested in the event” and I forget about it or I don't make a note. You're actually doing your audience a favor if you're remarketing to them because most people don't pick it up on the first time and go, “I've been waiting for this email all day I'm gonna go sign up.”

Rich Brooks: It's so rare. Occasionally I'll have people say to me, “Oh yeah I just moved to town. I saw this and I figured oh this is helpful and I went.” I have heard those stories but those are not the typical story. Usually, it's “Yeah I know I should get tickets to that but I don't know if I'm gonna be available that day.” In fact, we still sell almost a quarter or a third of our tickets in the last month which kills me. ‘Cause on one hand I want to sell them all upfront but at the same time, they get more expensive as time goes on so I wish everybody bought tickets day off but of course I'd be freaking out if they did.

Rich Brooks: That's actually another problem people do is they either. They don't get the pricing right. And there is no right perfect idea about this but I would create incentives. Everybody knows an early bird ticket so I would definitely create an early bird ticket but what we do is we do tiers. Every month the tickets go up. That gives us an opportunity to talk to people every single month and be like, “Listen I don't want to be a nag but ticket prices are going up you can still save 150 bucks but only if through Thursday and then the prices are gonna go up.” You want to go, why not save 50 dollars?

Rich Brooks: That'll give you more opportunities to talk to people and really give them an incentive. Scarcity sells. Whether it's you're going to have to pay more next week or we've got a limited number of tickets and we expect this to sell out I'd hate you to miss it.

Doug: Fair enough and people are busy. I've bought tickets last minute and paid more for plane tickets, paid more for a hotel, everything. It's like I'm busy, I don't know if I can fit this into my schedule. I really wanna go and then the week before I go, “My times opened up I'm going I don't care what it costs” and just hop on a plane and go.

Rich Brooks: Yeah I've done that too and then I've kicked myself being like, “Why didn't you think about this six months in advance?

Doug: Yeah I get that. Can we shift gears a little bit and talk a little bit about your book?

Rich Brooks: Sure.

Doug: Not your event which isn't out yet.

Rich Brooks: Which I have not written yet yeah.

Doug: Which comes out in two years. Be out in two years. So, listeners, you can wait for that, look for it on Amazon. But let's talk about your “Lead Machine” book. Tell us a little bit about the book and why people should go find you on Amazon and go download it today.

Rich Brooks: Yeah. Well, I wrote this book based on 20 years of experience of working with small businesses and one of the things that I hear from all my clients is “My business is unique. My customers are unique. There's no other industry quite like ours.” On one level that's true but really what I discovered is that there is a framework that seems to be true for every entrepreneur, every small business, even every non-profit we've worked with over the 20 years. It basically boils down to this thing which we call the bare essentials of digital marketing and that's the framework of the book.

Rich Brooks: Bare is an acronym, B-A-R-E. It stands for a build, attract, retain, evaluate. My whole goal with the book was basically to write the guide that I wish I had when I was first starting out. The first section of the book is all about how to build a website. Not the HTML piece of it, but how to build a website that's actually gonna convert, that's gonna turn visitors into customers. I talk about how to think about it. I take people through the process that they go through if they hire my firm. Here's my questionnaire, here are the questions you need to answer. Here is the kind of stuff. Here's how you want to organize your website. Here is the kind of calls to action you want. Every single step along the way.

Rich Brooks: Then attract. For us, it's usually about SEO, search engine optimization. Social media, digital ads. I kind of go through that. Although to be honest I don't go into detail about social media because by the time I published the book everything was going to change anyway. I talk more about evergreen strategies rather than the latest tips.

Doug: Sure.

Rich Brooks: So that's why you should follow me on Facebook or something.

Rich Brooks: And then retain is all about how do you stay in touch with people after they've left your site. We talk about email marketing. We talk about retargeting. Because a lot of times people come to our website and then they go check out our competition. It's important to stay in front. And the last section is all about evaluation. How do we know if any of this is working? How do we know where our money and our time is best spent? I talk about the different types of reports in Google Analytics that you want to look at and some other third party tools that you can use that every month you get smarter and better use of your time than the month before. So you know, okay well the podcast actually ended up driving a lot of traffic so let's keep up doing the podcast but my Instagram posts are going nowhere so either we need to change that or I can just stop doing Instagram.

Doug: Fair comment. I think lots of times I can't speak for everybody, but I get into a trend of “I've been doing this for a while so I need to keep doing it.” It's like, no it's not working. Nobody's paying attention so they're not going to notice that you've stopped posting so don't worry about it.

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Take an entrepreneurial approach to events. Hold an event to create leads and build relationships.

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Rich Brooks: I've talked to a lot of people, who think like, “You know Rich I really need help with search engine optimization.” Then I'm like, “Okay let's take a look at your Google Analytics.” We go in there and I'm like, “You're actually killing it in terms of your search rankings and visibility and traffic. The problem is everybody's leaving your website within ten seconds. It's not a search problem, it's a conversion problem so let's take a look at that.” Otherwise, they would have been spending thousands of dollars with some search engine optimization agency who only wanted their money because they're gonna make even better. But still, their website is a stiff. The problem primarily was let's fix the website the new can see if there are some areas of search that we can improve.

Doug: Sure that makes sense. Plug the holes in the bucket first.

Rich Brooks: Absolutely. No matter how much rain is coming down, if you've got a hole in your bucket it doesn't matter.

Doug: What are you most excited about the next six, eight to 12 months?

Rich Brooks: Beyond my sabbatical and getting in a pop-up camper with my two daughters and seeing this great country?

Doug: That could be it. It's not-

Rich Brooks: That really probably is it.

Doug: Life is bigger than just what we do for work.

Rich Brooks: It absolutely is and this is kind of an amazing moment that I've taken that I decided I really wanted to do this before my kids go off to college and I strongly recommend that everybody find that time to do something whether it's a month or two weeks but just to unplug and I haven't unplugged in 21 years so I'm really looking forward to it and nervous about it. I continue to be excited about the conference the “Agents of Change.” It is something that I look forward to every year. I'm also planning on doing some side projects. I almost call them “Agents of Change For a Specific Industry.” I did one with a friend in the wedding industry where we basically put on a conference and got a lot of interest in the wedding industry. Then I'm planning on doing some smaller ones for some other industries.    I've been doing this for 21 years. I just turned 50 years old and you gotta keep it fresh. I've got a great team behind me and they can continue to do what we're doing really well but I love doing these little events because it gets you in front of new audiences. One of the things I like about a live audience is you can immediately see how you're doing and then you can change the message based on that. Doing this kind of smaller conferences that might be more industry-specific will give me new insights to different areas that I can focus on.

Doug: That's really cool and you're right. I get so much energy in front of a crowd. When I first started podcasting it's like, “There's nobody here.” It's a microphone, a computer screen, so what I do now is I pull up a picture, so I've got your pictures in front of me so it's like we're talking, having a conversation.

Rich Brooks: And it's interesting because this has been … I will say that you're an excellent host Doug and this has been a fun interview to do because it feels more like a conversation than, “Okay lightning round!” By the way, it's fine if you have a lightning round. It's just like I've done a lot of lightning rounds and it feels like you've asked me, not you, some people asked me the same questions as every single person who's ever been on their show and that's not necessarily the best way to have a conversation.

Doug: We're all different. This is kind of where I thrive. I like meeting and having conversations with people. Whether it's face to face or online or on the phone so this is my MO.

Rich Brooks: Absolutely.

Doug: Well I want to thank you very much for taking time out of your day pre sabbatical before you head off and spend some times with your kids, which I think is a great thing to do. We've done that before, I continue to do that. I think sometimes as business people we forget that. When my grandson shows up, who's two and wants to see me and comes and finds me in my home office it's like, “Yes, this is my business I can shut my computer off for an hour and go kick the soccer ball around with him.”

Rich Brooks: I love that.

Doug: Thanks first for taking the time. Now, where can people hunt you down online? Where are we gonna find you or our listeners track you down?

Rich Brooks: Sure well if you want to reach out to me on social media and ask me any questions I am @therichbrooks on Twitter and every other sort of platform so I'm very easy to find that way. We've been talking about the event. Obviously, I'm a huge fan of the “Agents of Change.” I think it's great for changing people's business and teaching them new things. As I mentioned it takes place in Portland Maine. But it also takes place online. We have people from New Zealand who watch the live stream or watch it on demand. So I wanted to offer an incentive if you will to your audience Doug. If they head over to the “Agents of Change” and they check it out and they decide they want to buy a ticket I'll give them 25 dollars off just because they're your friend. If you go there and in the promo code you type in DougMorneau all one word, you're gonna save 25 bucks whether it's off the virtual pass or whether you decide that you want to come up to Portland Maine because Maine in September is like the most amazing time. It's my favorite time all year, and check it out and hopefully, you'll join us this year and if not this year then maybe next year.

Doug: That's a great invite. That happens to be the same month as my anniversary. Maybe we can swing that.

Rich Brooks: You know you come down for the event so you can write it off as a business trip and then you take your beautiful wife and you give her a weekend in Maine. It's fantastic.

Doug: There we go it's a win-win. Well super good. I appreciate that. I'm just laughing because I remember saying to my wife at our wedding, I said, “You know, we're gonna have a number of shareholders there for a few public companies. Could this be an AGM?” And she just looked at me. I thought, “Okay. Last time I'm bringing up the tax-deductible wedding again.” I have to tell her, it'll be our little secret Doug.

Rich Brooks: Sounds good.

Doug: So thanks again, thanks for tuning in listeners. I hope you got some value here. I think Rich was super generous today and he laid out a pretty simple plan that you should be able to execute and get your first event. Look forward to your comments and feedback if you're going to execute or have executed some of his strategies. Don't be shy to share those in the comment. Make sure you reach out to him. We'll make sure that all of his links are on the show notes and we will include a link to his book on Amazon, “The Lean Machine: The Small Business Guide to Digital Marketing.”

Doug: Thanks again for tuning in and I look forward to serving you on our next episode.

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