What If No One Signs Up?

It’s the nightmare of every professional who offers group
programs. You design a powerful workshop, schedule a date,
broadcast your marketing message… and no one registers.
Then what?

Let’s assume you have the basics down. You’ve chosen a
compelling topic, identified a likely audience, and clearly
described the benefits of participating in your program.
Even the price is right. You’ve already sent information
about your program to a list of strong prospects. What else
can you do?

-Preventive Measures-

First, let’s back up a step. There are several measures you
can take early on in your promotion that will improve your
chances of full enrollment:

1. Offer your program in-house instead of to the general public. Selling your program to a company, association, or
learning center with an established base of employees,
members, or students can be much easier than trying to sell
each seat yourself. You could also partner with an existing
organization with a track record of filling programs, and
share the profits in return for a full house.

2. Build your prospect list to equal 20-100 times the number of people you want to attend. A typical response rate from a
postal mailing is 1-2%. Response to opt-in email is often even lower. (Don’t even consider using unsolicited email.) In general, expect no more than 1% to respond if they don’t know your work and rarely more than 5% even when they know
you well. Make it a habit to capture the name and address of
every prospect and get their permission to mail or email.

3. Plan to promote on multiple channels. Your promotion plan
should include announcements in your ezine or newsletter, a
description on your web site, postal mail, a brochure or
flyer to distribute, calendar listings, and personal
invitations. Don’t rely on just one or two avenues —
students are much more likely to enroll when they see your
program mentioned in many different places.

-Emergency Enrollment-

If your program has low or no registrations as the date
approaches, here’s what you can do to increase enrollment:

1. Call everyone on your prospect list and invite them
personally. Don’t rely on mail and email to do the job.
Place a phone call to each person you have a phone number
for, give a brief description of the program, and invite
them to attend. You’ll be amazed how many people will say,
“Thank you for calling — I’ve been meaning to sign up.”

2. Ask clients and colleagues to make referrals. Just
mailing an announcement to potential referral sources isn’t
the same as asking for their help. Call or email people who
respect your work, and ask them to suggest two or three
others who could benefit. If they have suggestions for you,
ask if they will also contact those people themselves to
endorse your program.

3. Make a special offer. Tell the people who are already
registered they can bring a friend for half-price. You’re
not losing any revenue that way if the space would otherwise
be standing empty. Offer a bonus gift to those who enroll —
30 minutes of your professional time, or an ebook, audio, or
report you’ve produced. To encourage people to spread the
word, offer the same gift to people who refer students to

-If All Else Fails-

In the last few days before your program, if you still have
only a handful pre-registered:

1. Hold your program anyway. Invite people to attend for
free if necessary to have good participation. Your clients
will enjoy the chance to spend more quality time with you;
colleagues will benefit from the opportunity to see you work
and meet other attendees. Ask people who attend at no charge
to write you glowing testimonials and refer paying
participants for the next time.

2. If you can’t fix it, feature it. The meaning of this
classic sales maxim is that if your product has an obvious
flaw, make it a positive selling point. When only six people
enroll in your big seminar, convert it to an intimate group
experience. If you have only two people for a group, turn it
into a success team. Your participants will be thrilled to
have more individual attention. Never apologize for a
smaller-than-expected turnout.

3. Plan ahead to do better next time. Analyze what went
wrong with your marketing and strategize how to do it
differently the next time around. Should you have allowed
more lead time? Does your mailing list need to be larger? Do
you need to factor in more promotion channels instead of
relying on mailings or email alone? Make a list of all the
key elements you think are necessary to successfully promote
your next program.

-Keep It Going-

Filling group programs becomes easier when you offer them
regularly. When students see the same program advertised two
or three times, they are much more likely to enroll. Think
of all your marketing efforts as part of a long-term plan to
make more people aware of your business. If the outreach for
your workshop introduces your business to many new people,
you may ultimately find that much more valuable than just
filling one program.

May all your promotion be productive,

C.J. Hayden, MCC

Copyright © 2004, C.J. Hayden
C.J. Hayden is the author of Get Clients NOW! Thousands of business owners and salespeople have used her simple sales and marketing system to double or triple their income. Get a free copy of “Five Secrets to Finding All the Clients You’ll Ever Need” at www.getclientsnow.com.