Offering in store or on campus classes, workshops, and seminars allows your business to build more personal connections with your customers and clients. But sometimes, despite your riveting topic, the benefits of participating in your program, the reasonable price, and your advertising efforts, people just don’t sign up the way you expected them to.

So what can you do when attendance for your programs is looking pretty dismal? Business Know-How offers the following tips:

The Emergency Enrollment Plan – If your class, workshop or seminar has low or no registrations as the date approaches

Extend a Personal Invite to Everyone on Your Prospect List – Don’t rely on mail and email to get the job done. Pick up the phone and call each person you have a phone number for. Give them a brief description of the program or event and invite them to attend. You may be surprised how many people tell you “Thank’s for calling…I’ve been meaning to register for that.”

Ask Customers or Clients to Make Referrals – Sure, you can mail an announcement to potential referral sources. But it’s not the same as asking for their help. Reach out to people—via phone or email—who are loyal to your business. Ask them to suggest two or three other people who could benefit from your class, workshop, or seminar. If they offer any suggestions, consider asking them to contact those people themselves to endorse your event.

Offer a Special Incentive – Inform the people who have already registered for your program that they can bring a friend for half-price. You won’t lose any revenue if the space would’ve otherwise been empty. You could also offer a bonus gift (of minimal cost) to those who sign up, whether it’s a personal consultation, a special private shopping session, a coupon book, or a guide of some sort. Offer the same gift to customers or clients who refer potential attendees to you. That way, you encourage people to spread the word!

The If All Else Fails Plan:  If you still only have a handful of people signed up In the last few days before your program

Hold Your Class, Workshop or Seminar Anyway – Consider inviting people to attend for free, if need be, so there will be good participation. Your customers and clients will enjoy the opportunity to spend more quality time with you and it will give new visitors a chance to get to know you. Ask people who attended for free to write reviews and/or testimonials and see if they would be willing to refer potential paying participants for the next time.

“If You Can’t Fix It, Feature It” – Yes, your class only as a few registered attendees. But you can still turn what appears to be a dismal situation into a positive solution. For example, the golfing community started billing 9-hole courses—formerly perceived as “inferior”—as “Executive Courses” (because their players are so busy and important they don’t have time to play 18-holes).

When only three or four people sign up for your class, workshop or seminar, convert it into an intimate group experience, suggests Business Know-How. If you only have two people for a group, turn it into a “success team”. Make participants feel special by showering them with lots of individual attention and never apologize for a small turnout.

Learn From The Experience & Plan Ahead to Do Better The Next Time – Analyze what went wrong:

  • Did you advertise enough?
  • Was the class or workshop description compelling?
  • Does the class cover a topic your customers or clients really want to know more about?
  • Should you have allowed more lead time?
  • Does your mailing list need to be larger?
  • Do you need to use more promotion channels, in addition to mailings or emails?

Consider how you can do things differently the next time around  Make a list of key elements you think will be necessary to successfully promote your upcoming classes, workshops, or seminars and start planning ahead. Here are some ways you can improve chances of full enrollment early on in your promotion:

Partner With Other Industry Experts – Teaming up with another company, association, or industry expert that has an established base of customers, employees, members, or students might be easier than trying to sell seats for your programs on your own. Look for a partner with a good track record of filling workshops, classes, and seminars and work out an agreement that benefits both parties.

Build a List of Prospects That’s 20-100 Times Larger Than the # of People You Want to Enroll – According to Business Know-How, typical response rates of postal mailings are 1-2%. Responses to opt-in emails are often lower. You can expect about 1% to respond if they’re familiar with your establishment and less than 5% even when they know you well. Get in a habit of capturing names and addresses for your prospects and obtain permission to contact them via mail or email.

Promote on Multiple Channels – Don’t limit your class, workshop, or seminar promotion to just your website. Use a combination of channels to spread the word about your upcoming event, including your newsletters, brochures, calendar listings, social media platforms, and personal invitations. People are more likely to register for your programs when they see your brand and your events mentioned in many different places.

Conclusion

In today’s retail world it’s harder than ever to stand out from the competition. Offering in store or on campus classes, workshops, and seminars provides your business with an opportunity to connect with your clients and customers on a more personal level. But sometimes it can be a challenge to fill the seats with paying participants.

Follow the tips above to boost class or event attendance when your list of sign ups isn’t what you’d hoped for. And remember, poorly attended classes and workshops are actually an opportunity to learn what you can do better the next time around.

About Author

Sherene Funk

Sherene Funk is a voracious reader who owns more books than she can ever read in this lifetime (but that doesn't stop her from collecting more). A graduate of Brigham Young University, she has published several humorous non-fiction articles and worked in advertising for many years before moving to her current position as a writer on modern retailing at Rain Retail Software.

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