Small Business Marketing Magic: Engage Prospects Through Lunch ‘n Learn Series

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A “lunch ‘n learn” series can be a great way to share your expertise with prospects and current customers alike. It doesn’t need to be a huge event in order to be effective, either. In fact, we believe a smaller group – ten people maximum – makes for an ideal group size (and for an affordable budget).

Here’s an overview of what you need to do and keep in mind regarding logistics, lunch, promoting the event, and the presentation itself.

Logistics for Your Lunch ‘n Learn Series

The setting. You’ll need some sort of room to comfortably accommodate attendees, yourself, and a table for the lunch spread. It could be a conference room or simply an office that’s been re-arranged.

Lunch. Places like Panera and Bruegger’s (and there are plenty of otherscustom lunch bags!) have great corporate catering menus. We recommend ordering a variety of sandwiches (including some vegetarian options), chips, cookies, fruit, and water. Invest in some custom lunch bags (like the one pictured to the right) and fill each one with the side items (chips, cookies, water, fruit). When attendees arrive, invite them to take a lunch bag and to then choose a sandwich of their choice from the platter. Easy-peasy.

Marketing materials. Provide some materials, like a brochure or educational packet, at each place setting. This helps guide people as to where they should sit, and it gives them something to bring home (in addition to their cool, reusable lunch bags!).

Promote your Lunch ‘n Learn Series

You’ll want to create a sense of urgency, and the best way to do that is by letting people know space is limited and that people need to register on a first-come, first-served basis.

Promote the event through:

  • Social media
  • Email newsletter
  • Website
  • Networking meetings
  • Word of mouth
  • Direct “reach out” to customers or prospects who might be interested
  • Vendors/affiliates

Make it easy for people to register. Ideally, set up a landing page on your website where people can fill out a form to register. If you’re not equipped to do that, good old-fashioned email or even a phone call will work. (Note: some email vendors, such as Constant Contact, offer an event registration product in addition to their email marketing software.) The key is to make sure you have the ability to capture everyone’s info, including their email address and phone number.

Send reminders. Email is probably best. You’ll want to send at least two reminders: one a week out, and one the day before the lunch ‘n learn series. Include the time, directions, and the topic/agenda.

Say thank you. After the event is over, you’ll want to continue to market to these people. Send a thank-you email to the folks who came and, if possible, provide some sort of offer or call to action. For the no-shows, send a “sorry we missed you” email, and direct the person to ways he/she can stay in touch with you and your company (Facebook, Twitter, etc.)

Tips for Your Lunch ‘n Learn Series Presentation

Brainstorm topics. Looking for ideas? Review the questions that come in from customers, either via email, social media, or through conversations you’ve recently had on the phone or in person (if you have a sales team, ask them about the questions they receive). Do a Google search on certain aspects of your business and see what people are “talking” about. Look at trade/industry publications from the last few months and see what the featured articles were about. Topic ideas are everywhere. An important point to keep in mind: remember, you know your business inside out, but your prospects and customers do not. Don’t overlook straightforward topics simply because you know the information and all the answers…these topics often make the best lunch ‘n learn series.

Choose a topic and narrow your focus, if needed. Consider your list of topics. Which ones get your heart thumping? Seriously, you want to go with a topic you feel passionate about (in addition to one you feel competent talking about).

Outline and refine. You need to keep timing in mind. Plan on a typical lunch hour. The first 10-15 minutes, people will be coming in, getting their lunch, and settling in. Then, you’ll want to introduce yourself, your topic, and begin your presentation. Allow 25 minutes or so for this piece (you’ll have wiggle room of 5-10 minutes). Use the remaining time – and be sure to leave at least 10 minutes for this at the end – for questions from the audience. Plan for a “soft” end time: let people know when the hour is up, thank them for coming, and invite them to take their packets and custom lunch bags with them (if there’s leftover food, invite them to stock up!). Let people know that you’ll be available to answer further questions for an additional 15 minutes, but that you’re going to wait five minutes so people can leave if they need to. This provides a natural “break,” and it lets those who need to leave the freedom to do so without feeling like they’re disrupting anything or missing out.

Practice! It’s always a good idea to do a dry run — from start to finish. Use some of your employees, or if you’re solo, recruit family, friends, or networking buddies. Remember, practice makes perfect!

Have you done a lunch ‘n learn series before? What tips would you offer others? Or have you attended one that was exceptionally good? Share your thoughts/experiences in the comments.

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