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Four star lesson for small business marketing

Why would a small business host a special guest speaker at marketing event?  Conventional thinking says the speaker’s name recognition will help bring more people (and prospects) to the event.  But one unnamed small business – one that sells water heaters – took a different approach:  they kept the speaker’s name a surprise.

So said Gen. Colin Powell, the former U.S. Secretary of State and a retired four star general at a recent event hosted by the Washington Speaker’s Bureau.  The General has been retired from public service for several years now and as such has filled his time on the speaking circuit providing speeches to organizations big and small. The Washington Speaker’s Bureau invited a handful of its clients, including us, to listen to Gen. Powell speak, and he told us a dozen or so stories from his speaking adventures – like this one with the water heater company.

When Gen. Powell arrived to speak at the water heater company’s event he was surprised to learn that none of the event attendees knew he was coming.  He asked the small business owner, who had organized the event why he didn’t tell people that Gen. Powell was coming to speak at the event – more people might have attended.  The small business owner replied:  if they knew you were coming, they’d come to see you speak; I want them to come to this event to buy water heaters.

Lesson learned? Have clear objectives in mind when organizing events with high profile speakers.  I’d venture to guess this small business owner was seeking to solidify the relationship with prospects with a serious interest in making a water heater purchase with a “surprise” speaker.

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