What would you do if you hired a event marketing firm and 3 weeks out from your live conference event they had not produced? No ticket sales. How would you recover? My friend and colleague Dr. Venus Opal Reese took the bull by the horns, filled her event and turned it around to make $250,000 in one weekend.
I asked her to sit down and talk with me about the experience and share her lessons learned. She got really transparent with me (I love that) and shared a number of lessons.
Anyone that has ever launched a program or product knows that the entire process is kind of like running a race.
You have a strategy and training and you've done all of your warm ups. You are ready to get your promotion “out there.”
You are running smoothly, when all of the sudden, someone decides to put a hurdle right in the middle of the track! How you respond to that hurdle can make or break your race and your product launch.
What if you could have a pre-view of the hurdles that other “racers” / program launchers have run into?
Now you can!
Product/Program Promotion: Problems and Profits — Launching Lessons Learned.
Occasionally, I'll interview industry experts and ask them about their product or program launches. I'm selecting people that I know will share the good, the bad and the downright ugly so that you can benefit from their experience.
Today, I'll be talking to Dr. Venus Opal Reese of Defy Impossible as she shares her experience launching a super successful LIVE EVENT.
This is not a short post, but it is filled with gems on alignment to your ideal client, marketing, shifting gears, believing in yourself and tenacity to your message. I was inspired the first time I heard Venus' story and thrilled when she agreed to do this interview. I hope it blesses you with inspiration too.
Before I get into the interview, let me tell you a little about this amazing woman. I met Venus back in 2012 and she is a wonderful combination of powerhouse and heart-centered all rolled into one. She is high energy and laser focused.
She is an inspirational speaker, business mentor for Black women, and marketing strategist. Dr. Venus Opal Reese has consulted O Magazine and has been featured on ABC News, CBS News, PBS, in Glamour magazine, Diversity Inc., the Associated Press, and the Tom Joyner Morning Show, which reaches 8 million listeners daily.
Once upon a time, Venus Opal Reese was a walking statistic. She was living on the streets by the age of 16 amidst violence, drugs and prostitution. The predictable outcome was welfare, addiction and ultimately death. However, 14 years later she graduated with a 2nd Masters Degree and a Ph.D. from Stanford University.
Dr. Venus knows what it takes to breakthrough inner barriers that limit performance. She teaches uber educated, purpose-driven entrepreneurial Black women experts, executives, professionals, and service providers how to turn the history of hurts inherited into huge profits. Her clients have used the exact same system Dr. Venus used to get off the streets and through Stanford to generate $3 million in business.
Hello and welcome Dr. V! It’s nice to have you with us. Thank you for your willingness to share some of your mistakes and lessons learned so that others could benefit!
Before you launched the event, you went through a pretty intense refocus of your tribe. I know of a lot of people that are doing that right now and could benefit from your experience. Care to tell us a little about that journey?
Well the truth is a bit embarrassing. In short, I had been marketing to the wrong people. All of my mentors had been White. I, by default, was marketing to White women. I would share my story and White women would cry–but not buy. I took the time to look at who was demonstrating with their dollars, I was their mentor. It turned out that the majority of people who where buying high-ticket services from me were uber educated, purpose-driven, entrepreneurial Black women who had walked through life's fire. They had a ‘good' job and a side hustle that made their heart sing, but did not know how to monetize.
So I hired a messaging expert and realized that in my heart I was afraid to focus my tribe on only Black women for a number of reasons: the people who had hurt me the most in my life were Black women; Black people are not organized nor oriented around new media (we are organized around popular media–then we look you up on line) and Black women don't buy—especially from other Black women. These were all my worries and fears. So I had a “come to Jesus moment” and realized I was positioning ‘White' as right and good and bankable. I saw for myself that I had bought in to the myth that White people spend money wisely and Black people don't.
Whew! That is some deep stuff that you just shared. Thank you! There are so many people out there that are afraid to embrace their audience for one reason or another. Once you realized that, what did you do?
- I did the research and found that by 2015 Black Americans will have over a 1.1 trillion dollar spending power, of which over 60% is controlled by Black women.
- I also interviewed my clients, sent out sample copy to various test groups to see if Black women would buy from me.
- Lastly, I confronted my biggest fear: what if I refocused my tribe to serve only Black women and I never got rich? I prayed on it. And that's when my heart flew open. I realized that if I only touched 1 Black women, the one who had been praying for a solution for which I was the answer, then that was enough for me.
I realized in my heart, that Black women matter and we have never been treated like we do, specifically in the market place. We had never been put first.
I wanted to create a movement around Black women realizing our worth beyond the brawn of our muscle or the furtility of our wombs. We are more than somebody's baby momma. We are more than someone's workhorse, scapegoat, or cash cow. I wanted Black women to know that we are bigger than our bruises.
So, I created the WE MATTER Movement for Black Women in Business. I rebranded EVERYTHING–website, cards, logo, hair, style—everything. I launched the WE MATTER Movement in July 2013 and my business has taken off.
I have to say, I am blessed to have been witness to that transformation. It was truly amazing to see. Thank you for sharing your fears and what you did to break free!
So, you reworked everything and then decided to hold a live event. What event were you promoting?
I was promoting my Defy Impossible Live Experience for Black Women in Business.
What did you do that went well in your launch?
I got my ads into Black beauty salons, on Black radio, and major Black web platforms like, www.BlackAmercianweb.com (Tom Joyner's website.)
Could you share a bit more about how you ran the promotion? What aspects were effective for you that you would do again in a future promotion/launch?
I created my movement before I ran my promotions. I did 10 short videos about the WE MATTER Movement and I wrote 3 articles. I then put those articles on major Black platforms. The one article that really went viral was “How a Good Education can be BAD for Business.” It was re-posted on a lot of Black sites. I had my videos posted to many sites as well.
And, I created a live stream on the end of all the energy around the WE MATTER Movement for Black Women in Business. The live stream was called, “Six-Figure Secrets for Sisters: Get Clarity. Get Confident. Get Free and (FINALLY) Let the Cash Flow!”
We had close to 1,000 viewers on the live stream and I made and offer into a virtual training called, Defy Impossible, “Six-Figure Emancipation Formula: Make Your Mark, Make a Difference, and Make REAL Money—On Your Own Terms.” From this 6 week teleseminar each person received a bonus ticket to my Defy Impossible Live Experience for Black Women in Business. All aspects of building my business around my movement worked beautifully. And I will do them again. I now do everything around my movement.
What didn’t go so well during the launch and what were your lessons learned?
I wanted to work with Black people. So I hired a marketing company that had a proven track record in promoting to Black audiences to fill summer music festivals. The mistake I made was in thinking that because they were successful in filling music events with Black people did not mean they knew how to successfully execute an online launch. They did not. So, three weeks from my actual live event, we didn't have any butts in seats from their marketing efforts.
I had to make a hard call and fire them. That meant I had to figure out a way to fill my event in three weeks. So I prayed on it and came up with a new campaign, “Meet the Experts: Seven-Figure Sisters Series” I then interviewed four Black women who are seven-figure earners — three of which were my speakers.
I did four live streams (one before I took back the reigns) on a one week rotation, and filled my event. I did all the copying, the marketing, learned how to use Google+, had U-stream as a back up and instant teleseminar as the second back up because technology is fickle.
I also changed the pricing structure for my event. I dropped the ticket from $997 with all the bells and whistles to $197 just for the materials covered. And if you were a person who was registered live on the live stream or came through my ezine, I would include the VIP luncheons as well.
The lesson I learned was that just because someone is good in one arena does not mean they will be good in another.
I also learned something new about me that I never would have guessed: I am freakin' genius at marketing. I genuinely enjoy coming up with new ideas to help people help themselves. I like quick turn-arounds instead of launches that take weeks, or months–I am interested in making big money in days.
The biggest lesson learned was that I don't need what I think I need to fulfill my destiny. My confidence in my ability to make money—BIG—money is rock solid. I see the ups and downs of having and filling an event and am no longer afraid of the unknown. I got this.
Yes, you certainly do! What will you do or have you done differently as a result of these lessons?
Next time I will hire an expert to support me in my event. Someone who is proven–Black or White! LOL!
Let’s talk about the event itself. What have you realized as a result of doing this event?
I do intimate events. I am into making being money off of small rooms. This event had 28 potentials — 38 paid (48 including speakers), current mastermind sisters, and family — and we made a quarter million dollars in one weekend.
The highlights for me was knowing that I can fill, market, and close an event myself. I think the first time I did it, I thought it was because of the other people/speakers in the room and because of my mentor at the time. But this time it was all me, with a completely new market, and it worked.
My conversion was 30%, we raised just under $7,000 for my non-profit, and all of my speakers sold six at $997 and four at $3,500. I used Lisa Sasevich's Event Profit Secrets as the model for my event structure and then modified it for my audience. The magic of this structure is putting your big ticket speaker sale on day 3 in the morning after closing the mastermind. People are looking to buy. Lisa's structure is brilliant and flexible. I have modified the structure I learned and included a lot more experiential learning. Black women measure based on how they feel. And I realized they could read the slides without me, but if I could give them an actual experience for each of the lessons, then I knew the close would take care of itself.
The good news is I now have stabilized my monthly income to $25,000+ (new & current members) for the next year so I don't have to do another launch until the end of the 1st quarter or beginning of the 2nd quarter 2014.
What didn't work was hiring contractors who were not already proven. I think because I am a tenured professor (aka teacher) I tend to hire folk who learn as the go. Well the printing didn't get done until the first break of the event and even then it was not what I wanted. It worked and was functional but it wasn't pretty. I had to let go of the paper and enroll them in getting value from what I as creating in the moment. It worked. But from here on out, I vow to only work with people who have a proven track record, profound personal integrity, and who have a giver's heart.
As a business owner, what is one of the biggest challenges you have faced and what did you do about it? Any big lessons learned?
My biggest take away from all of this is I have to rest and pace better. I tend to keep it moving and now I need to plan it out. We tripled my mastermind size and I need to train up my team, do more JV partnerships, get on bigger stages, and do my Black Women Millionaire telesummit so I position myself as the market leader for entrepreneurial Black Women. My experience is one of personal pride and fulfillment. I feel like I am doing God's work and this gives me peace.
You talk about your team often and I know that they had a big part of this event launch. When you are working projects, how do you and your team stay on track?
We get on a Google hang out. We talk a lot!
With your vast experience, are there any products or tools that you would recommend to make promotion/launches go smoother?
You have to figure out what is your best conversion platform. Mine is live speaking, followed by live stream, followed by video, followed by email. If you know you convert better with email, hire a masterful copywriter to support you. I recommend Matthew Goldfarb of Corporate Renegade. He was the one who helped me write my Black Women Matter Manifesto. They also did the design of my new website and my marketing material. I use Ustream and Google+ hangouts for my livestreams. I like Ustream better than Google hangouts because it's more reliable. I had to learn how to share powerpoint and skype on it, but its great if you want to see all the chat activity as well as have a guest on with you.
Do have any future projects you’d like to tell us about?
I am partnering with Lethia Owens, one of the baddest chicks in the game, and we are doing a project early in 2014 for speakers who want to know how to get paid gigs and how to make big money off of free gigs. I am also planning my 1st telesummit in March of 2014, Black Women Millionaires: Inner Secrets from Seven-Figure Sisters so YOU Can Live Your Worth OUT LOUD!” Yay!
Those both sound awesome! Keep us posted on those for sure. Anything else you would like to add?
Thanks you Stephanie for being my soul sister! You were with me when I started thinking about serving Black women. Thank you for loving me through this…
Lastly, yes I am diverse! I have brothers from other mothers and sisters from other misters whose hearts resonate with my work benefit from my services. Most of them have walked through life's fire and game recognizes game, regardless of skin color. So please don't hate. I am not anti anyone. I am just VERY Pro-Black Woman being paid out the a$$ for her genus.
Thank you, I feel the same, my sister. I think it is wonderful when we can recognize each other's power and love one another for it and support each other's vision. That is how we will all succeed!
How can our readers get in touch with you or do you have a gift people can request?
Visit www.defyimpossible.com and send me a love note. I would love to know you. Claim your FREE gift, “Money Movie Trailers: A Movement in 10 Parts for Black Women In Business” at www.DefyImpossible.com
Thank you so much for taking the time to share your brilliance today! You shared some really great points of wisdom.