What builds a speaking ministry (or any business, for that matter)? Word of mouth! And what builds word of mouth? The ability to keep yourself at the top of people’s consciousness.
I’ve been blogging and writing and teaching for a few years now on the importance of word of mouth in building a speaking ministry. You can’t succeed through advertising or glossy packages. You need people to recommend you. But here’s the problem:
Let’s say that you’re speaking for free for a year, as I often recommend, building up your speaking skills and taking some recordings of yourself talking so you can make them into YouTube clips or CDs to sell. That’s all great, but when you want to start charging for speaking, you need people to hire you. And the people who are most likely to hire you are those who have already heard you, or those who hear your name recommended from those who have already heard you.
In other words, the people who hear you, even when you speak for free, are the people who are going to build your speaking ministry.
So do those people know how to get in touch with you? Will they even remember your name?
Let’s say that you do a great job, and you have business cards on your table for people to take so they can get in touch with you later. That’s very useful, but the only people likely to take those business cards are those who are already involved in women’s ministry committees. Let’s say Sally hears you speak, and she loves you, but she’s not on a committee. She has no reason to take a business card.
Six months later she’s taking to her sister on the phone, and her sister mentions that she’s been charged with finding a speaker for their spring retreat. She asks Sally if she has any ideas. Sally remembers you, but she can’t remember your last name. So the conversation goes no farther.
Now let’s say that you collected Sally’s email at that talk, and you’ve been sending out a fun, informative and useful newsletter ever since. Suddenly, when her sister asks, Sally just goes into her email folder and forwards your newsletter to her sister. Presto! Word of mouth.
So here are some steps in getting a newsletter going:
1. Collect Email Addresses
Either hand out ballots for a draw to everyone who is there, or else invite people to sign up for your newsletter at your table, in exchange for being entered in a draw. On the ballots, leave a box they can check if they want to receive your newsletter. I usually get about a 30% positive rate on ballots, which is pretty good!
2. Consider Your Niche
You now want to write a newsletter that is full of interesting things for people in your niche. So instead of thinking of the newsletter as sharing YOUR news, think of it as sharing information THEY need. Your audience is your starting point, not you.
So who is your niche? Is it all women in general? Young moms? Women who want a deeper relationship with God? Abuse survivors? Working women? Identify them well, and then ask yourself: what major things do they struggle with? What quick information do they want? What are their five main problems? Write these down!
3. Include Things That Answer These Problems
If your group is interested in combining work and family, then include an article that’s fairly short on how to do just that. Then link to 3 or 4 other articles on the web (they don’t have to be written by you!) that address the same sorts of issues.
Think of your newsletter as being something that will encourage them and that will be a resource for them.
4. Link to Fun Things
Also always include something fun! YouTube videos are great to include, because they are often forwarded. So find something funny that’s right in your niche and include a link to it! If people like it, then the next time your newsletter comes into their email, they’ll check to see if you have another funny link!
You can also link to a humour article, a funny cartoon, or anything that tickles your fancy that’s really fast to watch! And don’t forget statistics! If there’s a new study in your field, link to that, because people love up to date information.
5. Ask Questions
People like interaction! Create a poll around a specific issue in your niche, like “when do you start kids on chores?”, “how do you fit in devotions?”, or “what’s your favourite book of the Bible?” Host the poll on your Facebook Page or your blog, and invite them to answer!
6. Link to Your Social Media Sites
It’s wonderful to send emails, but if you can engage people in multiple ways, they’re more likely to remember you. So invite them to join your Facebook Page, or invite them to follow your blog. Search on Facebook for widgets to include to have people follow your Facebook Page. Then you can just embed them right in your newsletter!
7. Include Information on Where You’re Speaking
Finally, in one of the columns of your newsletter, list your speaking engagements that are coming up, or the ones you’ve just done, to show that you’re in demand. Include a few pictures. Let people think of you as a “speaker”. And if you’ve just created a new retreat package or a new talk, make a SMALL announcement about it! Don’t make this the main article in your newsletter because it doesn’t actually help people–it’s just spreading news about yourself. But do position it in a side column in a very visible spot!
8. Make Your Newsletter Slick
Your newsletter should be easy to read, filled with one article, and then lots of short, fun things. It should be colourful. It should have links to other sites. And it should be interesting!
That can be hard to design on your own. Constant Contact offers a free trial. Aweber is also well-regarded. My web program sends out newsletters, so I don’t even need an external one.
9. Send it Out Regularly
Once you have email addresses, send your newsletter out on a regular basis, let’s say every month or six weeks. You don’t want to try to do it too much, or people will get overwhelmed. But if you don’t do it often enough they forget about you!
Those are the key things for a newsletter: Think of it as providing content people want, not just providing news about what you’re doing. Make it quick, with lots of shorter things, rather than too many long ones. Make it easy to scan. And you’ll end up creating something with value that people will want to read!
Remember, if you’re linking to things around the web, it doesn’t even take a lot of writing on your part (which makes it easier for you!). Just think of your niche, supply them with interesting, helpful things, and they will remember you!
Does anyone send out a newsletter? What have you found that works? Let me know in the comments!