As we start heading into conference season we see that the horizon is dotted with enticing B2B sales and marketing conferences. When we peruse various events, we want to attend them all but then we hear management’s familiar cry of, “we’ll fund it, but what about ROI?”
Conferences, when incorporated into an overall marketing strategy can be powerful vehicles for quality lead generation. They often inspire, recharge and reignite sales and marketing teams. Your team can also see how the company stacks up against the competition and participating in events can be a great empowerment tool.
But in order to reap the most benefits of your efforts you need to make sure you do not just throw your sales team into the heat with no support, but you actually make sure you are taking a strategic approach to events planning and execution. We offer your attention 4 essential steps you need to take to make sure your team comes to the next conference or a trade show calm, confident, fully equipped, and leaves it as winners bringing you warm and promising leads.
1. Plan carefully and choose your events wisely
It is vitally important to see how different organizations rank the upcoming conferences in 2017 to make an informed choice about where you are going to place your resources. Your budget is going to dictate the number of events that you will be able to attend and you will need to evaluate and prioritize their specific benefits. The event that attracts the highest number of your potential clients will be where you will take the biggest booth you can afford. If a conference offers speaking opportunities, it is a powerful vehicle for you to showcase thought leadership, build brand awareness and generate leads while saving on sponsor packages. Getting the right speaking opportunity should be a priority on your list. Even if you have used up your budget on select events, you can send your team to other conferences where they can network without an expensive booth. They can still exchange business cards and generate leads.
2. Set Clear Goals and Expectations
Essentially, you should define your criterias of success and how you propose to measure results once your exhibition has been packed up and cleared away. This needs to be determined ahead of the conference date so you can get your team ready to execute as they hit the ground.
Perhaps you are looking to aim for a specific number of collected contacts, qualified leads or scheduled appointments? Maybe you wish to introduce a new product line, launch a new marketing campaign or create brand awareness. Whatever goals you choose must be clearly decided and discussed with your sales and marketing teams prior to the event.
3. Align Sales and Marketing
The marketing team’s role:
- Get the sales team as much information as possible on the attendees.
- Let your entire network know that you will be attending this specific conference and look to engage with those that are planning to attend.
- Prepare the booth/stand to look appealing to maximize sales efforts.
- Have a list of engaging activities or contests that will attract relevant people to the booth.
- Make a master checklist so nothing gets left behind in the office. Everything from event banners, business cards, Give-a-ways, box to collect business cards, flyers, brochures, stationary, energy bars etc.
- Live tweet, blog and post throughout the proceedings. Ensure you have a dedicated team to cover every aspect of the conference and your part in it. Make sure every post has a strong visual image, gif or video element. Use social media before, during and after the event.
- Use the conference #hashtag to dominate the conversation. Place yourself front and center in every conversation. Be visible and add valuable insights, commentary and solutions.
The sales team’s role:
- Prior to the event, reach out to a list of prospects who will be attending with the goal of setting up face to face meetings. This prospect list should be supplied by marketing. You can find this info on the conference website and then finish it up with a Linkedin research. Drop them an email or call to set up an appointment at the event. Don’t bargain on just bumping into them – pre-plan!
- Be well prepared to demonstrate the products/services of the company. If what you’re selling lends itself well to demos, make sure you have the ability to do so.
- Ensure a streamlined referral process at your stand. Yes, you could be pre-qualifying leads by entering their information and the specifics of your conversation at the back of their business cards but don’t forget to copy that info into your CRM later on.
Immediately Debrief and Follow Up
Get together with the entire conference team after the event to review the successes and challenges of the event. This process is often neglected. Spend time to really honor the hard work your team did throughout, and thank them for their specific roles. The learnings will become the basis for the following conference strategy plan. Squeeze out as much data as you are able to glean from the process to be able to validate the investment.
Now that huge box of business cards or notes updated onto your CRM needs action. It’s time to follow up while the conference is still fresh in everybody’s minds. Analyze your traffic that occurred during the conference and track the amount of interest you receive from the next email you send out.
When you plan, execute and follow up with precision, your sales and marketing teams can effectively leverage the conference platform to generate leads that ultimately lead to bigger revenues for your company. A solid events presence increases your brand awareness, making engagement and conversion of prospects next time a tiny bit easier.