Optimising sales outcomes from international conferences
Once you know who your target audience are, do your homework. Are they listed as an exhibitor, speaker or sponsor at the event. Can you approach them via any event supplied app, shared connection or simple LinkedIn connection invitation or message. If you can secure meetings ahead of time, the structure is more likely to provide focus and outcomes, even if they’re just greater insight into your target customers.
Always do the ground work of letting your audience know you’re going to be at the event, However you choose to do it, from picking up the phone to known key contacts, to promoting it on LinkedIn or via email to the appropriate segment of your database. Without spamming people, raising awareness of being in the same place at the same time can help to encourage them to engage. Wherever possible try and lock in meetings in advance otherwise those meetings will slip through your fingers.
The possibility of speaking at an event is always worth exploring. To have the opportunity to be positioned as an industry thought leader, trusted with the task of educating the masses can be a powerful thing if you’re able to build on it. If you’re going to speak, prepare, know your subject, get to know any industry peers you might be sharing the stage with and capitalise on the opportunity by promoting it across your business network on LinkedIn, and potentially an email campaign to key targets on your database.
Following your appearance, always thank the organisers both personally and publicly on LinkedIn. Where the subject of your speaking spot warrants, recycle the content into a blog post for your website and share it on LinkedIn with the event and fellow speaker mentions and relevant hashtags. And don’t forget to monitor engagement with your posts. Where people engage it’s important to reengage with them. It could be following up on a simple ‘like’ to say thank you and start a conversation, or it could be responding to a comment publicly. It’s about optimising the effort you put in to realise the most benefit.
Sponsorship gives your brand visibility and can create a positive perception based on your brand being aligned with that of a major industry event. If you have some budget, but not necessarily a lot of manpower, sponsoring aspects of an event can be a good shout as it doesn’t require a lot of people power. There are usually a range of sponsorship options to suit most budgets. Having said that, there are a number of important to consider before diving in. Is there a sponsorship opportunity that’s relevant to your brand and aligned with your corporate objectives? Is your brand strong enough to capitalise on the opportunity? Will the option you can afford be seen by your target audience and will it improve your brand positioning, or could it potentially be detrimental? Fundamentally, you need to answer the all-important ‘why’ question. Why would sponsoring X be good for our brand, what do we expect people to think or do because of it?
For those with the bandwidth and budget to exhibit there are a myriad of considerations. The optimum stand location for your budget can help you get more bang for your buck. Having a stand designed that has ‘stand out’ quality is also key, and I don’t just mean throw a tonne of money at it, think smart. The mistake businesses often make with stand design is trying to make it say and do everything. Think about the usable real estate. Where are people looking, what are the areas that might be obstructed? If you must have text on it, how succinct and punchy can you make it so that it’s easy to read at a distance or on the move. Whatever you do should be about piquing interest to make people want to come and talk to you to find out more.
What initiatives could you employ to stand out from the crowd? Is it about lighting, audio, visuals and messaging or is it about having engaging staff manning the stand, or an activity for your target audience to engage in to get them talking (and get their data!). It might be worth hiring professionals to entertain your audience with close-up magic tricks, mobile massage or some other memorable bit of fun. If there’s an activity that relates particularly well to your brand or message, even better!
It’s important to think about what you want people to leave your stand with. Is there a key thought that you could sow in their minds, or item you could give them that might help you to remain sticky in their memory? There’s a place for printed sales collateral and physical merchandise in this scenario but it’s more powerful to be able to start a conversation and actively listen in a way that you can pick up on a challenge that they have and respond in a way that would give them confidence about you working with them to resolve it.
Your people are your key differentiator at an event. They need to be equipped on every front. They need to know how to have a consultative conversation. They need to be clear and aligned on messaging about your products and services. They need to be on brand (and by that I don’t mean wearing the brand, although that might be appropriate). Being on brand is more about exuding the personality and values of your company. They need to bring their A-game to have enough energy and positivity to attract prospects to engage with them (smiling and making eye contact rather than standing around looking disinterested). On that note, make sure you have a regular rotation or people to keep the energy and enthusiasm up. Make sure they know what’s expected of them, that they have the ability to collect visitor data and are accountable in doing their post-event follow ups.
It’s possible to attend an event as a delegate and pursue new business opportunities. This agile approach can have its own benefits, but the rules of having a strategy, doing your homework and pre-event engagement still apply. Having more casual conversations with other delegates without their guard being up about being sold to can generate greater insight. The flip-side of this however is that because you don’t always know who you’re speaking to, or what the needs of their business might be, there’s probably greater potential for wasted time in this approach. It’s definitely best to take this approach with a strong core of pre-arranged meetings as ‘walking the floor’ isn’t targeted enough to expect a strong success rate of new opportunities.
For all those that engage in whatever capacity, there are always peripheral opportunities to be considered. You might want to explore sponsorship, placement of ads or advertorials in related industry publications to be seen by your target audience around the event. You might even consider doing your own thing. Whilst the event will remain the main draw card, there is always opportunity to host a side-show (although try to check the event program to avoid times where people might already be committed). Hosting a meal for invited guests can work well as can parties and special experiences like cruises, city or vineyard tours. The main thing is to understand the context of the event, to understand what might work around the edges of it as complementary.
Most sales conversions happen as a result of follow-up activity. It’s really important that the people on the ground record their interactions in your CRM, tag them as relating to the event for reporting purposes and input future activities to ensure opportunities are thoroughly chased down. This kind of data practice also helps to calculate the ROI of event attendance.
We complete a report following each event which includes an output of this CRM data and a record of the themes of conversations and presentations that have been had. It also includes whether you’d recommend attending and top tips for attendees.
Themes and recommendations are really useful to capture, as they can inform content strategies, whether the event is worth investment the following year and how to optimise the opportunity.
If you’d like help with defining your proposition – what you’re selling, who you’re selling to, your USPs, creating stand out and exploring the right engagement model for you, then we can help. Equally we’re great at aligning teams on strategy and objectives and could run an away day with purpose prior to an industry event to ensure that your people are positioned to optimise the opportunity. Simply complete our contact form or email email@example.com to talk about how we could help you in optimising sales outcomes.