Conference Marketing – on premise and off – 5 Winning Strategies That Drive Leads

Conference marketing – on premise and off – 5 winning strategies that drive leads

We know you invest a lot in your conference participation. From booth development and construction, collateral and giveaways, to the staff sent to man it, a conference is no light commitment. Yet so many times up and down the aisles of conferences big and small, there are the winners –  with people lined up to see what it’s all about, and the ones that miss the mark – booth managers sitting dejected behind a dish chock full of give-away pencils.

It’s not always about the product or service at hand. You wouldn’t be at the conference if the topic missed the mark, and people generally don’t go to conferences unless they have an interest in or work in the industry or subject being presented. Therefor we will factor that there is an inherent relevance. Attendees have some level of interest in your offering and you have some level of interest in speaking with them.

So why does it go downhill from there? There are 5 key, easy to identify challenges which many managers find hard to overcome. We’ve provided the strategies that will help you make your conference participation worth the effort.

  • Lack of planning and pre-marketing – Everyone is running a mile a minute leading up to the conference, how can you possibly do any “pre-event” marketing?

How to fix it: Get the list of attendees ahead of time, send a personal note (postcard, email or letter); PIXEL (cookie) the email or landing page of the promoted website where people will go to get more information, and add those individuals to a remarketing campaign counting down the weeks/days to the event. Reaching folks digitally is a great way to stay in front of them with your brand in a fun, consistent way so when they get to the conference, they have instant recognition of who you are and what you do, because of course, you will have read item #2 to reinforce this.

Include a special offer so if they stop by your booth and have the secret code – they get something unique or useful. One of my favorite uses of this tactic was a group who sent out actual invitations prior to the conference, including a branded coffee mug. In the letter, they asked prospects to come by their booth and meet with them to pick up the coffee to go with it (a $10 Starbucks card). Bribery? Maybe – but it worked, and people responded. Remember the theory of inherent relevance. Plus, you control who gets these special offers, tailor them to the industry, have fun with them or make it practical.

Is there a conference app? Most conferences are implementing conference apps like SummitSync to help conference goers network and communicate before the conference, during the conference and to stay connected after. Use it! SummitSync is a social app for conference goers.  You can quickly identify who you want to connect with, make appointments to meet and broaden your network, maximizing your time in attendance.

Use Lists. Have a check off list for everything you need to take, pull everything together a week prior and make sure you know the shipping dates and policies for the event;

Have a calendar – set dates to complete you pre-marketing efforts; your pre-booked appointments, travel times and post event follow up activities. Treat it all as if it was a very important meeting, and you can’t miss any of them.

  • Misalignment of message – whether you’re using up old collateral, brought the wrong banner (see #1) or have untrained people manning the booth – by not having a clearly identified Value Prop, visible everywhere and repeated often – you’re missing out on one of the key reasons for being there – branding and awareness of who you are and what you do.

How to fix it: ALWAYS put your best foot forward. Anything less and people will judge you for it. Invest in the best booth you can, make sure your collateral is up to date or don’t use it – offer an online version instead, organize what you need days ahead – do a mock set up to see how it all looks, and train your people! Give them talking points, arm them with samples, role play and ask challenging questions. Make sure your message and brand are familiar to attendees by following the tactics in #1 and repeat that message throughout the conference.

Reinforce that message by geotargeting the conference center and all the hotels within a logical 1-10 mile radius, and follow up your branding message with digital marketing to targets in the comfort of their hotel room or over dinner in a nearby restaurant.  Put out a NEW special offer to get them to stop by – maybe a conference survival pack with chocolate, water, extra coffee, and some cozy socks for weary feet at the end of a long day. Put your spin on it but make it meaningful. Have people register online for the goody pack and come by the booth to pick it up – that way you have prospect information being collected even while you are hitting the gym off hours.

  • Lack of engagement mechanism – why should people talk to you? Forget the stickers and bingo dots – unless you’re giving away an iPad or a Hover Board what’s going to get people to come talk to you?

How to Fix it: If you’ve done your homework from items #1 & 2 and planted a few seeds, even set up some pre-determined meetings, you’ll have people lining up to see what all the fuss is about. Promote designated times for demonstrations; don’t fall for gimmicks – I once had my photo taken with Cinderella at a health conference – I had absolutely no interaction with the booth who sponsored her – just stood there taking up their booth space saying “Cheese” – Gimmicks might get people to your booth – but not the right people. Instead offer live demos, compelling video on a big screen of people using your product or service and making their lives better because of it, or a Q&A session with the founder or inventor, developer, family, CEO or best client. Better yet – brand yourself ahead of time with special invites to have a personal demonstration or meeting.

  • No follow up plan – If I had a dollar for every business card I’ve seen collected in a fishbowl….

How to Fix it: For every business card collected have a next step identified – is it a call to discuss? – set a day and time as you collect the card, or is it a referral to someone in your organization – send an email intro in the moment. Identify the specific follow up activity for each lead or prospect and assign a deadline. Prioritize. Follow up with the most pressing and most relevant leads first. Delegate. If you have the support, delegate unqualified leads to someone else. In addition, do broad follow up to the list of attendees, reach back out digitally and retarget prospects who ended up opening an email or going to your website, use the conference app to check back in with connections and make the most of your time and budget by not missing a moment to do business with the people you deemed worthy to spend your time with.

  • Tracking for ROI  That’s immediate ROI as in closed deals, potential ROI as in feeding your pipeline, and lifetime ROI as in the long-term value of a newly acquired client or the nurturing and development of a current one. Many organizations fall-down here. It’s all lumped together with every other business development effort.

How to fix it: There’s no reason for this. Today’s technology allows for easier tracking than ever.  Most CRMs provide features to identify leads with source codes. Digital campaigns can be tracked and funneled into your pipeline with campaign codes and even if you are working with simple excel spreadsheets – add a column identifying your lead source. Follow the dollars. Use the data to justify your expense in both materials and time.

Simple improvements in each of these areas will help you shine at your next conference, have a deeper understanding of the impact you are having on your bottom line and make it easier and less stressful as you drive more qualified leads. For more information about geotargeting and retargeting, give us a call today. Enradius 800-838-1184.

*Photo Credit: Adler Display
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