9 Tips for Choosing a Winning Event (Get the Most out of your Marketing Dollar by Attending the Right Conferences!)
It’s never too early to get psyched for the upcoming political season, even in a non Presidential election year. June 16-18 I attended the Campaigns and Elections “Art of the Political Campaigning” conference in Washington, DC. This three day session had a good cross section of Political Strategists, Candidates, Campaign Managers and Support Organizations from the U.S. and other countries. It was a good event for us.
We consider a multitude of conferences, meetings and events each year. It can be hard deciding the best ones to attend in order to earn the ROI from our sales and marketing dollar. Over the years we have developed a few simple qualifiers to help us get it right the majority of the time. For us to go, the event needs to survive the majority of the hints below as they relate to our business selling strategy.
- Define Your Goals First – Why do you want to go, and what do you need to get from it to call a success. Be specific. You need “X” new clients or “Y” dollars in new business, etc. Define it ahead of time and break it down. If it normally takes 10 contacts to land a client, then you better meet 10 people or more at the cocktail hour tonight.
- Recommendations from Trusted Contacts – Once you know what you need, you can begin asking current clients, prospects and industry contacts where they go and what they do. Besides my own experiences, this is my most trusted filter. You still have to probe on some of the other questions because some people go to industry events that are very chummy with golf and entertainment, making it hard to bend more than an ear or two…but, of course, it only takes one!
- The Right Organizations are Attending - That is, big users of our services. It is usually pretty easy to get a list of current or prior attending companies. But don’t stop there. See tip #4.
- The Right People will be there - You need to talk to people who are decision makers or heavy influencers for your service. Referrals from the expo booth jockey are OK, but you are investing for real face time. Here’s a tip. Don’t trust the website list. Call a few of the targets to confirm they really are attending. While you have them on the phone, schedule your face time!
- Networking Opportunities are attended – A real key. Talk to several people who attended last year. Did the conference do a good job of getting attendees to the functions. There is nothing worse than a room full of sales guys trading stories while the target attendees are elsewhere (like having dinner with your competitor.)
- Industry Experts are on the Panels – Good presenters draw top targets. Check out their LinkedIn profile and on-line presence. Are the presenters industry influences others seem to be following? Avoid the shopping mall expos, where the presenters are the same guys selling their services.
- Topics are Relevant – Sure it’s buzz, but movers want to be clued in. Google a few key buzzwords and see if anyone other than the conference website it talking about it.
- Put Your Toe in the Water First – If you are considering whether to display or sponsor an event, go as an attendee the first year. The investment is a lot less and you get to experience it from your target’s viewpoint. Plus, you have a lot more free time to mingle, mingle, mingle.
- Show, Go or No – OK, you are all set. Goal defined. Big Users of your services identified. List of Conferences and Expos in front of you. Now make your decision. Except for those instances where I need a booth and deciding early helps, I tend to make quarterly decisions on whether to go, or not. That way I can make adjustments based on current activity and budget considerations. If things are a little slow, I may add a few more events this quarter. If my pipeline is bulging and I need to focus on the bird in the hand, then I cut back – or send the other sales person.
Once selected it is up to those of us attending to make the most of it. It’s a great time to hone your elevator pitch and explain what your organization has to offer. You are freed up from most of your day-to-day obligations to learn more about your industry, your competitors, your prospects and your clients. If done correctly you should leave the conference physically exhausted, but mentally reinvigorated with new energy and enthusiasm to take back and inject into your organization.
When you look at a conference to spend your time and marketing dollars on this year make sure it passes YOUR test and then make the most of it. I hope to see you at a conference in the near future. Good Luck!