Conferences & Quality Lead Generation

I attend a lot of conferences.  And while it’s been a while since I’ve done the traditional market your services in the exhibit hall ‘booth-duty’ I certainly pay attention to how vendor organizations approach the conference circuit from a sales and marketing perspective.

While attending a premiere industry conference recently I overheard two vendors complaining about the lack of qualified leads they were generating during the exhibition hours.  Even with 11,000 attending the event these sellers were lamenting the ROI associated with attending, generally asserting, “we just aren’t seeing any good leads.” And the complaints continued the next day during my walk through the exhibition area.  Complaints about not being able to generate quality time with qualified decision makers.  As I listened to the commentary, I couldn’t help but think…you need a better sales strategy for events.

To maximize your Sales/Marketing ROI when attending industry trade shows consider the following:

Postcard Prospecting: Obtaining an event mailing list and sending a postcard pre-event as an exhibit announcement promoting your demo times and drawing for an ipad does absolutely nothing to differentiate yourself from the 800 other vendors who do the exact same thing.  And it has very little to do with sales and quality lead generation.  Having a quality exhibit and providing a strong introduction to your solution is a good starting point for attending a trade show.  But the exhibit is just the hub.  The spoke strategy is where the action is…..and postcard prospecting simply isn’t good enough.

Clingers v Closers: Determining who represents your organization is a critical decision to maximizing ROI at an industry trade event.  Granted, Big Time Sellers can’t stand ‘booth duty’…..because they know business doesn’t come to them…..they have to go hustle for it…..and an all star seller doesn’t cling to the exhibit during a trade show.  Sure, they put in the time.  But a closer will have an entire agenda outside the exhibit hall arranged pre show.  Breakfast meetings.  Lunch gatherings.  Session visits.  Even the party circuit presents an opportunity to establish meaningful connections with quality leads.  Send a team of exhibit clingers to an event who rely entirely on time at the display and the ipad giveaway to generate ROI and you’ll miss big.

The Mixer: Client entertaining is a time-honored tradition at industry trade events.  And the gathering of customers in different parts of the country represents a phenomenal opportunity for vendors to say thanks and reinforce key relationships.  It can also represent an opportunity to accelerate business development by inviting prospects to attend.  The mixing of customers with prospects is the ideal way to develop business without doing the heavy lifting….let your brand evangelists sell for you! And in return offer your customers and prospects alike an evening to connect, network and develop relationships with other industry practitioners.  The best sales time you can spend at these events is time where your customers are helping you build your business!  And keep the Flip Cam handy for customers that want to give you the testimonial you’ve been waiting for……if they love doing business with you often they want to share it with the world!  And will be glad to share it with the four prospects you’ve also included in the dinner you are hosting.

Key-chains v Keynotes: Any of us that have logged some booth duty time know that the opportunity to collect giveaways can be a driver for prospects to make the exhibit rounds… glow in the dark key-chains, lifesavers, stuffed animals, the coffee thermos…..and the fishbowl of business cards for the ipad drawing make a few software demo’s tolerable mixed in between breakout sessions and lunch… really does all start to look  the same.  If you want to differentiate your organization and elevate awareness you need to put down the key-chains and consider if there is an opportunity to keynote…..or at least lead a breakout session demonstrating new ideas and expertise that can favorably impact your industry.  Speaking can drive sales….and your CEO is the ideal person to stand before the attendee’s with insight and opinion that impact the industry and accelerate your business. Right? Your CEO has stage fright?  Well, how about the Chief Strategy or Innovation Officer…….or the VP of Sales?  If you have somebody on the team who is capable I can tell you this can differentiate and accelerate your ROI and opportunity to develop business….significantly.

And while we are talking about CEO’s….

The Chief Engagement Officer: Increasingly the role of the CEO is to drive elevated engagement and quality of experience for both the employees of the organization and the customers they serve.  The large industry trade show represents a wonderful opportunity for the C Level leader to connect and collaborate with the organizations client community and support business development.  A C Level leader has to pick their spots…..but missing the premiere event in the industry you serve is an opportunity missed plain and simple.

Today’s Sales Leader has to consider evolving the way their organization generates leads and drives awareness toward conversion.  The number of business cards in the fishbowl isn’t reflective of qualified leads and will provide little insight into your event ROI.  Consider the hub and spoke sales/marketing model when you attend an industry event……your greatest impact will likely be developed when you aren’t exhibiting but are focused on highly targeted sales activity and effort.

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