Conferences offer a constructive platform for consultation, education, exchange of information and discussions in a well organized environment.
With businesses going increasingly digital, you might think: are conferences still that important?
As humans, one-to-one meetings, engagements, and communication always go a long way in building and nurturing relationships. In-person meetings and conferences provide the opportunity to get up close and personal with prospective customers or partners — something the digital world can certainly augment, but can never replace.
Here are some statistics that prove it:
- 91% of professionals stated that customer engagement at events was a company priority
- 31% of event marketers believe that conferences are essential to doing business in their target customer markets
- 69% of marketers consider in-person events to be highly effective
So, how do you generate business opportunities from conferences? We’ve listed our pick of proven tactics that can help.
1. Choose Strategically
Attending a conference is not a cheap affair. You need to budget for hotel reservations, flight tickets, meals, transportation and other associated costs. It is thus imperative that you make the most of your time at the conference.
You must choose your event strategically. The point is not to attend every conference there is, but to focus on the ones that will provide you the maximum returns. A thorough research on the attendees, speakers, guests the forums and the networking opportunities available will help you establish your plan.
Also, try to acquire attendance data from previous years in preparing your plan. This will help you to target the right audience.
With all the necessary preparation done, all you have to do is ensure that you are at the right place at the right time, addressing the correct set of people.
2. Set Clear Goals
The goal of attending a conference can vary from company to company. For some companies, the yardstick of success could be to network and create thought leadership among other ecosystem players. For others, it may be all about creating more sales opportunities or generating more direct leads.
Goal setting is not something that is defined by the market – it’s something that every company decides based on their own objective.
Therefore, when attending a conference, you must have a clear goal(s) in mind. For example, your primary goal at a conference this year may be to increase your sales leads; the secondary goal may be to network or learn about new technology or business trends.
Make sure to stay focused on your goal and not get distracted. As Malcolm Forbes puts it, ‘If you don’t know what to do, it’s harder to do it.’
3. Estimate the ROI (Return on Investment)
Conferences are not easy to organize or attend. It requires time, effort and money. Justifying the ROI on events has always been a challenge for businesses. In the absence of clearly defined KRAs or KPIs, it can be especially hard to measure ROI.
Without proper estimation of ROI, attending a conference becomes more or less guesswork, and the results are hard to quantify or even qualify.
Some indicative parameters to estimate an ROI can be:
- Understanding true costs (direct/ indirect expenses)
- On-site effectiveness (conversion rate of scheduled-to-held meetings)
- Generated value (can be tangible, like an MOU, or intangible like a close relationship)
4. Do Not Overlook Additional and Hidden Costs
Apart from your travel, lodging and food, there are going to be additional costs involved in attending a business event or conference.
For example you’d spend on printing new business cards, or creating marketing collateral such as brochures or flyers specifically for your event.
You’d also have to spend on renting or buying business card scanners or event badge scanners (if you’re sponsoring).
Some of these expenses are unavoidable, while others can be managed by planning your resources well.
Take these costs into consideration when budgeting your event and create your event marketing plan accordingly. More importantly, try to find the best ways to plan your expenses and optimize your resources.
5. Leverage Technology for Maximum Impact
This is essentially what we mean by planning your expenses well and avoiding additional costs effectively.
Using marketing technology will not only help you avoid additional costs, but it’ll also maximize your event ROI. For example, automating your key marketing activities, such as email campaigns, social media posts and event lead capture process can increase your conversions significantly.
- Business Card Scanning apps can help you capture all of the lead information from business cards using a simple mobile app
- CRM tools such as Salesforce can help you target your leads effectively
- Email automation tools such as Hubspot can help you nurture your leads
6. Featured Magazines and Journals
Many popular magazines and journals offer advertising opportunities ahead of events. These are great resources for branding and PR.
With the organizers aiming at maximizing attendance, these promotional materials are distributed far and wide. And so they offer great opportunity to promote your business to a very specific target audience.
7. Social Media Marketing
Statistics show, around 800 million people use social media every day for work.
People who register after hearing about your conference on social media are 3 times more likely to spread the word.
In a nutshell, an advertisement here may be all the promotion that you need for your conference.
The use of hashtags, videos, and infographics on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram can create enormous exposure for you.
There are many ways in which you can use social media for marketing your brand. For instance, you can create a social media contest to engage interested and prospective customers about what you’re going to do or present at the conference.
8. Don’t Sell But Offer a Clear Value Proposition
Conferences are a great platform for networking, but trying too hard to sell your product may not always be a great idea. Instead, you should focus on demonstrating value.
‘The only way to advertise is by not focusing on the product.’- Calvin Klein
This means understanding customer problems, empathizing, and then offering something that the customer will value is the best way to sell your product without even having to try. You don’t need to focus on your product for that.
The more you do that, the more you will be able to influence people positively, and engage them more effectively in one-on-one conversations.
9. Engage Your Existing Clients
Your clients can be a great asset when it comes to generating leads at conferences. Existing customers generally have a lot of goodwill, and you can leverage that for your benefit.
While networking at a conference, your clients can introduce you to additional businesses in the ecosystem. Of course, you can introduce them to others, in turn, exchanging value.
Even a brief in-person introduction at the conference can go a long way in helping new leads warming up to you.
If you are presenting or sponsoring, testimonials such as a recorded video of them sharing how much they like your services, can go a long way in promoting your brand ahead of or at the event.
Your clients can essentially help you increasing the attendance at your conference.
10. Nurture Your Audience with Email Marketing
Email marketing does not essentially come at the end of the sequence of out top 10 tactics, but it is one of the most key ingredients in your larger marketing campaign ahead of a conference.
You can start broadcasting your message to your target audience ahead of the event, engage them with relevant updates through the event, and follow up with qualified leads after the event.
With the rise of data analytics platforms and built-in monitoring tools, you can measure your prospects’, engagement and interest with statistics such as click-through-rate (CTR), open and conversions. These stats can help you draw actionable insights about the current customer wants, even before they come to your conference, and help you adopt a tailor-made strategy for each potential lead or account.
Even in the age of the internet, there is no substitute for personal interaction when it comes to generating leads. The first impression that you make, the bond you develop, and the level of customer engagement that you can provide can go a long way in building relationships.
It opens up a lot of channels, and you make new connections.
Few avenues are as effective for lead generation as conferences. The important thing is to make the most of the connections you make.