In wake of HubSpot’s recent INBOUND 2017 conference, we've been thinking a lot about how outbound events are best integrated with marketing strategy. It comes down to strategizing from an inbound angle.
Preparing for them can be a daunting task, but if done right, conferences and trade shows can boast amazing returns. Whether you’re working a booth, networking or looking for products and services, going in with a plan of action will enhance your experience and help you meet your goals. Here are four tips to set you up for conference success:
Spend Your Time Wisely
Conferences and trade shows are great ways to connect with peers in your industry, promote your brand and generate leads. Not to mention, they’re pretty fun. Being surrounded by people who are equally enthused about your industry is an experience like no other. Conferences are high-energy environments with tons of awesome things going on all at once, but be careful not to let one event or activity consume the majority of your time. If you use your time wisely, your conference experience can be tremendously valuable to your professional and personal agenda. Avoid getting too caught up in the hustle and bustle by setting a schedule and sticking to it.
Determine Your Goals
Before you can set a schedule, you need goals. What are you looking to get out of this experience? Are you prospecting or generating leads? Networking? Searching for products or services? Looking to expand your knowledge and supplement your content strategy? Figure out what actions will help you meet your professional and personal goals and set your schedule accordingly. We suggest establishing a healthy mix of networking, lead generation and educational sessions for a well-rounded conference experience. Determining your goals in advance will help you prioritize your time and get the most out of your experience.
Conferences are fun and exciting, but if attending this event won’t provide significant ROI, it’s a waste of your time and money. It’s no secret that attending a trade show or conference is expensive, especially if your firm is renting a booth. Make sure you calculate your estimated expenses and compare with your goal ROI before committing to any event.
Sure, this seems like an intimidating task, but here’s how you can break it down simply: If you spend $1000 to attend this conference, and you want to see an ROI of at least 150 percent, you will need to capture enough leads to translate to $1,500 or more in revenue. Working backward from your revenue goal, use your historical benchmark data on your lifecycle conversion rates to determine how many leads you need in your marketing and sales funnel.
For example, if you want to produce at least $1,500 in revenue and your historical data shows you need 5 opportunities to generate this amount, use this number to shape your lead generation quota. Say you have a conversion rate of 20 percent for each lifecycle stage; to generate those 5 opportunities, you need at least 25 SQLs. To generate those 25 SQLs, you need at least 125 MQLs and to generate 125 MQLs, you need to capture at least 625 leads. Working backward from your goal revenue will ensure you are on track to achieving your desired ROI.
If you are hosting a booth, be especially mindful of what your money is going toward. Too many attendees make the mistake of spending the majority of their budget on printing tons of pamphlets and purchasing goofy promotional items. This might be tough to hear, but the reality is that those things usually end up in the trash soon after you give them out.
It might feel great to hand out a pamphlet to every single person who stops by your booth, but how many of those people are actually going to turn into customers? Rather than printing 1000 plain, paper pamphlets, consider purchasing 500 professionally bound services booklets. Don’t waste your time and resources on unqualified leads. Reserve your high-quality items exclusively for high-quality leads. This will not only save you time, but money as well. Instead, put the money saved towards an eye-catching slide deck that will resonate with your personas or a professionally made video to loop on your monitors.
Establish a Follow-Up Plan
It doesn't matter how many awesome leads you connected with if you don’t have an actionable strategy for pursuing them after the conference. Establish a solid lead capture, handoff and follow-up process to promote conversion and drive revenue.
Don’t underestimate the importance of a solid lead qualification process. You don't want to waste your valuable time connecting with leads that aren’t likely to convert. Remember, when it comes to quality vs. quantity, quality should remain top priority. Focus your time and energy on having meaningful conversations with qualified prospects only. Using your buyer personas, streamline your lead scoring process and create an “on-the-spot” lead qualification strategy. This will ensure that every team member is using the same criteria to qualify prospects and promote high-quality connections.
Conferences are a whirlwind and it’s easy for leads to quickly forget your conversations, so act quickly and follow up almost immediately. The longer you wait, the more likely that your lead will forget your conversation altogether. Preparing your follow-up strategy in advance will help streamline this process and get you reconnected as soon as possible. Be friendly, specific and actionable in your follow-up communication. Be specific in reminding them of what you spoke about. Reference the pain point or challenge of your lead and provide a valuable piece of content relevant to your conversation to help urge them down the sales funnel.
Outbound events can be an effective element of your inbound strategy, as long as you prepare accordingly. In order to make the most of your conference experience, remember to spend your time wisely, determine your goals, calculate your ROI and establish a follow-up plan. Taking these four steps to prepare yourself will set you up for conference success.