Fortify Your Conference Strategy
Fall means conferences. For more than a few of us, conferences land somewhere between mediocre expectations and impending doom. Conferences are expensive, and many complain – and rightly so — that it’s difficult to get a firm grasp on ROI. But with planning and a strong adherence to an overall integrated methodology, you can build a conference strategy that’s an important part of your marketing and sales plan, and that can have a positive impact on your revenue. Here are 6 steps to understand how:
1. Have a well-defined plan.
Why are you at the conference to begin with? What are you trying to achieve? If you’re there mainly to get leads for driving revenue, then figure and quantify how many you’ll need, and work to maximize that. See my post on analytics for some specifics. If you’re attending as an educational experience, then understand what specific knowledge you want to come away with, and whether the conference is going to meet your needs. There might be more efficient and less expensive options for getting the knowledge you’re seeking.
And then ask, “is it really worth it?” I’ve heard so many companies say they needed to be at a specific conference to be seen, only to become one of the herd and guess what? They weren’t seen at all. They lose sight of the fact that it’s difficult if not impossible to be remembered if you’re one of the herd. There are many successful companies that work hard at standing out in their own unique ways. Like this little computer startup called Apple. You know, the one that sort of wrote the book on product innovation. They don’t attend the CES, the mammoth consumer electronics show, but that doesn’t stop them from being the dominant presence. Now what sort of voodoo makes that work?
3. “Because we’ve always gone” is not a reason to keep going.
Don’t fall back on “well, we’ve been there for the last 20 years, so we need to make a showing.” That isn’t a reason to do anything. It’s an excuse to support status quo thinking, and it won’t get you to the next level. Take two steps backward.
4. Think outside the hall.
If you’ve weighed your options and make the decision to go, keep your resource load light and begin thinking in alternative ways. Think outside the hall: you might be able to forego the exhibit hall entirely. It might be possible to arrange meetings prior to the conference, tap into wifi and pitch your offering. Going in stealth mode has its advantages. Try it, it might not be as death-defying as you think.
5. Work the meeting well in advance.
Start at least six weeks in advance, and think about the conference as if it were a business pitch meeting. You wouldn’t show up without knowing about the company, key players, big issues facing the business, and so on, right? Approach conferences with the same work ethic, prepare hard, arrange as many relevant meetings with key prospects in advance and as you can, and you’ll have a significantly more successful showing.
6. On a lighter note: Have fun with it, but remember, its work.
The upside of conferences is the socializing. Drinks, dinners, and special events can be a lot of fun. But always remember that you’re there to work, even at night. Don’t end up with your tie around your forehead singing “Hungry Like the Wolf” in a karaoke bar. And especially in this age when everyone has a camera phone and a Facebook account, do yourself a favor and save the Duran Duran impressions for when you’re catching up with college friends.