Industry events provide a great opportunity to capture marketing leads for your business, but it takes a bit of prep to do it right. Not sure where to start? We’ve got you covered.
4-6 Weeks Before the Event:
Your goal at this stage is to get a hold of folks who are likely to attend the event and increase the odds that they’ll meet up in person to learn more about your product.
Create a target list full of contacts that are likely to attend the event. If you were at the event last year, that attendee list is a good place to start. If you don’t have access to prior attendees, construct a target list from your own database by IDing people who fit the right role, company size, specific sector of the industry, and geographic location. Divide your list into two categories:
Prospects that are lucrative enough to warrant the investment of a 1:1 outreach
Prospects that you want to reach out to with a 1:many, scaled approach
Have your Sales Development Representatives (SDRs) reach out personally to the prospects prioritized for 1:1 communications. The goal is to get recipients to commit to an in person visit or, better yet, book an actual meeting.
Consider planning invitation-only events for this group (happy hour, dinner)
Consider incentivizing them with a high-value gift
Craft a pre-event scaled marketing campaign for the 1:many prospect list. The goal here, too, is to secure that commitment for a face-to-face before anyone even gets on a plane. The campaign should include:
LinkedIn Sales Navigator emails
An incentive for booking a meeting (like a sweepstakes entry, a free gift, or a gift card)
Order your giveaways, prizes, printed materials and swag.
PRO TIP: One of the best booth-visit incentives we’ve ever heard of was in a story recounted to us by Wheels Up Collective co-founder, Elise Oras. Long before the show even started, a swag company promised Elise a high-quality robe with her name on it. The catch? She had to swing by the booth where they had someone embroidering the robes right on sight. As she waited for the embroidery to complete (an easy few minutes is all), she reviewed booth materials and chatted with the on-site staff. They had a face-to-face chance to really wow her, they won her business, and Elise got a robe she still wears (and talks about) 10 years later.
1-2 Weeks Before the Event:
Your goals at this stage are to keep your interested parties warm, to generate buzz about your presence at the event for everyone else, and ensure your booth is ready for the logistical challenge of meaningfully recording information about leads.
For your most invested parties (the ones who already promised time face to face), start sending reminders about agreed-upon meeting times 4-5 days before the event. Include instructions about how to find your exact location once they’re there and how to get a hold of you if they run into trouble along the way.
For folks who’ve expressed interest but haven’t committed, try harder to get on their schedule. Send a list of suggested meeting times, invite them to any special events you have planned, or suggest a rendezvous at a group event you know you’ll be at. If you’re doing incentives, games, or attractions at your booth - make a big splash about that too.
For general buzz and excitement, start talking about your attendance in your social media channels. Create a hashtag (and use the event’s official hashtag); express your excitement; mention specific talks, breakout sessions, or social events you plan to be at; and as often as you can, include some kind of question in your caption like, “will we see you there?” Respond to comments to build a repertoire with fellow attendees.
If the event you’re attending has a downloadable app, be sure to install it. Customize your profile and engage with attendees via whatever channels the app makes available
Get prepared to make the most of any information shared with the staff at your booth. Some events offer scanners that help with this and some don’t. Either way, it’s a good idea to create a key for onsite ease, one that lets you quickly capture notes on each person who visits. For example: have a spreadsheet open and ready to capture names and a checkbox for each product they might be interested in. It should make it swift and seamless to capture great info your SDR will be happy to follow up on.
Planning to speak at the event, or participate in any round table discussions? Make a small card to give away to people on site before the event with the details and have a sign made that advertises that session.
Prepare “takeaways” - materials people can pick up at your booth, your talks, or your social outings and learn more about how to engage with your product.
During the Event:
Your goal at this stage is simply to facilitate as many in-person connections you have, and collect enough information to follow up with everyone meaningfully.
Promote any breakout sessions you're leading, talks you're giving, roundtable discussions you’re participating, or events you’re hosting during the event:
Hand out cards with details on each
Promote it all at your booth
Send an email to your targeted list with dates, times, and details
Before any talks, breakouts, or social events, put marketing materials (or even a small card with a URL for your website) on each chair and a stack by the door.
Attend all the 1:1 meetings you had scheduled. Take notes thorough enough that you can reach out again without having to remember it all.
Have someone on the team (in-person or remotely) man the channels where folks might request meeting times at the event. This probably includes social channels, email inboxes, and any calendly or form fills previously offered.
For everyone who visits your booth or attends an event or a session, make sure to capture names, email addresses, and notes about what they were interested in. Mark where it was that you met them.
Encourage booth attendance by sending reminder emails to anyone who signed up for your raffles, prizes, or other giveaways but hasn’t showed up yet in person.
ANOTHER PRO TIP: If you host a dinner, open party, or other social event, pass out cards to remind people. Make it feel exclusive. Have a sign up bonus if they give you their info. Another example from event guru, Elise Oras: “I hosted a cigar rolling and whiskey tasting event, once. If a conference attendee signed up for it beforehand, they got a wristband when they checked in that let them taste this exclusive whiskey that was $90 a pour!) If they were a walk in, they didn't get the super top-shelf tastings, they got the general whiskey flight. It created a nice little stir and the experience of being VIP.”
After the Event:
That’s right! Your work isn’t done. Take a few more steps post-event to make the most of the efforts the team’s given so far.
Pass your coded lead list off to your SDRs, they can start making calls right away.
Add anyone who gave their permission to be subscribed to your email list.
Offer time slots for demos and next-step conversations to everyone who showed interest during your meetings you had at the event.
Create a post-event buzz by repackaging insights you gleaned there in blog posts, articles, and shares on social media. Offer to connect with anyone who was curious but wasn’t able to attend the event.
Set yourself active reminders to nurture relationships with important prospects, industry professionals, and press contacts you met along the way.
I hope these 21 tips have proven insightful as you plan to make the most of your next industry event. Remember, if you’re looking for support in pulling together a strategy, organizing your comms, or getting marketing materials that are ready for prime time, drop us a line. We’d love to be of help if we can.