If you can happily rely on the inbound leads to deliver your revenue for the year, this article/blog won’t be as relevant. For the rest of you, selecting the right industry events to sponsor or attend should be a carefully researched and executed set of decisions that absolutely affects a lot more than your top line.

(The right) interaction is key – It sounds obvious but pick events that allow you to talk to companies and individuals that fit your Hot Opportunity Profile (HOT) . The reality is that your industry’s biggest show is often not the best place to drive good leads because few conversations can be mapped directly to value creation. Consider events that are very targeted. For example, instead of just IoT (Internet of Things), choose Industrial IoT, and better yet IoT in Oil & Gas (in fact they may drop IoT, even better).

Choose events that provide easy access to conversations with the people you’re targeting and play with different formats:

  • Select your ideal target companies in a market and have a custom event services company guarantee attendees that fit. If your value prop is truly relevant to the target, offering a nice dinner as an incentive with the opportunity to socialize with their peers can be an effective strategy. A moderator can often be provided to help direct the conversation.
    • As an example, one of our clients has used an event management company to set up dinners in several cities the client outlined. The client provided the profile, and the event company found the people that fit, invited them to dinner, and provided a moderator. This approach needs some careful management up front to make sure the invites are only going to the right folks but if that’s sorted properly this gets a great group of like-minded individuals at a table with you.
  • Explore conferences where the exhibitor’s fees fully guarantee attendance from industry targets. These attendees agree to a set number of meetings with companies where common areas of interest have brought them together. Guess what, everybody attends these expecting to engage in deeper conversations.  It can be brilliant.  There aren’t many of these types of events, but they’re worth the money.
  • Regional events are hit and miss, even put on by a well-known national association. The bad are really bad, but the good ones can be your highlight event of the year. If in doubt, save your money and send a seasoned lead generating salesperson to test it out.
  • Learning conferences or large expo hall. If it’s a learning event, admission is often high for attendees, there are few exhibitors (think tables versus booths) and time isn’t specifically set aside to “visit the sponsors”. Unless your company ties directly to the purpose of the conference, or you can arrange a speaking slot, these can be challenging from an ROI perspective. By the same token, a large expo hall can be difficult because you need to differentiate and capture attention at a glance, location becomes key (are you near drinks or meals, traffic in/out of meeting rooms), and some organizers simply don’t provide the right mix of layout and time to interact to drive ROI.

Broaden your knowledge – by now your company has a well flushed out Situation Analysis, now test it out. There really is no other way to gain as much knowledge about your targets, competitors, potential partners, etc. as industry events. Ensure these learnings are captured, shared and fed back into the loop – knowledge creates value.

Tips and Tricks – as with all things in business there is no right or wrong way, but we’ve definitely seen our fair share of what can work.  Here are a few ideas for you to consider and adapt for your own purposes:

  • Exhibitors as targets – in some cases the general attendee is of limited interest, but the exhibitors fit your target profile. These are a cost-efficient way for Sales to create new leads by sending a single salesperson to visit pre-selected booths.
  • Pre-schedule meetings at your booth – once you get the attendee list, use your favorite company or software to get their contact details and set up meeting times at your booth. Guess what, as mentioned above, if you’ve chosen the right event the attendees want to find companies to help them solve their business problems.
  • Capture information immediately – instill good intelligence gathering habits in all company personnel that are attending. Have a pen and paper to jot down that key name drop; always ensure detailed notes are put down immediately upon the person leaving, preferably electronically.
  • Create next steps – if conversation proves they fit your target profile, get a meeting on their calendars before they leave. The same techniques your Inside Sales teams have drilled into them are true here.
  • Force event churn – every year ensure at least one event is removed and another added based on your own and their changes. Recognize they change and so do you, so be proactive.
  • Send energy – attendees for your company should be those that can go from dawn to dusk and are energized by the interaction. They’re classically the ones you need to course correct, but rarely need to motivate.

A clear strategy for trade shows and conferences can ensure that you create qualified leads in a highly cost-effective way.  Don’t just take them for granted.