Or: your ultimate guide for B2B conference lead generation extravaganza
I’ve put together this list based on my team’s accumulated learning process around the Content Marketing World Conference 2016, highlighting the 10 key factors that helped us in reaching lead generation goals and more.
Doing marketing for a startup is very different than for any other type of company: budgets are usually much smaller, requiring the marketing team to constantly think out-of-the-box and come up with unexpected, creative solutions in order to reach their KPIs - and what do you know - sometimes even bypass them.
That was the case for Showbox when we decided to exhibit at the Content Marketing World Conference, by Content Marketing Institute. We knew the audience was right on spot for us: 4,000 content marketing professionals from all over the US, eager to learn and adopt new marketing technologies and strategies, all in one place for too long.
Once we’ve decided to go for it, we wanted to be sure we’re giving it all we’ve got, reaching the our goals set, and maybe even more. To make a long story short, the conference was a great success for us. We met hundreds of relevant people interested to learn more about our platform and excited to create more branded video content at scale.
As promised, here are 10 key factors and tips that helped us reach our goals:1. Research
Research - and lots of it. It doesn't matter which audience you’re targeting - let it be travel agents, restaurateurs, or marketers like us at Showbox - keep in mind there are more than a handful of relevant conferences out there, so you need to pick out the most valuable ones for you and your team.
Personally, we mapped out all of the relevant conferences in our ecosystem for the year, and then roughly estimated how much it would cost us to attend each of them. Lastly, we made sure the chosen events were spread throughout the year, and in different locations.2. Goals
Once you’ve selected the right conference for you and your team, it’s important to set the right goals so you can have a benchmark later on to define how well you’ve done, or not (but i’m sure you’ll do well, just read through ;))
When setting these goals, take the amount of people attending the conference, the size of your booth and team members operating it in mind to make sure you’re being realistic and not setting yourself up for failure. Check out this super helpful cheat sheet by Udi Ledergor, a real trade show fanatic and 4-time VP Marketing.
Just like your mama used to say, practice makes perfect :) Say you’ve selected the right conference to participate in and set high-yet-realistic lead generation goals - awesome, you’re 10% there.
Now, it’s time to roll up your sleeves and start working, thinking of every aspect possible: from running a pre-campaign to raise awareness and handling visitors at your booth in the most effective manner, to following up after the event and more - everything needs to be considered and prepared in advance to help your operation run as smoothly as possible, helping you reach your goals quicker and smoother.
What I like to do for each conference is a Gantt chart with all the different tasks, their timeframes, owners and more, way before the event, and then schedule weekly 15-minute meetings with all the relevant team members, to make sure everything is moving according to the plan.
For CMW, I let my OCD shine even more and created a manual for -before, -during and -after the event to make sure my whole team was in sync on all the different fronts.4. Pre-Event Campaign
Exhibiting at a conference doesn’t start the day the conference does. For us, it started 20 days before. To make sure attendees were familiar with our brand and knew to drop by during the conference, we took several actions to make sure we’re covered:
- Content Marketing and Social Media: This is the right medium to go all out on and get as many relevant eyeballs exposed to your message. This is what we’ve done:
We wrote a blog post, featuring the 15 most desirable speakers and panels at the CMW conference, then went ahead and tweeted while mentioning each of them, getting them to respond and, in most cases, even retweet.
Being a video marketing platform, we make a lot of video as part of our marketing strategy, or as we like to call it, “eating our own dogfood”. So, making a video about us coming to the CMW conference was a must - and so we did, sharing it on social media and getting people excited about the technology and the team.
Besides sharing our video and blog post, we made sure to engage with anyone using the conference's hashtag, #CMWorld, in a funny manner, finding ways to include info about our booth and plan.
- Emails: This might sound like a longshot, but when you have hundreds of thousands of relevant users in your database, it makes sense to let them know you’ll be exhibiting at the conference and invite them to schedule a meeting - and so we did.
5. Money Time
Those 2 - 4 special days - this is when the much-planned-for conference actually takes place. So you wear your best shirt - maybe even a jacket - make sure your hair looks great and go out and get them. Or do you? Not really, there’s way more. As mentioned in #3, it’s crucial to plan this part in advance:
- Know your company's elevator pitch to the extent you can adjust it live, based on each visitor’s profile and needs.
- Be prepared for long hours without much rest, ready to catch all those visitors waiting to become leads.
- Remember you plan - everything we talked about at #3? It now time to to make it all happen. All the visitor handling, team assignments, pitches and more - it’s your time to use them and shine.
- Let go of your plan - like any event with thousands of people, things can go wrong, or simply different than what you’ve planned. So while you’re probably obsessed with the plan you’ve created (as you should be!), you also need to know when to let go and adjust according to ongoing situations.
An example from us? At a certain point we saw we’re not getting any traffic. Not a drizzle, not even 3 people an hour. That’s when I had to reassess and create a plan B, letting go of my initial plan and making sure we win, although all the odds were against us.6. Differentiation
This one sounds like a basic thing to do, but you’d be surprised how similar a lot of the booths in these kinds of events look like.
Why does it matter? Because people have limited amount of time to walk around the booths between sessions and a much more limited attention span, meaning they will only stop at those booths that look really intriguing to them.
Let it be a huge pile of jelly beans like we had, a bike-screen hybrid machine like our neighbours from Twenty-three had; or a robust tea bar like the one at the Newscred booth.- you’ve got to have a conversation starter in order to let the world know of your product. It could be the most amazing product in the world (and I’m sure it is :)), but first impressions count, big time.
Similar to #6, you need to shine with giveaways in order to start conversations the right way and stay memorable after.
We went for cute Mason jars, filled with colorful jelly beans, with a branded sticker and our URL on top.
I was surprised to learn how much grownups can actually enjoy free candy, so the buzz this simple, yet heartwarming giveaway created for us was pretty unexpected - as you can see in the tweets below:
So, whatever you do, remember: people like sugar and colorful things, and better yet- the two combined:)))8. Dream Team
This one is super crucial for your success.
In my opinion, in order to make the best of a conference in terms of lead generation, you have to have a team of hungry professionals, all focused and aimed at reaching your goals. It doesn’t necessarily have to be your marketing or sales teams, but people that possess the following characteristics:
- Highly Energetic - And ready to go out and get ‘em! You’ll need super motivated people with you to reach your goals and stay focused.
- Creative - As we’ve already learned, conferences can go much differently than you’ve imagined. Being with a bunch of creative team members, able to think outside the box, has dramatically helped me twist my plan around and succeed when the odds were not looking great.
- Familiar with Your Offer - This might sound trivial, but whoever is standing in your booth is the face of your product, and as such needs to be able to pitch it in an impressive, knowledgeable manner, as well as answer any question a visitor might have and know how to exemplify it to them in a way that would make sense.
So you’re back home, the conference went well and you have a bunch of leads collected -great! But how do you turn a good percentage of them into actual clients? Good question.
My suggestion is to be ready before leaving for the conference with a personalized email follow-up campaign, which you should probably plan together with your sales team to make sure you have a complete funnel, and that you are able to start taking care of leads as soon as you come back.
All this has to be done while you’re still somewhat memorable to the leads and the odds are in your favor.
Like any good ol’ marketing campaign, afterwards comes the measuring part. So you’ve set your goals, went to the conference, came back with leads, had your sales team work on them and tried to convert them into customers - awesome. Now it’s time to assess and analyze:
- Were you great at reaching your goals as planned at #2?
- What’s the conversion rate of your follow-up campaign from #9?
- How many of these converted leads have turned into customers?
- And at the end of the day, like in any other lead generation campaign- what is the bottom line - or in other words - was this conference ROI positive for your company?
Yes, it’s not only about lead generation, awareness has to be taken in mind as well. But when you come into your CEO’s office the next time you want to exhibit at a conference, it will be much easier to get it approved if you can show actual measurable results.
Got more lead generation tips for conferences? Share them by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks, and good luck!