“Events need to be done the modern way,” states Matt Engel, CEO of Attend Inc., an all-in-one event platform designed to help companies drive more revenue. Many companies wonder why it is worth shelling out the big bucks to attend or sponsor a company event. As MSPs, you understand the importance of building strong customer relationships. An industry event is just another way of achieving this. Events help companies leverage the valuable face-to-face interaction needed to gain trust and additional buy-in from prospects and current clients. They not only provide an avenue for you to sell your products and services, they also help establish your authority in the field, which makes clients stickier in the long-run. Have you questioned the value of attending or sponsoring any upcoming industry events? Learn how to approach events strategically and with sales in mind!
The demand for event marketing is growing. According to Attend, "US Marketers spent over $100B on events in 2015 - the highest spend category in marketing."
Right now, you're probably wondering how this applies to you. How can you justify allocating a sizable chunk of your overall budget to attend or sponsor an event? For one, your competitors will likely participate. They may attempt to sway your current clients by pitching their IT support services. You'll also lose out if they capture prospects you could have acquired had you attended or sponsored the event. This defensive action is probably the most obvious reason to attend industry events, but you can also accelerate your sales pipeline in the process. Wouldn't you like to close more deals faster? Follow these helpful hints and pointers when planning out your next event to see real ROI.
There are so many free and easy to-dos to boost your company’s presence before attending an event or conference. Combine your sales and marketing efforts to build out an email invite list, notify clients of your involvement, develop web content that aligns with conference subject matter so as to plug your attendance and promote the event across social media channels. These are all tactics we use to promote our own annual user conference, Navigate. If you're a partner, you should have already received emails about Navigate 2016 taking place from September 28 - 30, 2016 in Boston, Massachusetts! We'll also be blogging about key highlights and sharing updates on our social media channels to generate buzz and excitement.
Sales and Marketing Alignment
Notice how I suggested combining sales and marketing efforts above. If you want to maximize the ROI of event participation, you have to consult your sales representative(s) for their POV. They've developed closer relationships with your clients and know which marketing materials are particularly effective at certain events. You can't use event marketing to increase sales without involving Sales in the planning discussion. They're the experts, so be sure you can tie all of your marketing time and efforts back to revenue.
"Every sales leader has the same problem: not enough pipeline. When marketing can show sales that events create and accelerate pipeline, sales will see the value." ~Steve McKenzue, VP of Sales, InsightSquared ~
Sales Team Preparation
If you do not already, make sure you host a quick meeting to brief team members on event specifics before you send them to attend and represent your company at an event. Even having a half hour touch base to prepare members and discuss logistics makes all of the difference to increase the positive impact your team can have onsite. Do they know when booth set-up begins or what hotel they're staying at? These are examples of items you can address in this meeting.
Most companies have a Sales Kick Off, a team gathering at the beginning of each new year, designed to share company goals and initiatives. It’s a great way to make sure everyone is on the same page. Apply the same concept by bringing your onsite team together before each event, no matter how big or small. Equip your sales representatives with information on the audience attending the event and give them a list of questions to ask potential prospects. I like to call this “getting to know the lay of the land before you land.” It's also imperative that your sales representatives know which of their accounts will be in attendance as well, so they can properly prepare talking points and account-based questions. To this point, have them create an engagement plan with action items to follow based on how conversations go with certain clients.
Take Advantage of Your Time
Once you understand the attendee profile of the event, then you can evaluate the sales opportunity and the quality of leads you can walk away with. Set measurable goals for your sales team. For example, require them to each have at least two onsite meetings with partners, leads or prospects. Organize those meetings in advance to fully take advantage of that face-to-face time that the company is paying for them to have. What if you can't steal them away during the event? Offer to take them out to dinner after all of the sessions wrap up. Your clients will appreciate you for being proactive about seeing them.
During the Event:
Who’s in the Room?
You need to understand the revenue that is in the room. The sales opportunity doesn’t necessarily have to be with a prospect or a lead. It can be an existing customer you want to upsell or cross-sell on an additional service, such as backup and disaster recovery (BDR). There's also value in networking with other vendors or even competitors. Every conversation and piece of feedback matters. Having boots on the ground and getting that inner intel on your company's reputation is invaluable. How you think you're perceived within the industry may not be how you actually are.
Take lots of pictures and videos, socializing them in real-time across your social media channels. If you're on Twitter, most events and conferences have specific hashtags you can tweet to to join the live event discussion. Event hosts want you to engage so they'll share content that promotes their event, exposing you to new networks. So many conversations are taking place digitally now, and social media is a great platform to be a thought leader. Attend all sessions, and take lots of notes! If you're attending a vendor conference like Navigate, you'll learn how to efficiently and scalably get the most use out of that company's products and services. Session content can also spark your own blog posts, eBooks, videos and web content. Perhaps one of the most valuable sources of information at a vendor conference, however, is your peers! Jot down notes from conversations with other attendees, asking what works and doesn't work for them. Maybe they've had more success with their MSP email newsletters, and you could benefit from learning which strategies they employ. Events offer so many actionable takeaways, so make sure you record them and share with the rest of your team! If you're sponsoring an event, reconnect with current clients and ask them for their product feedback. Their candid input can only strengthen your IT services offering.
Effective and Strategic Follow-Up
Don't let business cards collect dust in your desk drawer. Follow up on all leads generated at an event directly afterward.
The quicker you connect, the better! Import all of the information your sales team received at the event into an Excel spreadsheet or customer relationship management (CRM) platform if your company uses one. By immediately following up with prospects, you demonstrate that your personalized service lives on long past the event.
In the end, many factors contribute to the success of event involvement. Sales needs to have input from the very beginning of the planning process, and there needs to actually be a planning process in place. This requires properly planning for all stages of the event and setting clear expectations for all responsible parties. It's not enough to simply write a check to man a booth or hop on a plane to see a new part of the country. In fact, this is a waste of time and money that your company doesn't need to spend. For event marketing to pay off and accelerate your sales pipeline, you have to approach each event you attend or sponsor with an actionable strategy. I hope the tips I outlined in this post were helpful enough to get you started. Maybe I'll see you at the next Channel event. Navigate 2016 will be here before you know it!
By Gretchen Hoffman
By Paula Griffin