This post was originally published on Attend by Event Farm's blog and was written by Garrett Huddy.
Conference sponsorships may seem expensive, but with the right preparation, they can drive business results and impact your company’s bottom line. Attending and sponsoring industry conferences allow you to engage with current customers and prospective clients in-person—without having to put any time or effort into planning the event yourself.
Just because you don’t have to worry about planning the logistics of the event, however, doesn’t mean you should avoid preparing for the conference completely. If you’re hoping to fully leverage your conference sponsorship to drive lead generation and pipeline acceleration, your marketing and sales teams will need to be fully aligned and prepared for the conference before it begins.
If you’re looking for advice about driving business results through conference sponsorships, keep reading for our top six tips.
1. Get your sales team involved early
A lack of communication between marketing and sales will spell disaster for your event strategy. Marketing hosts and sponsors events with the goal of generating leads and pipeline for sales, so there needs to be collaboration. If you are in marketing, make sure sales is involved with the planning process as early as possible. If you are in sales, ask what events and conferences are coming up and how you can get more involved.
When sales is fully involved, they will jump at the chance to get in front of top prospects or customers in-person. Letting your sales team help determine which conferences to attend is another way to increase sales investment in your event strategy. When sales is part of the process early on, they will be more likely to set meeting, get the right reps to the event, and create new opportunities. When this collaboration happens, the results will reflect positively on both departments.
2. Host a microevent at the conference
It can be difficult to connect with all of your customers and prospects at a large conference. If you’re sponsoring an event that will attract a lot of people from your target audience, hold your own side event in conjunction with with the conference. This microevent could be a happy hour or a dinner at a nearby, high-end restaurant.
You should not use your microevent event as an opportunity for a sales pitch, but should instead focus on facilitating a conversation among your attendees that will be both educational and entertaining. For more advice about hosting microevents, check out this blog post.
3. Reach out to prospects and customers in advance
If you have access to the conference attendee list, you can scan through to find the prospects and customers you want to set onsite meetings with or invite to your microevent. If you can’t get a full attendee list, ask if the conference organizers can give you a list of company names and titles. Even though you won’t have contact information, you’ll be able to cross reference the list with your CRM to see if target customers and prospects will be there.
You can also try reaching out to your customers and prospects located in the same city as the conference to see if your sales team can set up some additional meetings. Letting them know you'll be in the area for an event in the area is a great reason to reconnect.
4. Have an on-site engagement plan
You should define early on who from your organization will be attending the conference and what their goals will be. You should also make sure you send your on-site team a comprehensive event briefing with everything they to know about the event in advance. Include information about the event logistics, dress code, personas of the target prospects, booth setup info, etc.
Make sure the sales team knows who they’re meeting and which stage in the buying process each prospect/customer occupies. Everyone attending should have a targeted list of people they want to meet, ideally one that is accessible on a mobile device. If you’re using an event marketing software or check-in app, you might be able to set up VIP alerts that will allow your team to know when their most important contact arrives.
5. Keep track of conversations
Once your team is onsite, having the right tools will help you make the most of your time. Anyone who has worked at a conference booth has experienced the frustration: arriving back to the office with a long list of names or a stack of business cards, only to find that you can't remember what you talked about with each contact. Make sure your team takes detailed notes, preferably on their phone, about each conversation they have with prospects or clients. Depending on your event marketing software platform, you may be able to take notes on your smartphone that will easily sync with your CRM.
Often, the sales person who "owns" a conference lead isn't the one who has the onsite conversation, so the notes will be necessary for the proper sales person to follow up. Even if the person following up is the same sales rep who engaged with a prospect at the event, notes on the conversation will will make the next email or phone call much easier.
6. Personalize your follow-up
You should always follow up with any prospect you met at an event, and if you want to see results from your post-event follow-up, you need to make things personal. Include things you spoke about and a resource or action item related to your conversation.
For the best response rate and engagement, follow up within 48 hours. Your customers and prospects probably weren’t taking notes on your conversation, so you have a short window of time where they will actually remember the specifics of your conversation.
Also remember that all other exhibitors will likely be following up with attendees as well. The only way to stand out from the crowd is to use your onsite notes to allow you to continue your conversation instead of starting it over. The follow-up process will be much easier if you have those onsite conversation notes easily accessible in your database.
If you want more advice about how to align your sales and marketing teams to drive the most value with events, check out our webinar, Supercharging Sales and Marketing Alignment, now on demand.