Investing time, energy, and other resources into attending live events such as trade shows, conferences, and other industry events definitely made sense in the early days of marketing because you could easily knock out a year’s worth of sales with your pitch and a sponsor booth. Today, attending networking events still present big opportunities to connect with prospects, but the landscape is different thanks to social media and digital marketing.
To succeed in today’s marketing environment, you must approach your in-person marketing with social and digital marketing tactics in mind to stay competitive. Prospects are engaging both directly and indirectly with marketers multiple times a day instead of waiting to attend an in-person event.
Digital marketing has made industry events more of a challenge since people go online to discover new products and services, and make connections to new people. Prospects will still attend events, but they’re not there because they’re looking forward to your sales pitch. They’re pitched year round, and are more likely to attend a panel or presentation than they are to make appointments or speak to the salespeople at booths.
Rather than waiting for an industry event to meet new people, both salespeople and prospects are actively researching online, making connections on Facebook and LinkedIn, and more.
You still attend shows, and possibly pay for a booth and sponsorship because you know your prospects are there. But, there are ways you can make the event more lucrative for your business that involve doing more than simply tweeting with the event hashtag. Use these tips to get yourself in front of prospects before, during, and after the event, creating more conversations, and ultimately more sales.
Create a Pre-Event Prospect List
Live events, even those that take place over multiple days, pass quicker than you realize. If you’ve invested in attending the event, doing everything you can to make it as productive as possible makes sense. Connect with as many contacts and prospects as you can before the event, so you can plan to meet with people who are most interested in whatever it is you have to offer.
As a sponsor, ask the event organizers for a list of sponsors, attendees, and press connections. Sometimes, you’ll find they won’t share it with you, but if you’re a big enough sponsor or the event is small enough, you can usually negotiate your way to a yes.
If you’re not sponsoring the event, but attending it, you can create your own list of contacts with social listening tools to find out who’s excited about attending. You can locate sponsor and speaker lists on the official event website where you’ll also find contact information. You can use these to create your contact list by hand. To save time, you can use data-scraping tools to pull emails from social media profiles. Email clients to find out if they’re going and if they know anyone else who is – making a freebie offer to motivate them to engage with you. Ask the event directory if you can offer a pre-event giveaway to drive traffic to a landing page to collect emails.
All this said, you should not spam people via email. Any prospects you find this way have not elected to hear from you, so you shouldn’t throw them in your email marketing software. Instead, email them directly by hand, or use a CRM to automate a small portion of the outreach. Because you’re a person trying to connect with a person, everything needs to be organic and genuine, or it defeats the purpose.
Turn to Social Media for Outreach Before the Event
At the event, you’ll be one of hundreds, or thousands, of attendees, depending on the scale. As a sponsor, you could be one of several dozen, or hundreds. Building familiarity ahead of time makes prospects more likely to seek you out or check out your booth during the show.
Email is the most direct way to reach out if you were able to find the email addresses. If you can’t find an email, you can send a LinkedIn message or a Twitter DM. Don’t bother with Facebook messages on a cold connection, because it likely won’t get through and if it does, it may feel a little stalkerish.
Regardless of where your direct touch comes from, it must feel personal and like you just typed it out – rather than sending it to 100 people. Bring value to your prospect so give them an offer or a sales point. Keep the prospect experience in mind and treat them how you want to be treated.
Get Ready for Advertising During the Event
For the best chance of success. You’ll want to set up targeted ads to reach prospects during the event. This is meant to help remind people you’ve already been in touch with that you’re at the event without being spammy, engage prospects you haven’t connected with in a way other attendees or other sponsors have not, and build up an audience to market to after the event.
While you continue to run your usual in-event organic posts, use targeted advertising to extend your reach. Import the list of attendees from the organizers into Facebook or LinkedIn to create a custom audience so you can specifically target the attendees. If the list is too small, you can beef up the list with leads who may not be at the event but wouldn’t mind hearing from you.
If you don’t have access to the attendee list, use geofencing to get in front of as many event leads as you can. It targets ads based on geographic location, but in a narrow and specific capacity. You can target specific places based on the location of someone’s mobile device, so you can target the building where the event is taking place. Facebook offers geofencing up to one mile. Make sure you have installed the tracking pixel to target people after they’ve visited your website.
Follow standard advertising advice, making sure you have an event-relevant offer and message. Direct users to a landing page specific to the event where they can get the offer and find you at the show. Incentivize email capture on the landing page, and install the tracking pixels for the ad platform of your choice so you can remarket to visitors later, while also promoting the landing page itself on any physical marketing collateral to get people to visit.
Connect on Social Media After the Event
There are a lot of marketers out there not doing pre-event marketing, and even fewer do post-event marketing. This gives you the chance to leverage your participation to build a conversation, even if you didn’t meet someone in person at the event.
Contact each person who’s email you collected and email them directly. Connect on platforms like Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn and send direct messages in place or in addition to email outreach. As you execute that outreach, begin a new round of targeted ads toward your updated email list and the audience from the tracking pixel on your landing page. Reference messages relevant to the event and remind leads of the value you provided at the event.
Face-to-face events are still effective and special for the same reasons they’ve always been. They put your target audience in front of you in a high concentration for reasons associated with what your business does. Simply because marketing to these audiences has become more of a challenge doesn’t mean you should throw them out completely. As a marketer, you have a ton of tools at your disposal, so you should be using them to make the most of events and connections both in-person and online.
How do you engage with prospects before, during, and after the events you attend?