Sponsoring and exhibiting at industry events can be a costly ordeal. Depending on the event, your company could be looking at expenses on the low end ranging from $5-10k and on the high end tens of thousands of dollars if not $100k or more for some companies. As a manager of your organization, you owe it to the company to justify the expense and show a return.
But how exactly do you do this when realistically there are not only direct returns to measure, but also indirect returns that are impractical if not impossible to measure? You might know in your gut when an event does or doesn’t pay off, but how can you demonstrate it?
Be Smart. Be Proactive.
One way to best ensure success at your event is to be proactive. Line up opportunities before hand to make sure people are expecting you, or at least plant the seed of meeting them there. These could be in the form of hard confirmed scheduled appointments and demos or simple invitations to come visit your table or booth.
You can’t count on people to seek you out or show interest in your company simply because you are exhibiting. You need to create awareness of the fact that you will be there, and ideally interest in learning more.
Create Awareness. Create Interest.
While sending out a batch of emails is good, you can’t rely on email alone to create this awareness. If you have an inside sales team then naturally this is where you want to avert their efforts when you have an upcoming event you are attending or exhibiting. Get them on the phone dialing for dollars, scheduling appointments, or at the very least inviting attendees to visit you.
If you do not have an inside sales team then don’t let that be a stumbling block that threatens your investment. There are companies that specialize in outbound calling for organizations which can be leveraged swiftly to your benefit. Not all call centers are equipped for short-term campaigns, but some are.
Call centers aren’t your only option though. You can hire one or two contractors that specialize in outbound calling. People who are already skilled on the phone need minimal ramp up time to know your company’s mission, goals, objectives, etc.
The point is, you need to leverage the telephone. So few companies do this so if you are one of them then your will be able to create more awareness and interest than the majority of other sponsors and exhibitors.
In addition to being proactive in the weeks leading up to the event, you also want to be diligent afterwards. While you were there you shook hands with people and gathered business cards so of course the logical next step is to get after everyone.
I use the Evernote app on my phone to snap a photo of all the business cards I receive. Upon doing so the app permits me to send my information to the contact. This is an efficient way to at least appear in their inbox right away.
On top of this I normally put together a semi-personalized email for the new contacts I made, and then send personal emails to contacts with whom I reconnected. Then after a few days I hit the phones again and reach out to the opportunities that seemed most promising.