Events are a key source of leads for technology companies, but they can be expensive and time-consuming. And they don’t always produce the ROI that marketing and sales teams are looking for.
It’s easy to get caught up in taking care of all the “things” around an event—booth signage, badge scanners, swag, travel plans, etc.—without stepping back to plan a lead generation strategy.
How can busy marketing and sales teams strategize efficiently for their events? By thinking about each event as its own integrated marketing and sales campaign.
A campaign framework gets the whole team in a lead generation mindset and ensures that everything you do around the event is part of a coherent plan to maximize ROI.
Audience-Channels-Messaging is a simple structure for creating an event campaign plan:
- Audience: Which of your target buyers will be attending the event, and what are they looking to get out of it?
- Channels: What are the best options for engaging those buyers at the event?
- Messaging: How will you communicate your value to target buyers at the event?
Below are some pointers for using this framework to create a successful event lead generation strategy.
If you don’t have buyer personas, a major event is a pretty good reason to create them.
Once you have buyer personas in place, use them as a tool to evaluate the audience for a specific event and begin developing your campaign strategy.
Ask questions like:
Which of my buyer personas will be attending this event? Don’t assume that all your target personas will gather together at a single event. You’ll probably need to tailor your event strategy for a subset of personas.
Are event attendees executive-level decision makers, influencers, implementers or a mix? The level of attendee dictates the types of relationships you can begin to build at the event, as well as the lead nurturing you’ll need to do after the event.
Is this a business audience or a technical audience? What are the key problems they’re trying to solve? Use the goals, challenges and values you’ve identified for your buyer personas to understand what they’ll be looking for at the event.
Where is each type of attendee likely to spend their time at the event? It would be great if your ideal prospects made a beeline for your booth, but in reality, they’re probably spending a lot of time at other venues where you can engage them.
An event is its own sales and marketing channel, of course. But to develop an effective lead generation strategy, you need to approach each event as a series of sub-channels that will help you get in front of the target audience you’ve identified.
Pre-event communication is key for driving traffic to you at the event. As you’re planning your pre-event communication channels, keep in mind who your target buyers are and where they’re likely to look for event information.
Email is an obvious pre-event communication channel, but it might not work for all types of buyers and it depends on the strength of your current database. Also consider social channels for pre-event communication, particularly if the event you’re attending has a big social following.
Other options include sales outreach, online advertising and any communication options provided by the event organizer. And don’t forget partner salespeople—they can be a great resource for driving traffic to you at an event.
At the Event
If you’re exhibiting at the event, your booth is certainly a top channel for meeting target buyers. To get the most from your booth investment, you need to plan and prepare for how to engage attendees and capture leads.
Look back to your audience definition for guidance—can you expect attendees to seek you out and start conversations? Or do you need to have a way to attract people to your booth and engage them in a less direct way like through a game, a drawing or a giveaway?
Don’t neglect the many other available channels at events. Speaking at an event session or workshop might get you in front of the right audience of decision-makers. Parties and side events hosted by the organizer or other exhibitors offer an opportunity for targeted networking.
Hosting your own party, dinner or other side event can be a great way to meet buyers one-on-one, but be aware that you’re competing with many other options. If you don’t have the budget to throw a spectacular event on your own, partner with another exhibitor or find a unique venue or activity.
Finally, don’t miss out on using online channels to communicate with event attendees during the show. Most attendees will be too busy to check email regularly, but social media and opt-in SMS are great ways to reach people while they’re at an event.
Keep the conversation going post-show with a plan for following up. Your post-show communication channels will likely be similar to your pre-show channels.
Individual sales outreach for top leads is critical. Ensure that your sales team has a plan for following up post-show and arm them with the content they need to nurture leads.
Think about your messaging in the context of each specific event. Don’t assume you can default to your generic company, product or service offering message.
Look back to your buyer personas for guidance—what are their key challenges? What are they hoping to get from the show to help them solve those challenges? The needs and interests of your target buyers should drive your event messaging.
Choosing a messaging theme can help you stand out from other event sponsors or exhibitors. You’re competing with many other vendors, activities and general “noise” at the event for a share of your target buyers’ attention, so you need to keep your message simple and memorable.
Don’t be afraid to get creative or have fun with your theme if that will resonate with your target buyers. Pull the theme through all your channels, from pre-show emails to booth signage to giveaways to social media.
Finally, don’t neglect sales enablement as part of your messaging strategy. Ensure your sales team is armed with what they need to engage attendees in your booth or at other event venues, including an elevator pitch, demo, presentation and/or other sales collateral.
Keeping your whole team on message multiplies the effectiveness of your event communications and ensures that you’re establishing the right foundation for buyer relationships.
Pull it all together
Once you’ve got your Audience-Channels-Messaging strategy in place, you’ll need to translate it into a campaign plan with specific deliverables, timelines, roles and responsibilities.
Communicate the plan to both your marketing and sales teams, ensure they are aligned to execute and get ready for a successful lead-generating event!